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    5, 4, 3, 2, 1 . . . Happy Holidays!

    This week we start the countdown for the lighting of the annual holiday tree, sponsored by People's United Bank. This season our tree is a 65-foot-tall Norway spruce donated by Maria Zevallos of Woodbridge. The tree will be illuminated with 20,000 sparkling energy-efficient LED lights in an array of colors. The switch to LED lights has reduced the City's energy costs substantially.

    The tree lighting is just the local "kick-off" to the holiday fun in the city. New Haven has many family-friendly events this holiday season including artisan craft fairs, musical performances and much more!

    New Haven merchants are open late each Thursday to ensure that everyone has a chance to shop local this season. To help promote local shopping every Saturday in the month of December the Town Green SSD and the City of New Haven are offering 2-hours of FREE parking between 8am and 9pm.

    Saturday Free Parking Locations:

    December 8: Ninth Square: Elm Street from Church Street to State Street; Chapel Street from Orange Street to State Street; Orange Street from Chapel Street to George Street.

    December 15: Whitney Avenue from Wall Street to Trumbull Street

    December 21: Chapel Street from York Street to Howe Street

    December 28: One block of meters per shopping district.

    New Haven's vibrant downtown also offers residents and visitors impressive dining options, eclectic museums and galleries, excellent shopping, as well as theatrical and musical performances. For a complete listing of holiday events and attractions, please visit www.infonewhaven.com.

    Downtown Crossing

    Last week I joined our Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro in the announcement that $2.2 million has been awarded to the Downtown Crossing project from the Connecticut Department of Transportation.

    The project is creating thousands of jobs in New Haven and will foster development in the area. DeLauro has worked for over 30 years to secure funding for Downtown Crossing and will continue to do so in the future.

    These monies will continue to set the stage for one of the largest downtown development projects in City history. For half a century, the highway has divided the City and has served as a reminder of the homes and businesses that were lost. No more.

    This February, work will begin to remove the highway and restore the street grid, employing thousands of people and propelling our local economy for decades to come. What was once a symbol of lost opportunity will again become a thriving part of our community.

    My continued thanks goes out to the Congresswoman and her tireless staff as they continue to fight for the return of New Haven tax dollars back into the district


    As the 2012 income tax season is quickly approaching - volunteers are needed for the Greater New Haven VITA tax program to help in preparing and filing returns for low-income filers.

    The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program is IRS sponsored - with training materials developed by the IRS that will help volunteers study and become certified in tax law while using professional grade software to prepare and e-file returns. The program aims to reduce the tax preparation costs, connect individuals with the Federal and State Earned Income Tax Credit and reduce costly refund anticipation loans by connecting individuals with electronic filings and direct deposits.

    Volunteers are asked to commit 4 hours a week from mid January through April 15th at one of several sites around Greater New Haven. The program provides volunteers a self-paced training which utilizes on-line tutorials and/or hard copy booklets and group sessions. Volunteers are also needed to serve as greeters who help with intake and benefit screenings.

    If you are interested in volunteering for this worthwhile community service please contact Rick Kaiser

    5, 4, 3, 2, 1 . . . Happy Holidays!

    The countdown to the annual New Haven holiday tree lighting has begun! Free family event kicks off downtown's holiday season at 5:30pm on Thursday with live performances by Brennan-Rogers School, Wexler-Grant School, Celentano Museum Academy, and the Educational Center for the Arts Vocal Ensemble.

    From 4-8pm, there will be a number of free activities- carousel and mini-car rides, holiday crafting, the opportunity to be part of the "Alpine Safari" by riding on one of four mechanical animals.

    New Haven Reads will distribute books to children free of charge, while supplies last. There will also be complimentary cider and free horse drawn carriage rides around the Green for all to enjoy.

    After the tree is lit, children can visit and take photos with Santa until 7:30PM.

    In the case of extreme inclement weather, the tree lighting will be held Friday, December 7th. For more information, visit www.infonewhaven.com or contact (203) 946-7172.

    Very truly yours,

    John DeStefano, Jr.



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