Across the street from a murder spot, Stacy Spell showed beginner Tyisha Walker how bishops move at an angle and castles along straight lines.
It was Saturday’s sunny afternoon in West River. Spell, a retired New Haven cop, was out playing chess right in the middle of the square at Derby and Norton across from the Dunkin’ Donuts where two shootings( including one homicide have occurred) since December. Spell was taking on a new mission: using new tools, from rooks to trash bags, to keep his neighborhood from being checkmated by crime.
“Once we take ownership, we can address the crime problem,” Spell said.
…While periodic clean-ups have been occurring in the area for years, the troubled neighborhood had not seen public chess matches following on the clean-ups.
Spell recently became chairman of the West River Neighborhood Services Corporation (WRNSC). He vowed to “take back” the neighborhood, to use the chess terms that he often employs.
“While our crew is out here, [people] are not doing the drug dealing,” he said.
He pointed out the casual manner in which a young man dressed in gray had recently been at work perhaps 20 yards from the chess match in front of Mother’s Restaurant.
“There are two young men practicing their entrepreneurial skills, with the wrong product, in front of us. He did it right in front of me [before]. Now they know I’m watching.
Since he’s a chess lover, Spell has decided on that game as one alternative option for the neighborhood. It’s competitive in a way that may appeal to young men. The pieces are at war, as it were. But it’s safe, a make-believe war.
So Spell plans to be playing in the spring and summer every Saturday. Regularity is key, he said.
“The main thing is modeling,” added Spell, a 27-year police veteran who has lived for three decades in the neighborhood. “I’m trying to mobilize people, not just twice a year [for the cleanups], and I’ll be out here every Saturday. We’re going to occupy the space.”
On the clean-up that preceded the chess, landlord’s agent Jason Basilicato (pictured) stopped to pitch in and praise the initiative. That gratified Spell.
But Basilicato wasn’t his primary audience.
Spell ultimately wants to have sitting across from him at the chess board not only Tyisha Walker but the young men who are “poisoning our community.”
He said hopes the chess in the coming weeks and months will attract such kids and who will eventually sit down opposite him to play a game.
Full article here.