In the aftermath of Wednesday’s breakthrough decision to move forward with construction on the Yale-New Haven Hospital cancer center, hospital administrators and union leaders are working out the details of a community benefits agreement that broke a year-long stalemate on the project.
The agreement brokered between the hospital and community leaders by Mayor John DeStefano Jr. will officially be released to the public on Monday. That day, the public will be able to submit amendments of their own for discussion at the next meeting of the Board of Aldermen, which will take place on April 6.
While most are expecting zoning amendments to pass without much controversy in light of the settlements reached Tuesday, some community members said they are still concerned with how the center’s construction will affect such details as traffic congestion and parking arrangements, said Anstress Farwell, the president of the New Haven Urban Design League. But hospital officials said they have already developed plans that will minimize disruption to the community.
At a meeting of the Board of Aldermen — held Wednesday night following DeStefano’s press conference announcing the go-ahead for the cancer center — expert testimony addressed pollution and other environmental effects that some community members say would be exacerbated by the creation of the new cancer center as proposed by the hospital.
Farwell said the zoning amendments pending the Board of Aldermen’s approval, a significant source of contention between the hospital and residents of the neighborhood it will inhabit, were overlooked in the agreement announced Wednesday.
“Those agreements have nothing to do with building a good city,” she said. “It shows how much the issues about the permanent plan of the city have been made secondary to other issues.
Teresa Tapia ’06, a member of the Environmental Justice Alliance at Yale, said the zone as it currently stands does not adequately address the increase in pollution caused by the traffic the new facilities are expected to attract.
But Yale-New Haven Hospital spokesman Vin Petrini said the hospital has developed plans to divert traffic off the local streets and to synchronize traffic lights in order to ease the congestion contributing to pollution. He said the hospital is committed to working with the city continue refining these plans.
“Their concerns are valid, and I think the solutions we’ve provided are just as valid,” he said.
Nancy Hearn, another New Haven resident who addressed the Board of Aldermen at the hearing, said that despite the concerns expressed by the Board of Aldermen, the new center’s facilities should not be further compromised and stalled by politics.
“You are legislators, not members of the executive board of government,” she said. “I applaud that we reached it, though I deplore that it took us a year to get here.”
Yale Vice President for New Haven and State Affairs Bruce Alexander, who was called in by DeStefano to help mediate the discussions, said the delays over the past year were caused by significant differences in perspective over the issues that the parties had trouble reconciling. He said the realization that the conflicts were leading to a stalemate brought the parties to the table to discuss the issues at hand and eventually led to a compromise.
“There are many different viewpoints in New Haven. When those cause people to be adversarial, it can be very detrimental to the community,” he said. “We now have a reconciliation of different viewpoints going forward, and we will be able to really make progress not only on the cancer center but on other matters as well.”
Ward 10 Alderman Edward Mattison said he does not anticipate further delays in the approvals of the zoning amendments. He said that although he is still concerned about the details of traffic and parking arrangements, he is looking forward to communicating openly with community members throughout the process. He said the intensive discussions that preceded this recent compromise will probably not be repeated.