Only minutes into the start of last night’s Power Point presentation by city officials on the economic development of the Dixwell and Newhallville neighborhoods, residents in attendance said they had had enough.
The remainder of the community meeting, held at the Yale-Dixwell Community Learning Center, was dominated by residents voicing their concerns about the construction of some of the major projects at Science Park. The two projects in question — a Yale chiller plant and a six-floor parking garage — provoked residents in attendance to bring up the issues of loud early-morning construction, disruptive traffic flow and divisive construction barriers. The presenters, which included representatives from the Economic Development department and Transportation, Traffic and Parking department, said they welcome the input and opportunity for partnerships.
The site has recently been an area of contention between city developers and neighborhood residents, who have expressed concerns that plans for Science Park — located at Winchester Avenue and Munson Street — do not correspond to the needs of residents.
Attempting to bridge sides, Deputy Economic Development Administrator and the moderator of the meeting, Chrissy Bonanno ’01 said at the meeting, “we’re a community. We’re here to work together to make this a better place.”
“But how can you call us a community when they close our streets, and put fences up so we can’t move through [the neighborhood],” replied a local attendee.
Limited access to areas within the neighborhood has been one of the more damaging consequences of the construction, residents said. As local Anstress Farwell, president of the New Haven Urban Design League — a local advocacy group — explained after the meeting, discontinuity within the neighborhood has created a detachment between residents and developers that only worsened already strained relations.
Residents who spoke during the meeting said the fences surrounding the construction sites disrupt their access to other parts of the neighborhoods and instill a sense of disconnect from the development.
“We can’t get around,” said Joseph, a New Haven resident, during the meeting.
City officials said they would take note of the concerns. Bonnano said that the meeting itself is proof that the city is engaging with locals in the process.
The other major complaint during the meeting was that construction workers have been starting work on the chiller plant and garage at 5 a.m., disregarding codes stating that construction may not start until 7 a.m.
Bonnano told residents that she will address these concerns with the head of the projects’ construction.
Although these were the main issues brought up during the discussion, Farwell said she is concerned about other design issues of the projects that she worries residents may not be aware of just yet.
“Tall buildings across the street from small homes can make residents feel, quite literally, like they’re up against a wall,” she said after the meeting.
Farwell suggested placing windows and openings close to the ground and planting trees along the buildings.
She also expressed dismay with the choice of a parking garage as one of the new buildings — a concern previously brought up by Ward 19 Alderwoman Alfreda Edwards, who represents the neighborhoods — since it may draw excessive amounts of traffic. Farwell said she would prefer an emphasis on expanding public transportation.
Mike Piscitelli, director of Transportation, Traffic and Parking for the city of New Haven, said, regardless, that he remains optimistic.
“We’re conducting studies, and we have a lot more data now. We’ve also invested $2 million in 11 new traffic lights,” said Piscitelli following the meeting. Half of these traffic lights have already been turned on, he added.
As the meeting wound down, both residents and city presenters said they are satisfied with the outcome of the meeting, as long as the suggestions are taken seriously and cooperation continues. Roxanne Condon, the chair of the Dixwell Management Team, a grassroots organization with a mission to open dialogue between residents and developers, said she is hopeful the input will be used in “a constructive manner.”
“I am not arguing what they’re doing,” Joseph said after the meeting. “We know this is for the greater good.”
The next meeting in the series, which will focus on traffic, will take place on Nov. 20.