Hospital must take residents’ concerns into account

To the Editor:

In an article about a meeting of the New Haven Urban Design League at which Yale-New Haven Hospital’s proposed $430 million cancer center was discussed (“Y-NH plan is questioned,” 9/22), hospital spokesman Vincent Petrini is quoted as saying the Urban Design League “has come into the project at the 11th hour.” In fact, the League has been involved in this project since it was made public and Y-NHH submitted its proposal to the Board of Aldermen and the City Plan Commission six months ago. Indeed, members of the League were invited by the Board of Aldermen to provide expert testimony at a hearing before the Board in July and testified at all of the public hearings held by the Board and the Commission.

Petrini is reported to have said the League does not accurately represent the residents who would be affected by the cancer center. In fact, the League has worked closely with Community Organized for Responsible Development in bringing the views of the residents into the public deliberative process — views that the hospital has systematically ignored. In particular, it has called attention to the issues that most directly affect the adjoining residential neighborhood — the adverse effects on the health and quality of life of residents that would result from the hospital’s plan to build one or more parking garages in areas that immediately adjoin or intrude further into the residential neighborhood.

Petrini is reported to have said that the hospital has already surveyed the surrounding communities about parking and development issues and has worked diligently to incorporate neighborhood concerns into its plans. That is not true. Had the hospital surveyed the nearby residential community, it surely would not have proposed that the garages be built in the locations it proposed. That is, it would have suggested building the garages not in the area immediately adjoining and intruding into the residential area to the west of Howard Avenue, but rather in the area immediately to the east of the medical school that contains more than half a dozen large surface-parking lots belonging to the Medical School. A garage on any one of those lots would be close to the hospital and could accommodate several times as many cars as are now accommodated. If the hospital were sincere about its desire to take into account the concerns of the west-of-Howard residents, it would sit down with the Medical School and negotiate an arrangement by which the school and the hospital would build one or more garages on one or more of those lots. It would not be very difficult for the hospital and school to do that if they wanted to — after all, they are the Yale-New Haven Hospital and the Yale School of Medicine!

Lastly, Petrini is reported to have said that the cancer center is being unduly delayed by groups such as the Urban Design League. He appears not to understand that the hospital presented a proposal that, however well-packaged and glossy in its presentation, was deeply flawed in its proposals for changing the city’s zoning ordinance and zoning map. Nor does he appear to appreciate the fact that the delays, if there are indeed any, come not from the League but from the legitimate concerns raised by the public, the Board of Aldermen, and the City Plan Commission. Simply because the hospital says “cancer center” does not give it the right to rewrite the city’s zoning legislation in a way that serves only itself and that does not take into account the interests of the neighboring residents and, indeed, the city as a whole.



David R. Cameron

Sept. 22, 2005

The writer is a professor of political science.

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