First open streets program in Connecticut
By Emily Flamme
Hartford HealthCare has a mission to improve the health of the people and communities it serves. Its newest initiative to do so is “DominGO! Hartford,” the state’s first open streets program.
“This DominGO! open streets initiative fits squarely in this mission of creating healthier communities right here in Hartford,” said Mayor Luke Bronin in an announcement on March 11.
One Sunday each month starting May 22 and continuing throughout the summer, certain roads in Hartford will close down to allow for the community to move around freely. (“Domingo” is the Spanish word for “Sunday.”) The goal is to promote healthy habits such as walking, riding bikes, jogging, dancing and spending time with members of the community outdoors.
“It’s recognizing that our streets are some of the largest public spaces in our city, and that rather than just being places for cars, where you have to look before you cross, they can instead be things that connect us to each other,” Bronin said.
Hartford HealthCare sees DominGO! as an opportunity that will bring new life into the community.
“This type of way to revitalize our communities, to invest in our communities, to focus on job growth, to focus on supporting our local owned businesses and our local communities and to bring health care more accessibly to everyone we serve within this city is exactly precisely why we exist,” said Jeff Flaks, Hartford HealthCare’s president and chief executive officer.
”We are so proud to support this great event. DominGO aligns perfectly with our mission to improve the health and healing of the people and communities we serve,” said Bimal Patel, Hartford Hospital President and Senior Vice President, Hartford HealthCare. “Hartford Hospital has served the community for 168 years and we couldn’t have done it without the support and collaboration with the city and all of our community partners.”
The Rev. Dr. Shelley Best, founder of Hartford’s 224 EcoSpace and incoming CEO of the Greater Hartford Arts Council, said DominGO! will be a way to celebrate all that the community has overcome through the pandemic.
“Doesn’t Hartford need more joy these days as we come out of a pandemic?” Best said. “We need to come together as community to fellowship one with another to get to know people and to rub elbows again, we’ve all gone through so much.”
The four DominGO! events throughout the summer will be a way to get everyone involved in the community, young and old.
“It’s our intent to make this an event for a lot of people,” said Jackie McKinney, chair of NRZ in Asylum Hill. “We have many seniors in this, we’ll have plenty of seating, we’re going to have bringing the kids out, we’ll have plenty of kid events, face painting art, we’ll have music,”
Flaks said the events will also have a healthcare component to them. He said the goal is for the community to have fun while also improving their health.
Agreeing with this sentiment, Bronin said he wants to see his community thrive now that the pandemic is waning. He also is thrilled to build the partnership with Hartford HealthCare.
“Hartford HealthCare has been there every step of the way for us helping to make access to testing easier for our community to make sure that all of our residents could get vaccines,” Bronin said. “At a time when a lot of big hospital systems are moving their employees out away from urban centers, they moved hundreds of employees into downtown Hartford. They committed to this city in a big way.”
The four days this summer are expected to be enriching for Hartford and community leaders urge people to come.
“Mark your calendars and be a part of it in the summer,” Best said.