City approves Yale construction plans

City construction is always expected to have its share of difficulties, and those where New Haven and Yale overlap are no exception.

The Board of Aldermen passed an order Monday approving Yale’s request for revocable licenses to install chilled water, steam, high water pressure and telecommunication service lines underneath city streets passing through the Yale campus. The project is designed to provide Yale facilities with more effective telecommunications services and more efficient heating and air conditioning. Despite the enthusiastic approval of the University and the Board of Aldermen, the proposal drew strong dissent from Alderman Matt Naclerio, who argued that Yale was wielding too strong an influence over the political decision-making process in New Haven.

The project, which is being chaired by Alderwoman Rosa Santana, will provide much-needed upgrades to the future location of the Comparative Literature Department at 451 College St., the provost’s office at 370 Temple St., 1 Hillhouse Ave. and the Divinity School. The project is also incorporated in the full renovations of Timothy Dwight College.

In presenting her proposal Monday, Santana said the program will allow for expanded use of these facilities and to better accommodate students next fall, especially in terms of improving telecommunications services.

The project has drawn support from campus officials affiliated with University development.

In a Jan. 29 a letter written to the Board of Aldermen, Michael Morand ’87 DIV ’93, of the Office of New Haven and State Affairs, said the improvements will strengthen the University’s academic programs and enhance economic contributions to the New Haven community.

“These improvements are about making campus facilities the best they can be,” Morand said Tuesday. “They are routine, but every important for the economy of the community as well as the campus.”

Both Morand and Santana said the project will begin after this semester in order to be ready by the fall semester. Santana added that all construction should be complete by October.

Timothy Dwight Dean John Loge, comparative literature Chair J. Michael Holquist and acting Divinity School Dean Harry Adams all wrote recent letters to Santana urging that the proposal for revocable licenses be passed.

But at Monday’s meeting, Naclerio argued that the construction should be postponed indefinitely to allow the city to pass an ordinance that would require entities such as Yale to compensate the city for use of its rights of way. He has been pushing for the measure since March 1998, and if it passes, the ordinance would impact Yale’s construction project.

Naclerio added that he does not oppose Santana’s proposal and hopes his ordinance will force Yale to pressure the city to complete the project in a timely fashion.

“I have no doubt that Yale has used city administration to stymie my efforts,” Naclerio said. “New Haven has lost a great deal of money by not implementing the plan.”

Naclerio added his proposal is not singling out Yale and realizes that upgrades in infrastructure are important for students.

One concern of local businesses has been that the anticipated construction would obstruct city roadways and cause problems with traffic volume.

But Karyn Gilvarg ARC ’75, executive director of the City Plan Department, said the city anticipates few major problems from Yale’s project.

“All the proposals were reviewed by the city engineer and the Traffic and Parking Department, and they didn’t see any problem,” Gilvarg said.

Gilvarg added Yale’s implementation of underground infrastructure will improve the urban design of city streets by reducing underground services in these areas. The new construction would allow for one service to reach all buildings in the area, reducing underground wiring.

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