Whitehall apartments will stay

Four months after Yale told them they would have to move out of their homes in the Whitehall apartment complex to make way for a child care center, 12 graduate student families have won the right to stay put.

The University had planned to expand the popular Yale-affiliated Edith B. Jackson Child Care Center, which currently occupies a unit in the Whitehall apartments north of Science Hill, into another section of Whitehall this spring. Expansion of the center would have allowed the EBJ to move more children from its two-year waiting list and into daycare, but it would also have gutted three units containing four apartments each in the process — thereby disrupting the Whitehall community, residents said.

The child-care center in the Whitehall, an apartment complex at the northern boundary of Science Hill, will not be expanded.
Philip Hu
The child-care center in the Whitehall, an apartment complex at the northern boundary of Science Hill, will not be expanded.

After petitioning Provost Peter Salovey and other officials involved with the project, a group of residents managed to obtain a series of meetings with administrators. On Jan. 20, the residents were told they would not have to move out.

“Whitehall really came together,” said Susie Salazar, a five-year resident of the apartments who helped spearhead the families’ campaign. “Ultimately they heard us and we got the decision we were hoping for, which is really amazing.”

Concerned that the opening of EBJ in Whitehall would create parking and noise problems, as well as fence off a large portion of the community’s grassy courtyard, Salazar and other residents submitted a petition with over 300 names to Salovey and University President Richard Levin. A few days later, on Oct. 15, Salovey sent a letter to the affected residents inviting them to meet with officials and help plan the EBJ expansion.

Salazar, who attended three of the five meetings held between residents and University officials, said the discussions took two “tracks.” University officials involved promised to look for alternate sites for EBJ and residents collaborated to plan the Whitehall expansion so that if it did happen, “the impact would be minimal,” Salazar said. The new plan called for redirecting the facility’s parking lot and preserving the grass courtyard, where residents often gather to have barbecues and watch their children play together.

“Once they realized how serious we were, they really wanted to consider the needs of grad students,” said resident Saskia Swenson-Moss.

Representatives from the Graduate Student Assembly praised the administrators’ willingness to listen to the residents’ concerns, but said the provost’s office should have included the residents in the planning process from the outset.

“They shouldn’t have had to go through all of these steps,” GSA public relations chair Sloan Warren said. “It seems like the school was making decisions that were impacting all of their lives and [University administrators] weren’t including them.”

Instead, Warren said, the students were treated almost as an “afterthought,” with no official, accountable role in the decision-making process.

In response, deputy provost for biomedical and health affairs Stephanie Spangler said University planners had not finalized architectural plans for the Whitehall site expansion when residents were notified. She said the Whitehall students were involved in much of the planning.

“It was not a fully developed renovation plan yet,” Spangler said. “I hope they found there was plenty of time to contribute to the process and, indeed, impact the process.”

The announcement that EBJ will no longer be expanding into Whitehall came as a disappointment, if not a surprise, to EBJ director Donna Bella. For over 20 years, the popular child care center has been trying to accommodate more children beyond its current capacity of 44, Bella said. Expanding into the apartments would have allowed EBJ to increase enrollment to 96 children and admit many off its waiting list. At the moment, the list is so long that parents must wait two years before their son or daughter can enroll at the day care center.

Bella explained that any potential sites need to have a drop-off area, playground space and offices for teachers, making it difficult to find an acceptable location.

“Sure it’s frustrating and it’s discouraging,” Bella said. “But in order to have a really high quality center and in order to make the move worthwhile, we need to be patient.”

Spangler and Bella said the University would continue to search for a new site for EBJ, but could not name any specific locations.


  • YaleStaff

    There are plenty of good apartments for grad students in and around Science Hill. What there's not is enough slots for people who need good child care. This story is a classic example of people putting their small issues above the greater good.

  • Anonymous

    Had the reporter on this article done a bit more research, she would have learned that the cancellation of the EBJ construction project had little to do with community activism and everything to do with the university's financial situation. Is it much of a surprise that that the university refused to budge on the expansion plans for months despite the protests of residents, but halted the project shortly after President Levin announced budget cuts and a freeze on new building projects?

    While the community activists like to pat themselves on the back for their "victory," the YDN owes it to its readers to present well-researched reporting with all the available information. Clearly, they come up short this time.

  • Anonymous

    #1 I find the first comment entirely disgraceful. Whose "greater good" is really affected? The "greater good" of those who can pay $ 1400- $ 1500 for child care? So let me try to get this right: The greater good is when you evict 12 graduate student families out of affordable housing (which obviously helps them outset the outrageous cost of childcare, among other things), in order to make space for a child-care center which is among the most expensive in the area, and which almost no Yale Graduate Student can afford? So basically, you are reducing the (already limited) amount of quality and child-friendly graduate housing in order to make space for a facility that serves only a privileged minority which can pay for its services (and this minority clearly excludes pretty much all of Yale graduate students, and the wast majority of Yale staff). Greater good, no doubt.

  • Anonymous

    Had #2 read the letter sent to the GSA, GPSS, and to the Whitehall residents from President Levin and various Deans, he would realize that the cancellation of EBJ had everything to do with the efforts of student groups making it clear to Yale that its actions were inappropriate.

    To #1, I'm not sure I agree with this "greater good" argument. 1st of all, few other than faculty can afford the child care at EBJ. Also, the Whitehall apartments provide an affordable community for foreign national graduate students whose spouses are not yet able to work. This community is particularly special because it is filled with grad student families who can help with child care burdens and allow the students to pursue their work, which is something East Rock cannot provide and something that graduate students with families desperately need. There is no alternative to Whitehall for these families.

  • Anon

    The graduate students who lead this short term 'victory' wasted an excellent negotiating opportunity by not working effectively to leverage their position to get improvements to Whitehall, better playgrounds, maybe a community center, and who knows -- they may even have gotten some support for day care costs. The few people who named themselves representatives really blew this one. They threw fits, posted obnoxious flyers, harassed families, and after gaining the attention of the administration through their antics, they ended up with nothing. And the rest of the community who might have benefited from twice as many child care slots (including families that receive scholarship support and School Readiness support) also end up with nothing. No winners here.

  • Anon

    EBJ offers some scholarships and there are several graduate students who currently have their children enrolled there.

  • Anonymous

    Several meaning what two, three?
    The point is that kicking graduate student families out of pretty much the only child-friendly housing Yale has is a rather bizarre way to deal with the problem of child care.
    Besides, doubling the capacity of the child-care facility would take away a significant space where Whitehall children can play, and would make the parking situation unbearable. Even now, the Whitehall parking is pretty much unusable when the parents are picking-up and dropping of their children.
    But there is a wider issue here. Yale has a limited amount of graduate student housing, and even more limited amount of child friendly and affordable housing (I don't even want to get into the question how much cheaper and more child-friendly Whitehall is than East Rock apartments). With many foreign students whose spouses cannot work for legal reasons, using Yale housing is the only way for them to meet the cost of life.
    Now, we are hearing about 'unprecedented expansion', hundreds of millions of dollars to be spent on new colleges (which is all very nice), but under the circumstances, is it really too much to ask Yale not to take away what little space it has allocated for graduate student housing? If anything, graduate students should ask for more housing, and for improving the conditions of the existing units.
    Finally, the problem is that the graduate student community does not benefit from EBJ. The number of graduate students who have their children attend EBJ is extremely small. EBJ benefits primarily people with higher income, who don't even need to be affiliated with Yale, and those who are affiliated, well, let's just say I doubt they are working in the Physical plant.
    The bottom line is that Yale wanted to kick its students out in order to make space for a commercial facility of little or no use to students and to most of the staff.

  • Anonymous

    #7 - several means several … more than 2 or 3. In my daughter's class alone there are 2-3 children of graduate students. If that is representative, and I believe it is, then there are several graduate students with children in EBJ. Many of the faculty parents conduct fundraisers and pay extra each month to support the scholarship program at EBJ. You really do not know what you are talking about.

    As for your snide remark about Physical plant workers (and comments by #3 an #4). Parents of children in EBJ work a variety of jobs at Yale. There are faculty, librarians, postdocs, graduate students, and admin staff all represented. There may even be someone from Physical plant represented now or in the past. As it is, some of the parents in other position make less than some physical plant employees. Just about every parent is making sacrifices to send their child or children to what is widely recognized as an exceptional child-care facility. The cost of EBJ is not that much more than other certified child-care facilities around New Haven. You get what you pay for folks.

    Expansion of EBJ and of graduate student housing represents two different issues that, in this case, are unfortunately in conflict. By preventing the expansion of EBJ, the graduate students have made enrolling a child in EBJ much more difficult. Many postdocs and graduate students could never imagine putting their child in EBJ because of the 2 year waiting list, not the cost.

    Finally, increased access to quality child care was identified as a priority by graduate students, postdocs and faculty a few years ago. The offer to expand EBJ was a good faith effort by the administration to start addressing the request of a very broad community of students and staff at Yale. The long-term efforts of many concerned students and staff have been derailed temporarily by a vocal minority - that is why other poster #1 talked about the greater good. You have turned this into an issue of "the privileged faculty" versus the poor downtrodden students, when in reality it has likely slowed efforts by faculty AND students to expand child care for everyone. Indeed, some of the most active and vocal faculty put their children through EBJ many years ago (sometimes as graduate students!) and they have worked very hard to expand child care and make it more affordable for the entire community.

    It is sad so many of you think this was about kicking students out when it was always about expanding access.

  • Anon

    #7's comments are incorrect and mean spirited. You said: "a commercial facility of little or no use to students and to most of the staff." This is just plain wrong. EBJ is a non-profit center that struggles to keep its costs low without sacrificing the highest quality care for children. Through fund raisers and annual appeals it scrapes together scholarship support that goes to staff and student families. This is an amazingly supportive, caring, and diverse community of people. Lay off.

  • Anonymous

    EBJ may really be a good place,but this, unfortunately, is about kicking students out.
    Yale has three major graduate housing locations. Mansfield, Esplanade and Whitehall. In Mansfield, there is effectively no children, and it's very far from being a child-friendly place (quite frankly, I'm not sure it's human-friendly). Esplanade is a little bit better, as there is some outside space, while Whitehall is by all accounts the best space you can hope for to raise your kids, at least when Yale graduate housing is concerned.
    More importantly, there is a general shortage of Yale graduate student housing. This is especially painful for foreign students (a good 1/3 of all graduate students), and particularly for those whose spouses cannot work. For these students Yale graduate housing provides the only hope for decent housing.
    Expansion of EBJ would mean even less graduate student housing overall(one building on Mansfield is also scheduled to be demolished), and would adversely effect the quality of life of Whitehall residents.
    I simply cannot believe that a $ 20 billion university cannot find a better way to resolve child care issues, but to throw out its graduate students. It is quite clear that at some point someone decided that kicking graduate students around is the easiest way to resolve this. Comparing to the other parts of the university, Yale is investing very little in graduate student housing, and graduate students have every right to feel threatened when even what they've had so far is being take away from them.
    If Yale had only shown some willingness in the wake of its great expansion to do something to expand graduate student housing, the EBJ would not be such an issue. And I am not talking about tens of millions of dollars.
    The decision to expand EBJ further into Whitehall, without at all taking into consideration the fact that Yale has a shortage of graduate student housing tells me that those who made the decision don't quite realize the challenges graduate students meet.
    And yes, once more, the initial plan was created in order to expand childcare by kicking students out. Literally.
    Let me propose an alternative suggestion. There are several university complexes next to Whitehall, mostly inhabited by postdocs and staff (Ivy Manor, Prospect Gardens). How about we kick four or five families out of their homes and create a child care facility there. I am sure that wouldn't produce any resistance, and the residents would be happy to support the "greater good"!

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