Mayor O'Leary Taps Half-Way House Residents To Clear Land In Exchange For Tutoring And Training

Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary announced a new initiative in Waterbury that will use volunteer half-way house residents to clear an abandoned park, and in return, interested residents will be offered free tutoring and an opportunity to enroll in an underutilized manufacturing training program run by the city.

                                                      By John Murray

   Many people in Waterbury believe manufacturing is dead and is no longer a viable means of economic development in the city. Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary is not one of them.

   During a sweep across Waterbury yesterday afternoon in his SUV, O'Leary provided the Observer with a quick peek at an overgrown 38-acre parcel of land in the East End of the city known as Scott Road Park, and how he plans to link the project to an underutilized manufacturing training facility run by Waterbury Adult Education.

Fascia's Chocolates To Expand; Creates 'Hands-on' Demos/Tours

FASCIA’S CHOCOLATES closed on the purchase of their ‘new home’, 44 Chase River Road in Waterbury, on July 12th. This permanent new location will offer both ‘behind-the-scenes’ factory tours and the unique opportunity for visitors to make-your-own-chocolate bar. Family-owned since 1964, acquisition of this property is part of the celebration of Fascia’s Chocolates’ 50th successful year in business.

When Nana Danced With Hope

                              Story and Photographs By John Murray

    Nana Assibey-Yeboah stood at the edge of the dancing and watched intently as a line of Albanian women moved past her at the Albanian Festival in Waterbury on June 8th. Slowly Nana's head began to move, and her feet began to scrap the pavement beneath her sandals.  One week before The Gathering, on May 18th, in downtown Waterbury,  Nana had reached out to ask why there were no Africans coming to the festival. When I told her we had been unable to locate any, she announced, “I’m Nana from Ghana, and I’m coming to The Gathering.”

   And she did.

O'Leary, Blasius Buy Holy Land, Plan To Restore It

   During lunch two weeks ago Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary was bursting with a secret that he simply could not contain any longer. O'Leary was having lunch at Paisano's Restaurant with Observer Publisher John Murray and he finally blurted out, "I can't keep this in any longer," he said. "Fritz Blasius and I are buying Holy Land and we're going to restore it."

Portuguese Festival In Waterbury This Weekend

   Chicken, quail and sardines are on the grill at the Portuguese Sports Club on Baldwin Street in Waterbury for the Festa De Sao Joao. The festival will feature music, food and dance from Portugal Saturday and Sunday. The festival goes until 1 am tonight (traditional dancing around 8 pm) and from noon to 11 pm on Sunday. Check it out, everybody in Waterbury is invited. There is beer, wine and a full bar available on the premises.

"Energize Waterbury" To Save Residents Money

   Now through September 15, 2013, the City of Waterbury is participating in a comprehensive energy efficiency campaign, called “Energize Waterbury,” as part of the Energize Connecticut initiative.  The campaign’s goal is to save residents money through increased participation in Connecticut’s energy efficiency programs, which are administered by Connecticut Light & Power (CL&P).

State Grants Target $360,000 Towards Six Waterbury Youth Organizations

   Six youth-based organizations in Waterbury just received an infusion of $360,000 in state grants to help run their programs. The River-Memorial Foundation, Inc., the Hispanic Coalition of Greater Waterbury, Inc., the Police Activity League, Inc. (Long Hill Recreation Center), the Willow Plaza Center; the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Waterbury and W.O.W. (Walnut Orange Wood) NRZ Learning Center have been awarded $60,000 each in a grant from the State Legislature.

Alexis Rotella Lands Permanent Job As Advocate For Senior Citizens In Waterbury

Alexis Rotella and Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary.

                                                 By John Murray

  Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary announced that he has hired Alexis Rotella to be the full-time Municipal Agent for the Elderly. Alexis will head up the Waterbury BRASS Program (which stands for Bringing Resources to Action to Serve Seniors), and will be housed out of the new senior center opening in a few weeks in the East End of Waterbury.

Negotiations To Bring Post University Into Downtown Waterbury Have Collapsed

The Sovereign Bank building in downtown Waterbury was the focus of the negotiations.

                                                   By John Murray

   Negotiations to bring Post University into downtown have collapsed, Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary told a gathering of downtown merchants tonight. More than a year of intense efforts by state and city officials to get Post University to expand it's burgeoning online college into the Sovereign Bank Building on the Green is over.

Waterbury Mayor O'Leary Undecided About Seeking Re-Election In November

                                           By John Murray

   Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary is a decisive man. He is either all in on a project, or all out. O'Leary is not prone to dipping his toe into the water to gauge the temperature. He's a cannonball kind of guy  who enjoys making a big splash, which makes his statement today that he is "undecided" about running for re-election in November newsworthy.

   "I'm not trying to be cute or play some kind of game," O'Leary told the Observer in an interview this morning inside City Hall, "I just don't know right now."

Albanian Community Keeping Traditions Alive

                                                   By John Murray

   Many young Albanian children living in Waterbury are caught between two worlds; the rich traditions and culture of their Albanian parents, and the fast paced, multi-cultural landscape of America. Clinging to traditions while pressing forward in a new homeland is the challenge of all new immigrants to the United States, and the local Albanian community put on a show this weekend at the 8th Annual Albanian Festival in Waterbury. For three days young and old alike came together to celebrate the music, food and dance of their homeland to keep their traditions alive. 

Rod Dixon And The Kid

                                              By John Murray

   There was a lot of excitement at the begining of the Kid's Marathon at Crosby High School tonight. Nearly 500 Waterbury children were jacked up to run the final installment of a marathon they had been running for the past two months. After completing a final 1.2 mile cross-country course the students would have finished the equivalent of a marathon (26.2 miles), and would receive a medal from Olympic medalist Rod Dixon of New Zealand.

   The runners launched in four waves to avoid collisions, but kids being kids, they sprinted furiously from the starting line. Pony-tails and elbows were flying, and barely 20 yards into the run someone tangled legs with seven-year-old Cameron Raver, and he crashed to the ground with a thud. Cameron is pictured above rolling to avoid the stampede of runners that followed him.

Photo Exhibit On Brass At Silas Bronson Library

   When Emery Roth began photographing along the old railroad tracks of the Naugatuck Valley, he never expected they would lead him through a time warp to a mill where he would find giant hydraulics still hissing, steel clanking, hot glowing metal still flying through the air - where the steam still rises from old pickling vats, and men still charge the foundry furnaces in buildings where the soot has caked for more than a hundred years. Some of the photographs from Emery Roth's book Brass Valley: Made in America, which were taken in Waterbury and Ansonia, will be on exhibition in the art gallery of the Silas Bronson Library during June and July.

     On Wednesday, June 19, at 6:30 p.m. Roth will give a power point presentation in the library auditorium of additional images from his book, accompanied by poetry and prose selections from it. He will also discuss his discoveries along the tracks and in old industrial sites throughout the valley. Attendees may order a special limited edition of the exhibition book.

So, We Meet Again....

                                              By John Murray

   Two former heavyweights in the Waterbury political arena got a chance to catch up Saturday afternoon at the Taste of Lebanon in the East Mountain neighborhood of the city. Mike Jarjura, on the right, was mayor of Waterbury from 2001 to 2011, and often went on WATR radio to answer questions from Ed Flynn, who hosted a talk radio show for almost 20 years in Waterbury. Flynn scaled back his work a few years ago, and now hosts a music show on Saturdays.

"Taste Of Lebanon" In Waterbury This Weekend

Shwarma sandwiches will be one of the many delicious treats offered at the "Taste of Lebanon" which kicks-off tonight in Waterbury at Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Church at 8 East Mountain Road. Elias Taweh is pictured here at The Gathering on May 18th in downtown Waterbury where the Lebanese tent went through 100 pounds of marinated sirloin steak that was grilled and served in Shawarma, a thin pita bread with shaved meat, vegetables and sauce. The "Taste of Lebanon" goes from 6 pm to midnight on Friday, noon to midnight on Saturday, and 11 am to 6 pm on Sunday.

Froyo World Opens In Waterbury

Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary helps Kathy Thomas, left, Susan Santoro, and Lynn Ward of the Waterbury Chamber of Commerce perform a ceremonial ribbon cutting at Froyo World on West Main Street in Waterbury. Thomas and Santoro are partners in Froyo World. Photographs by John Murray.