Tensions were high at the Downtown Wooster Square Community Management Team meeting at City Hall Tuesday, as members debated the best plan for the neighborhood’s future.
The team, which consists of residents, aldermen and other city officials, discussed issues regarding underage drinking in the downtown area, violent crime and police patrols. In particular, attendees raised concerns related to the district’s nightlife, including noise complaints and violent crime.
The group emphasized that their concerns did not center around misbehaving Yale students. No other city in the state of Connecticut has the kind of draw that New Haven does in terms of attracting club-goers from the surrounding area, members of the committee remarked. In fact, the group stated that New Haven residents were generally not the cause of most of the disruptive incidents.
Edward Anderson ’91, a downtown resident, put it simply: “If it was my neighbors [causing the ruckus], I would just turn up my stereo.”
Among the incidents discussed was the firing of a sawed-off .22-caliber rifle on the corner of York and Chapel streets the morning of Oct. 13. New Haven Police Lieutenant Marty Tchakirides said that, contrary to popular belief, the perpetrator did not come from the Gotham Citi club and was not a part of a large group leaving the club’s area. On the night of the shooting, officers followed the oft-accused 60-person group from the club to Dwight Chapel after the club had closed to ensure their safety. The shots were fired about 10 to 15 minutes later, according to Tchakirides.
Another issue discussed was underage drinking in the downtown area and its ramifications. In a recent raid on Alchemy Nightclub, undercover officers identified eight underage drinking suspects, who were each cited for possession of alcohol by a minor, an infraction that carries a $136 fine.
Although the team seemed to support increased enforcement, such enforcement would be costly. If the establishment’s license is to be suspended, a raid has to be coordinated with the Connecticut Liquor Control Commission — an involved and time-consuming process, Tchakirides noted. Such coordination is necessary “to get the most bang for the buck,” he said.
Another suggestion called for the police to breathalyze and check the age of students boarding university shuttle buses to area universities like Quinnipiac University and the University of New Haven, which was met with both concerns about legality and resources.
“Yeah,” Tchakirides said regarding officer numbers, “we’re way down. But there’s a level of service we try to provide.”
He continued to explain that having a greater number of officers on the Department’s bar detail, but fewer hired individually by bars, would greatly help efforts.
“If there are 10 bars open but all but one is dead, I would want all 10 officers on that one bar,” he said.
Some residents present at the meeting inquired about the necessity of the clubs’ presence in the downtown area, citing the relatively low income they provide the city government. Lieutenant Tchakirides agreed.
“They are nothing but a headache for me,” he said.
But Doug Hausladen ’04, Chairman of the Public Safety Sub-Committee, disagreed.
“As a young professional, part of what has brought me back to the city was the nightlife,” he said.
Ward 7 Alderwoman Frances “Bitsie” Clark concurred, and ultimately, the team tabled the issue.
“I think what everyone’s looking for is some balance,” Anderson said after the meeting.