Business and Community Groups Come Together for Tree Planting in Lozada Park

Business and Community Groups Come Together for Tree Planting in Lozada Park

Say, "Trees!"   The group of volunteers poses for a photograph in front of one of the magnificent trees they planted that day.
 
On Friday, October 18th business and community groups including United Way volunteers from Pratt & Whitney, and Knox Parks planted 20 large trees in Lozada Park at 72 Seyms Street in Hartford.  Councilman Jose Cruz and John Fonfarra attended, and Mayor Pedro Segarra spoke to the 30 plus volunteers who had gathered with big equipment to dig, plant and beautify. The 20 trees were donated by Pratt & Whiteny and the Knox Foundation brought the muscle.   Music played, food was enjoyed and by late afternoon, the park had a startling, new aspect.
 
 
 
The Mayor addresses thr group while Burchell Henry captures the action on camera.
 
Lozada Park commemorizes Julio Lozada who lost his life as a boy when an old garage roof collapsed on him and his friends.  On May 16th, 1979, 12-year-old Julio Lozada was playing with his three friends in an abandoned and broken-down ten-car garage in Hartford’s Clay Hill-Arsenal neighborhood. Suddenly, the building collapsed.  Three of the boys escaped but Julio was trapped under the rubble.  The firemen were called. The firemen quickly searched the scene and left because they did not see anybody in the rubble. Neighbors continued to search as they knew Julio was still there. The firefighters returned to the scene a half hour later. The neighbors tried to tell the firefighters about the boy, however, the firefighters only spoke English and the neighbors spoke Spanish. Finally Julio was found.  Although Julio was still alive, he died from his injuries after being brought to St. Francis Hospital.  None of the firefighters spoke Spanish. This language barrier has been cited as a contributing factor to the tragic end of Julio’s young life.
 
Mayra Lozada (l.) Julio Lozada's sister, and Charmaine Craig of the Knox Foundation with the park's commemorative stone.
 
The Lozada family, originally from Puerto Rico, quickly became an agent of change in the city of Hartford.  The Puerto Rican community came together and demanded an investigation into Julio’s death. They pushed the city to tear down any unsafe, abandoned structures in the city’s North End.  Julio’s mother, Nilda Guzman, emerged as a hero for this cause and worked tirelessly to see that Hartford addressed the circumstances surrounding Julio’s death.  Originally from Puerto Rico, Ms. Guzman had a limited education and never learned to speak English well.  Nevertheless, her determination led to the new laws addressing abandoned buildings, violations of housing, health and fire codes, and the hiring of bilingual people for city jobs.  Hartford’s current fire chief, Edward Casares, was one of the first Latino firefighters hired as a result of the city’s efforts to address the concerns raised following Julio’s death.

The independent investigative report recommended the following:

* Active prosecution of landlords who own properties that violate housing, fire or health codes;

* Immediate foreclosure on abandoned or deteriorated buildings on which taxes are overdue;

* Recruiting of bilingual firefighters and police officers; * Hiring of Hispanic housing code inspectors; and

* Consolidation and reorganization of all city inspection services.

The property on Seyms Street next to the lot where young Julio was fatally injured was converted into a neighborhood park now known as Julio Lozada Park.  The Lozada family, in conjunction with the Hartford Fire Department has established a scholarship in Julio’s memory.

​Application information and eligibility requirements are available here:   http://www.juliolozada.com/

For further information about Julio’s story, go to:

http://www.hispanichartford.org/scholarship/puerto-rican-heritage-trail-carol-correa-de-best/clay-hillarsenal-neighborhood/lozada-park/

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