Pirates with eye patches and assorted other characters,365 altogether, mingled and lingered at large round tables under a tent on Sarah St. recently for the annual Milford Welcome Party. The event raised $78,000 for Milford Enhancement Committee projects via $50 admission tickets and an auction, mostly of adventures ranging from kayaking and cocktails to Giants games, plus a smattering of local art.
The party also welcomed newcomers, identifiable by nametags that included their year of arrival. A Welcome Party aim, as described in the event brochure, was to “build social capital” by engaging people in community volunteerism, good for the volunteer building their social network, good for the community served. But this year only 13 newcomers appeared, compared to dozens last year.
Realtor Davis Chant, who co-founded the Milford Enhancement Committee decades ago, said that Milford houses have become harder to find.
“Last year was our best year in 58 years. We sold $437 million worth of real estate,” he said. “But there are more buyers than houses. We’re working with builders—many homes are being built.”
“There’s a lot of inventory but not enough. Sellers still want to take advantage of the market,” said Chant’s daughter Tamara, who followed him into the business. “The reason we’re behind last year in sales is that we lack houses.”
As for interest rate hikes, they would have a “mild effect,” making younger buyers more cautious, but many are still desperate to get out of the city, said Dave. Meanwhile, people sell houses they’ve had for 35 years, not wanting to miss the market, said Tamara.
Markedly less ebullient was Suzanne Braun Levine, chatting in a group nearby. Asked how she was, she said, “Angry.”
The abortion rights just discarded by the Supreme Court had, decades earlier, been a victory of the feminist movement in which she had a key role as first editor of Ms. magazine. These days she writes books about women’s issues. So what will her direction be now?
“We’ll pursue other means to abortion rights. I hope the younger generation will take this on. We’re tired,” she said.
Ed Gragert, a few feet away, had evidence that, yes, younger people are mobilized. Founder of Delaware Valley Action!, a group he describes as being defined by values rather than political party, he said they held a Milford rally for abortion rights after the Roe decision.
“An intergenerational group of about 100 showed up. Lots of young people were there, and cars went by honking, thumbs up waving from windows. We’ll be opening an office and have phone banks and voter registration.”
Other Milford doers and doings
Also moseying around was David Greenbaum, who had recently shifted from making kayaks to making noodles to sell at Milford Farmers Market to raise money for Pike Community Foundation. And chatting outside was Doug Manion, infectious disease specialist and pirate,who has provided regular updates about the pandemic’s local presence. For now numbers are stable, he said. But with so many unvaccinated, variants have plenty of places to proliferate and mutate.
All this social capital was further enlivened by K.I.T. Caribbean Connection, playing jazzy calypso and reggae after the auction where a custom built guitar and two elaborate dinners at the lovely homes of locals with high end chefs and expert-hosted film showings brought the biggest bids.
As for how the money will be spent, Mayor Sean Strub said later, “MEC funds are mostly used for engineering, surveying and design work for our streetscape improvements and, sometimes, for all or part of the actual construction work. For example, the corner of 4th Street and Harford that we fixed up earlier this year, we had no grant for but paid for it all from the MEC. We also are building an endowment at Greater Pike Community Foundation to ultimately generate an annual income to pay for ongoing maintenance of our improvements in the commercial district.”
As for what improvement is next, he said, “The West Harford project is the big and long-delayed effort. A new streetscape from 6th to 9th Streets, with curb, sidewalk, lights and landscaping should be going out to bid this summer.”