Thursday, December 6, 2007

Disrespecting a Legacy

This is a letter to the editor of the New Haven (CT) Register that I sent off last night. I wanted to share it here as well for anyone that reads my blog on a regular basis. There's a whole complicated family situation that's been playing out for years like a soap opera. When I heard about and then read last week's front page article, I couldn't help myself anymore and I felt that I had to do something.

Letter to the Editor,

The November 28th issue of the New Haven Register, featured a cover story involving a potential tenant to Dell’Oro Plaza in North Haven. When I think of the American Dream, I think of my grandfather, Dino Dell’Oro. He came from Italy as a young boy, and as an adult started his own business in 1947 with dump trucks and progressed to fuel oil in 1952. What started as a modest business, turned into a family run home heating oil business that stayed in business for almost 60 years. My grandparents worked in that business; so did my aunts and uncles. My parents worked in that business; I grew up in that business and eventually worked there through high school and college. It was sad to see the oil business end a few years ago.

Anyone that knew my grandfather and my grandmother will understand that what’s breaking my heart, and I’m sure, making my grandfather turn in his grave, is the condition of a piece of commercial property he had. He made Dell’Oro Plaza. I remember as a little girl holding onto his hand for dear life and walking gingerly across a plank to get from the parking lot to the original building for fear of falling into the foundation during construction of the “new” part of the building. The plaza consists of just about a block’s worth of property – a strip mall flanked by two houses for commercial business and 3 apartments. Driving by that property now, the majority of it is vacant. Only three tenants occupy a space built to hold eight to nine commercial businesses. One of the houses was devastated by fire years ago. It remains a burned out shell; it’s boarded up windows framed by charred wood. If that wasn’t enough, I then find out the people that own and manage the property are further disrespecting my grandfather by allowing an adult bookstore/movie house to try to move into the plaza. My grandmother quit claimed the property to three of her daughters a year or two ago. This is a matter of public record. I am sure that in her current situation my grandmother is unaware of what’s going on with the plaza. It makes me sick to my stomach that the current owners of the property would have such disrespect for their parents to allow and even want this type of business in the plaza. If it’s money they are seeking to generate – as any business person would want – then I would think they would be better served to clean up the plaza and work towards filling the spaces to their capacity. Dell’Oro Plaza today in 2007 is a ghost of what it was when it was first built, even of what it was 15 years ago.

To me Dell’Oro Plaza is more than a fixture of my childhood; it represents my grandfather’s life – his hard work and dedication – his legacy to not only his children, but his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I would rather see it torn down and remember it as it was than to see the name “Dell’Oro” associated with certain types of businesses. I hope that the people of North Haven remember my grandfather and what he stood for. I hope that they know that what is happening is not something he, or my grandmother, would condone. I hope that the Town of North Haven wins its lawsuit. I hope that my grandfather’s legacy remains something that he would be proud of.

Sincerely,Donna (Damm) Dognin, granddaughter of Dino and Velma Dell’Oro

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