West Haven Beach: sea, totalitarianism, and sun!

Last night, to enjoy the last hours of an early summer warm day, my husband and I decided to go on a romantic evening date: dinner and a stroll by the water. Since the Long Wharf dream revitalization project is still on the phase of… dream, we decided to explore the Haven and go West!

We had a lovely dinner at Saray, a West Haven Turkish restaurant that I would recommend because they don’t judge you when you order the assortment of shish kebab for 6 for 2. Well, now that I think about it, they might judge you, but my Turkish is rusty and if the sentence does not include the world “delight”, I cannot really understand.

After eating enough meat to be legally recognized by the Food and Drug Administration as a French doner kebab, insert your own spit-roasting joke here, we decided to get some fresh air on the West Haven beach boardwalk. The once-busy boardwalk full of families enjoying time together,  youth (and some less youthful) playing Pokemon Go, seniors sitting on benches, was empty. We wondered for a second why, but being a weeknight, maybe people were home, and we starting our little walk without more thoughts, as the sun was shining for the last few moments.

The salty breeze felt nice but the air was tick with a heavy and indiscernible tension. Something was off.

In the far background, a few police cars.

In the close foreground, freshly installed giant poles every 10 feet on the boardwalk.

On top of each pole thrones a scary array of police cameras capable of surveilling every single West Haven beach grain of sand that’s not perfectly white.

Oh so I can’t park my car but you can park 3 SWAT vehicules?

We wondered: How did the beach turned into a state of police? And more importantly, how did they find the money for this?

The answer to the second question dawned on us very quickly, in the shape of a $100 fine applied to our trusted Chevy. A woman (yaaass sis! gender equality!) police officer equipped and armed like she was about to arrest a political candidate with conviction on 34 felony counts, treated us like dangerous criminals and fined us for breaking the curfew.

A curfew? What time is it? 1984 o’clock?

West Haven officials announced on April 14 they will be closing the beach and all public recreational places for the “foreseeable future” from sunset to sunrise [1]. We were out for the sunset, but technically, we had not pass the nautical nor the astronomical twilight yet so I’ll see you in small claim court West Haven!

While the $100 fine is expensive and the Beach (sorry, I’m ESL, I can’t really pronounce my long -e vowel sounds…) Patrol got 3 cars that night, it seems to be too low of a budget for having an arsenal like you could negotiate a ceasefire but choose not to. There must be more money somewhere.

Like a covid denier, I wanted to do my own research… on Facebook! Turns out, city hall allocated $1,000,000 of the ARPA- American Rescue Plan Act, (you know, the covid funds given to cities to improve public space for people to go enjoy outdoor space for walks with social distancing) for “a really good plan” [2] (actual quote! by ARPA Committee Chairman Ken Carney).

The really good plan? “We will put in a tall pole and hang the cameras off the pole,” and turn West Haven beach into a bleak dystopian landscape with a curfew and make our city unlivable. The initial goal was to address security concerns along the boardwalk brought up by some residents who complained it was “a magnet for mischief” [3] at a public hearing, before driving down to Washington DC in early January.

“The program would run on Wi-Fi, we’ll have the whole beach covered and we’ll go to another area once that’s done”. But please note, the Wi-Fi will not be accessible to the public! Don’t you dare expecting us to use tax-payer money to benefits tax-payers!

West Haven Residents stuck on the side of the new pedestrian bridge because of the beach curfew

Last September, the city decided to expend the program to add more cameras and call stations connected to the police department along the boardwalk before the first camera was even installed [4].

The cameras might reassure the West Haven inhabitants. Sure…. these camera would are a great tool to stop the recent beach brawls [5] that happened after the totalitarianism state was already installed on the beach. And these fights surely don’t happen because a few senior residents managed to privatize the public space that is the beach and making it impossible for young people living on the other side of the county line to enjoy.

I would like to remind this generation of residents that, when they were younger, in 1968, they too fought a system that prevented them to enjoy their youth. This reminds me the poetic phrase which lays actual brutality and anger of the French 1968 youth fighting for freedom that fits well here:

Sous les pavés, la plage!

Under the cobblestones, the beach! [6]

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