NB Politicus

Remembering Steve Horowitz: Losing One of “New Britain’s Best”

Posted in CCSU, In Memoriam, Local History, public education, school board by nbpoliticus on July 10, 2021

Dr. Steve Horowitz, 68, CCSU Psychology Professor and a former President of the New Britain Board of Education, died last December 18th after a brief, sudden illness.

For Democrats and political activists in New Britain, Steve’s passing meant the loss of a close friend and one of “New Britain’s Best.” You can be forgiven if you don’t remember where the “Best” tag comes from. It goes all the way back to a 1999 Board of Education primary election when the endorsed slate of Horowitz, Peter Kochol and Juan Verdu, advocating for interdisciplinary teaching, minority hiring and bilingual programs, went up against a challenge slate organized by right-of-center former State Senator Tom Bozek.

The campaign involved nightly phone banking at Harriet Geragosian’s Unique Realty offices where the slate and volunteers would relentlessly dial up voter after prime voter to drive up turnout. It turned out only 19.6% of city Democrats (3,067) voted that September day but “New Britain’s Best”, all of whom served as Board President at one time or another, eked out a 36-vote victory.

Steve, like his running mates Kochol and Verdu, led the BOE as fierce advocates for public education, holding off critics of adequate school spending and acknowledging the inadequacies of property taxes as a way to meet the needs of the city’s children.

Steve leaves his wife, Adrienne Benjamin, a constant partner in progressive politics in New Britain, son Matthew and daughter Zoe. “Those who knew Steve are aware of his dedication to his family,” his obituary noted. “An early riser, he brought Adrienne coffee every morning of 34 years of marriage. He was exceptionally supportive of Adrienne’s career as both a clinical social worker and as an advocate for those with intellectual disability and autism. He was an adoring and proud father to Matthew. His towering compassion was seen in his devotion to his daughter, Zoe, whose special needs require constant care.”

from The Hartford Courant, September 14, 1999: A hard earned triumph for “New Britain’s Best “School Board Slate

The dedication to family and Horowitz’ public service were reflected in what he did in the classroom at CCSU where psych majors faced the rigors of his core courses on research methods to reach their academic goal. “If you really take the time to listen you’ll find that he is extremely intelligent, very passionate and knowledgeable about the subject and really cares about his students,” one student observed. “He is a challenging professor who expects a lot but he is willing to help you every step of the way if you try and make an effort.”

Though Horowitz earned enough political stripes in that 1999 primary and his years on the BOE, I can attest that he never stopped knocking on doors and making calls on behalf of progressive Democrats and causes year after year.

It’s hard to know Steve won’t be walking through the headquarters door to again grab a door-knocking turf. No time for kibbitzing. He knew it was time to get out the vote for the candidates he supported and the causes he cared about.

Let Steve’s life and activism as New Britain’s Best always be remembered for others to follow.

A Celebration of Steve’s Life and tree planting in his memory is being held at Walnut Hill Park at 11 a.m. on Saturday, July 10, 2021. To honor his memory, please consider donating to Harc, which has stepped up to help meet Zoe’s needs through this challenge. To donate, https://harc-ct.org/donatenow/ Or, Harc, Inc. 900 Asylum Ave. MS 1002 Hartford, CT 06105

  • by John McNamara

Looking Ahead: Stanley Quarter Park Makeover, New Playground Take Shape For Spring

Posted in CCSU, environment, New Britain history, Parks and Recreation by nbpoliticus on March 15, 2020

The early days of Spring require all of us to practice social distancing and avoid gatherings in public places in the effort to flatten the curve of the coronavirus pandemic.  But there are things to look forward to with warm weather ahead including a visit to the city’s parks when it is safe to do so.  Stanley Quarter Park, one of the city’s gems, will be be even better in 2020.  Improvements to the city’s popular Stanley Quarter Park at Blake Road and Stanley Street near the Central CT State University campus are nearing completion in time for spring and warm weather months.

The $1.2 million Parks & Recreation Project, approved by the Common Council in August 2019,  adds family and child friendly features: a new picnic area with grills, waterside exercise equipment and games and a gazebo overlooking the park.

Notably the project replaces a poorly landscaped and aging playground near the Boulevard entrance and adds a new parking lot next to existing basketball courts.

 

For decades Stanley Quarter Park has hosted the city’s Great American Boom, a regionally attended July 4th celebration. It has also been a site for CCSU’s men’s and women’s track & field teams. In the 1960s and through the 1970s the city even operated a ski slope along Blake Road with a rope tow and night lighting that made it popular in the winter.

 

A newly-landscaped playground is one of the major improvements at Stanley Quarter Park that will be heavily used by children and families when the playground is completed.

View from a newly constructed gazebo overlooking the pond at Stanley Quarter Park.

by John McNamara

Remembering Bill Kerr, CCSU Politics Prof; Tribute Saturday, February 27th at New Britain Museum

Posted in CCSU, city politics and government by nbpoliticus on February 21, 2010

A celebration of the life of Charles W. (Bill) Kerr, formerly of New Britain, will be held at the New Britain Museum of American Art on Saturday February 27, 2010, at 1 p.m.


Kerr, 78, died on February 2, 2010 in his home at Sun City, Hilton Head, SC. A Missouri native, Kerr was a professor emeritus of Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) and served a Chair of the Political Science Department at CCSU.

In the early ‘80s I first met Bill Kerr and his wife Marietta at a meeting of the Caucus of Connecticut Democrats (CCD) a few years before moving to New Britain. Thanks to connecting with Kerr outside of the city, I got a quick introduction to the New Britain Democratic establishment when I moved here and was fast-tracked into local politics – winning a seat on the Democratic Town Committee in ’86, and beginning what’s turned into 24 years of being involved in campaigns and elections.

Meeting Kerr at the CCD – the liberal group that in its heyday mobilized Dems for direct primaries, civil rights and an end to the war in Vietnam – was no accident. Bill Kerr, the partisan, was an unabashed progressive – supporting liberal candidates and favoring groups such as the Legislative Electoral Action Program (LEAP) and the Connecticut Citizen Action Group (CCAG).

Though I was never in one of his classes, Kerr, the teacher, had keen insights and possessed a wry and dry sense of humor about politics that you would have had to be around to appreciate. Those attributes, not to mention a Ph.D in political science, commanded respect from the left and right, and from Rs and Ds in Connecticut.

At CCSU, Kerr had a good run of organizing conferences and workshops, bringing experts and pols of all stripes together. One year it would Cong. Nancy Johnson. The next it would be Barney Frank. He organized these forums under his Institute for Practical Politics (IPP), a fitting name at an institution drawing many sons and daughters of the working class to become teachers and professionals or, in some cases, local and state elected officials. Kerr’s Institute was no high falutin’ think tank, but a series of “practical” sessions among academics and citizens on policy and political strategy. Kerr’s knowledge of CT politics and players always made IPP conferences informative and helped extend his teaching of politics and government well beyond the classroom.

When someone we know and respect dies it can be a comfort to say we are better persons for having known that person. In Bill Kerr’s case, I and I’d guess many of his students would say we are better citizens for having known him as fellow activists or students.

— John McNamara