A controversial plan to build a Yale parking garage behind Ingalls Rink in the Science Hill neighborhood was approved by the Board of Zoning Appeals on Tuesday.
The plan calls for a two-story, 350-car garage to replace an unkempt storage site and surface parking lot at 200 Prospect St. Some neighborhood residents have expressed concerns that the structure could negatively impact the quality of their lives. But with few parking spaces currently available on Science Hill, city officials requested that Yale develop structured parking as part of its overall plan to develop new facilities, including chemistry and engineering buildings on Prospect Street.
Yale also plans on restoring the wetlands surrounding the base of the planned garage site, according to Michael Morand, Associate Vice President for the Office of New Haven and State Affairs. Furthermore, Morand said, a lowered building structure, landscaping and special lighting techniques will help minimize the intrusion of the garage, which is being designed by local architectural firm Herbert S. Newman Partners.
“This will both satisfy the conditions put on us previously by the city as well as the conditions for new buildings in upcoming years,” Morand said.
But some neighborhood homeowners, who have opposed the parking garage plan since its inception, said that they remained concerned about pollution, traffic and unsightly views. The 16 residents who showed up at Tuesday’s meeting were expecting the plan to be approved, said Carey Curtis, a resident of the Mansfield area who has led the fight against the plan.
“We love the university — we are just outraged at their willingness to pollute their own backyard,” Curtis said.
Curtis said that she and her husband have lived through thick and thin in their fifteen years in the neighborhood, but that they never felt like leaving until now.
She added that there has also been a considerable amount of opposition among students and faculty at the School of Forestry.
Justin Pollard FES/SOM ’05 said he was especially disappointed that the only public hearing concerning the garage plan was held in July, when most students and faculty were not on campus. He said a better use of the area might be a garden and compost site, designed by students at the School of Forestry.
“This is an ideal site for urban ecological restoration, and it would be a shame to waste this opportunity by turning it into a parking garage,” Pollard said.
Both Yale and the opposed residents have assessed how the garage may affect property prices. One study estimated that property values could decrease by as much as 15 percent, while another disputed that claim.
Morand said Yale has made a clear effort in recent years to invest in the neighborhood surrounding the garage site, notably along Mansfield Street.
“We care deeply about the property values,” Morand said. “We are the neighbors. We’re building it in our own backyard.”
In addition, several neighborhood residents have expressed their support for the project, including Ward 22 Alderman Drew King.
Jerome Tureck, a Dixwell neighborhood resident who lives a block from the planned garage site, endorsed the garage plan in a letter to the board of zoning appeals. He said he does not think it will create an “eyesore” for the area, nor will it lead to a decline in real estate or added traffic.
“I think that Yale is a neighbor, and in recent years has been a good neighbor, to Dixwell. They need the parking spots for buildings,” Tureck said.
Construction should begin on the site in 2005.