Jorge Cabrera

State Senator

Jorge Cabrera

Deputy President Pro Tempore

Working Together to Solve Problems

August 17, 2023

Connecticut is Investing in The Valley


A few weeks ago, I was in Naugatuck with Mayor Pete Hess to promote a new $5.7 million state grant to revitalize Rubber Avenue when someone asked me why the street is named Rubber Avenue.

If you’re not from the Valley, you probably don’t know about Uniroyal Tire, which began as the United States Rubber Company in Naugatuck back in 1892 and which was one of the 12 original American companies that made up the New York Stock Exchange. Uniroyal’s 35 factory buildings were once located on 86 acres just off Rubber Avenue, along the Naugatuck River.

Uniroyal is one of those industrial-era companies that went through a lot of changes in ownership until it closed in 1979, leaving behind a lonelier Main Street, a polluted property, and a local historical society wondering that to do with lots of old photos and pamphlets. It’s a story that’s been repeated hundreds of times all across America as technology advances and the Cheney silk mills of Manchester (“Silk City”), the brass factories of Waterbury (“Brass City”), and the steamed beaver and rabbit pelt hats of Danbury (“Hat City”) all fade into obscurity.

But then what? What do we do with these old buildings, and their polluted properties, and the jobs and the lonely Main Streets they left behind? Who pays to make things better, to make up for the lost tax revenue, to set the table so new jobs and industry can move in and succeed?

Well, I’m happy to tell you that, at least around here, Connecticut is investing in The Valley.

The Rubber Avenue project I mentioned above is funded through a new state program called the Community Investment Fund. Passed in 2021 with 97 percent of state legislators voting “yes,” the fund sets aside $875 million over five years so cities and towns can make small business loans, improve water and sewer connections (like on Rubber Avenue), prevent power outages after storms, or build affordable housing, senior centers and libraries.

Rubber Avenue is getting drainage improvements, new sidewalks (esp. helpful to the high school students down the road), landscaping, and a roundabout at the intersection of Meadow and Cherry Streets. There’s another state DOT grant for a pedestrian bridge downtown, and another federal grant for the Naugatuck Senior Center (where I also was a few weeks ago!)

Last year, Naugatuck received $3 million from the state to help clean up the old Uniroyal site, where the Naugatuck River would sometimes turn the color of whatever Keds sneakers they were dying that day (25 years ago, the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection spent $4 million to help clean up the Naugatuck River so people could actually catch and eat the sea trout that swim there.) Over the past few years, the city has also received a $1 million upgrade to the YMCA, $870,000 for the Brass City Charter School, $1 million for elderly housing and $2 million to rehabilitate the Derby-Shelton Bridge over the Naugatuck River.

Ansonia recently received $6.5 million in CIF funds to help clean up the 50-acreAnsonia Copper and Brass Site in Liberty Street. In just the past three years, the State Bond Commission has approved $9.2 million in economic development projects for Ansonia. As my friend Ansonia

Mayor David Cassetti said not too long ago, “Downtown Ansonia looks very different than it once did: from new businesses and apartments going up, to acres of old, blighted buildings being torn down.”

Over the past few years Derby has received $1.3 million grant to replace emergency generators at Griffin Hospital, $200,000 to renovate the Century Center, $5 million to rebuild downtown infrastructure, $3 million for athletic fields at Derby High School, $100,000 for the Derby Library, and $150,000 for school playgrounds, windows and floors.

My hometown of Hamden has benefitted too, with $1.35 million to renovate the Keefe Center, $4.3 million for a new firehouse, $4 million for elderly housing, $4.3 million for an emergency operations center, and $4 million to purchase homes in the Newhall section built on a landfill.

What does all this mean? I think it means that, even as local industries come and go and leave a legacy of good and bad behind them, life moves on and we need to invest in ourselves. The Valley will probably never be a tech hub like Palo Alto or Boston, but we can invest in the people and places who still call The Valley home, and who want to build their lives here. And that’s what Connecticut is doing: investing in The Valley.