By Michael P. Walsh
Special to the Voice
City officials will dedicate a pocket park on Tile Street in honor of the late Democratic Councilman Brent Watt, a lifelong resident of the Allingtown neighborhood.
The ceremony is set for 11 a.m. Saturday.
Watt, who had served the 5th District since 2011, died June 25, 2016, at age 54 after a long, chronic illness.
Mayor Edward M. O’Brien will help members of the Watt family pull off a shroud revealing a wooden sign officially naming the 97-by-110-foot pocket park “Brent Watt Park.”
O’Brien will also present the Watt family with a citation marking the special occasion.
“Brent Watt, a man of character and principle with a strong spirit, was a true Westie who cared deeply about his constituents,” O’Brien said. “Brent brought a great love of West Haven to his work, and his proud legacy of public service lives on in our city.”
The park, which lies a block west of Ruden Street near the campuses of University of New Haven and Notre Dame High School, was created in 2004 under the administration of then- Mayor H. Richard Borer Jr., said city Human Resources Commissioner Beth A. Sabo, then the commissioner of public works.
Sabo said two dilapidated two-family houses were demolished to make way for the small, publicly accessible park, which has a low-lying wooden fence and is dotted with small evergreen trees.
At the request of Councilwoman Robbin Watt Hamilton, a sister of Watt’s, the city has installed a wrought-iron bench and will plant a Japanese maple — her brother’s favorite tree — in the park this fall.
The dedication will include a prayer by Victor M. Borras of Gateway Christian Fellowship and remarks from O’Brien and Watt Hamilton, who was unanimously tapped by the City Council on the one-month anniversary of her brother’s death to fill his council seat and carry on his legacy.
Frederick Brown, who hatched the idea to enshrine the park in Watt’s memory, will also speak. Brown is a member of the Board of Fire Commissioners of the City of West Haven Fire Department Allingtown.
John W. Lewis, executive assistant to the mayor, will serve as the master of ceremonies.
Attendees will include Watt’s parents, Richard and Eva Watt, of West Haven, who will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary July 4.
Other loved ones expected to attend include Watt’s former fiancee, Panza Cherry, of New Haven, his brother, Rick Watt, of Greenville, South Carolina, and his sisters, Jennifer Hughes, of New Haven, and Gloria Rozarie, of Florence, South Carolina.
The ceremony will also include former and current City Council members who served alongside Watt, including Chairman James P. O’Brien, D-6, who is also chief of the West Haven Fire Department, as well as state Rep. Michael A. DiMassa, D-116.
Just four months before his death, Mayor O’Brien and the Black Heritage Committee honored Watt with West Haven’s African- American Citizen of the Year award during the 20th annual Black Heritage Celebration Feb. 29, 2016, at City Hall.
Watt, who graduated from West Haven High School and Southern Connecticut State University, received a citation from O’Brien recognizing his “extraordinary dedication to the integrity of the City of West Haven and its vibrant African-American community” and his “contributions to the civic and cultural life of West Haven.”
“Your leadership has added a proud chapter to the narrative of West Haven,” O’Brien said of Watt during the cultural event in observance of Black History Month.