With its low self-esteem and high urban blight, Hartford is the ultimate underdog city. Sad City Hartford documents the joys, sorrows and eccentricities of New England's Rising Star.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

How to Defend Hartford in an Argument

If you leave the friendly confines of the City of Hartford, it's inevitable. Heck, it happens way too much even in our own city limits. People love to pick on Hartford. Friends, co-workers, relatives, random guys on the street - people love to rag on our small/boring/scary/crime-ridden/vacant/sad city. Although truly convincing these mokes of Hartford's complete and total awesomeness is pretty impossible, there are some techniques you can use to help protect our town's honor.
You Will Need
1. An undying love for Hartford
2. A thorough understanding of Hartford's strengths and weaknesses and the social, political, demographic and economic forces that drive them
3. A crowbar (we'll explain that part later in the post)
Step 1: Be realistic
Look, we all know Hartford has it's weaknesses. If you try to defend Hartford head on against a criticism like "Hartford sucks compared to New York/Boston/Philadelphia/Washington DC/New Orleans/Austin/Chicago/Denver/San Francisco/Los Angeles/San Diego/Seattle/Decatur", you're going about it the wrong way. Hartford is a small city and it has it's own unique set of advantges and charms, but it can't compare to the wonders that come from a major American city. When someone tries to compare Hartford to a big city, tell them they are trying to compare Mike Tyson (circa 1987) to Floyd Mayweather (circa 2002). Pivot the comparison to somewhere closer to our weight class. Like Worcester. Everyone loves to beat up on Worcester.
Step 2: Don't fall into the "everything is just two hours away" trap
While one of the cool things about Hartford is that virtually anything you could want to do (hiking, skiing, beach, Boston, New York, Providence) is a two hour (or less) drive, do not use it as a proof point for why Hartford is cool. It's flawed logic to argue that one of the best qualities of the place that you love living makes it easy to leave and go elsewhere.
Step 3: Use judo when they bring up the crime issue
When people bag on Hartford, they often bring up the issue of crime. Let's face it, parts of Hartford are a wee bit dangerous. After about a decade living within city limits, we've had four different car stereos stolen (evolving from tape deck, to CD, to MP3 along the way). But as all of our Sad City Hartford readers know, it's not that bad. When someone brings up the crime issue, use some argument judo and turn it back around on them. Explain to them that a diverse, economically challenged city with a drug problem wll have it's fair share of crime issues. Explain to them that it's their suburban, white picket fence lifestyle that created a city that lacks any sort of economic diversity or upward mobility. If that doesn't work, wave your crowbar at them and demand their wallet.
Step 4: Explain to them that this is your town
You can't ever live in New York and say that it's your city. There's too many people and too much going on. The best you can hope to be is a large fish swimming in an ocean. Hartford is a great town because it's the underdog city that can you can make your own. People living in Hartford today have the unique opportunity to be part of something that's makes this place better than it is today. Nobody ever moves to New York and says, "I'm now here in New York. I want to try to make this a better, more livable city." It's impossible to do that there. In Hartford it's very possible. So go out there and defend our city!
Do you have additional tips or ideas on how to defend Hartford in an argument? Post them in the comments down below and we'll feature the best and worst of them in an upcoming post.


  1. I typically just ask the Hartford bashers when the last time they were actually in the city was and how of they they go there. I find about 99% of people who bash Hartford never go into the city, no absolutely nothing about what it has to offer, and simply trash the place becuase it is easy.

  2. I just moved to New Haven a few weeks ago and still get comments about Hartford when I tell people that's where I moved from. Last night, a guy who said he grew up in Simsbury told me he hated going into the city because there's nothing to do in Hartford. I looked him straight in the eye and said, "yeah, we usually say the same thing about your town." Not a great comeback but it was something!

  3. Some suburbanites don't like Hartford and surely most don't know it's many attractions. But the one thing we know for sure is that NO (ZERO) suburbanites care about any other suburb. Among other things, Hartford exists to test, nurture and strengthen our capacity imagine this place as something bigger than the sum of it's parts. Spokes and hubs. A while that is all spokes and no hub is weak and unsustainable. Hartford has much to love. But the key challenge is to make it even better by talking honestly and openly about problems, prospects and possibilities - and then chip away at the problems; embrace the prospects and develop the possibilities

  4. Hartford has changed quite a bit since I was a kid in the 50's when the 'projects' and almost every other home were occupied by working families.
    Johnson's 'Great Society' followed by the 'War On Drugs' have taken a toll on the livability of Hartford and many other cities.

  5. The reason for Hartfords poor economy and high crime has nothing
    to do with suburbanites and white picket fences. It has to do with
    decades of poor leadership. Take Franklin Ave for example. A once
    thriving (Little Italy) section of town. But they built more and more housing
    projects and forced landlords to rent to Sec. 8 and now look ar it. Who in
    there right mind would want to take thier family out for dinner there.everyone
    wants to point fingers and scream racism, but the fact is free money,and free
    housing creates lazziness. Welfare and section 8 are like methadone for a heroin
    addict. They never get sober(economically indipendent), it's just enough for them to exist in the ghetto. Hartford politicians answer is more welfare more projects,look what that has got us.
    When I was a kid we would go to Hartford to shop and dine-out etc.. It's sad Hartford could be a great town but instead it's about 10 blocks of buildings,businesses, and the rest is a spralling ghetto.

  6. Regardless of the causes (though I heartily agree with those above regarding economic decisions and poor leadership), it is what it is. I've lived here for 20 years and never seen as many concerted efforts on the part of mayors, educators, planners as I have in the last 7-10 years. Developments such as the Riverfront Recapture, the Science Center, the acquisition of an accomplished city planner, a grocery store downtown, and now a great mayor who really truly cares about Hartford. And while it's attributes have increased in number, it does still lack the feel and behavior of a great city. Having lived here for so long I've gone from complaining to acceptance to even getting involved. And I've come to the realization that Hartford is a place for pioneers and not for settlers. If you want a ready made community where everything is established for you, available to you when you expect it, if you don't want to have to think too hard about what makes your home community tick, then Hartford is not for you. To love Hartford is to understand it. To love Hartford is to embrace the potential and try and to find ways to cultivate, rather than hate. To be patient and supportive and be involved as much as you can. To see yourself as responsible and capable of making a difference. This can mean simply "showing up" as one local radio show host recently put it, or it can mean voting, giving your input where it matters most. To be a pioneer in Hartford means all of the above, to maintain optimism, look for the positive and think of ways to capitalize on it.

  7. This is by far the best blog post I have seen in quite some time. I love my Hartford and I love that others feel the same way. Go Hartford! as mayor mike would have reminded us on a daily basis. Cheer for your city! Young people get involved.

  8. Hartford is a gem. It's just been covered in some rust and decay. It's worth supporting and fighting for! Hartford is home to the Wadsworth Atheneum, the oldest public art museum in the US (est. 1842) For anyone who knows anything about art, it was the first American museum to exhibit European Surrealism (we're talking Dali, Magritte, Picasso) as well as the host of the first performance of what is now the New York City Ballet. Not New York, HARTFORD.

  9. I usually say, "It's ok, we're glad you don't live here, too."

  10. All these comments are very heart-warming, ...until you have your own kids. Hartford is the last place in the state I would want my kids attending school. Take a look at the test score rankings by town for as many years back as you want and that will answer your question about why people leave for the 'burbs. Not cool with letting my kids outside to play with broken glass, stray dogs and homeless guy poo, either.

  11. Hartford is a terrible place. But a lot of the people ragging on it usually don't know a damn thing about Hartford and has a perspective limited to pictures and news articles. All idiots.

    But Hartford isn't very good. If you believe otherwise, you are delusional. It's never safe.

  12. What's that saying....lipstick on a pig...

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  14. My family has lived in Hartford county for 4 generations, with my grandfather and great grandfather being state legislators. I think joking about how horrible Hartford is is part of the Connecticut culture, especially because it's a poor city surrounded by a wealthy state. Hell, I lived IN Hartford for 4 years and even I have to admit it has little culture and a lot of crime.

  15. A few people have asked me "what is there to do in Hartford?"

    My response has always been "get in your car, get on 84 East or West and drive as far away as possible from it".