City development project moves forward

In separate meetings Wednesday night, city officials announced that New Haven is now one step closer to seeking federal funding to boost downtown economic development, and that the city may have run a modest $80,000 budget surplus in fiscal year 2009-’10.

The city planning committee approved New Haven’s proposed application for a $21.3 million federal grant that would fund the city’s Downtown Crossing Project. The project, which is expected to cost about $45 million, would convert the Route 34 East Connector into a street-level urban boulevard connecting downtown and Union Station.

The proposal is one step away from reaching the full Board of Alderman, and if approved, New Haven will be able to apply for the federal grant.

Ward 10 Alderman Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10, who supports the proposal, said he would like to see the Farmington Canal Trail, which runs from Cheshire, Conn., to Orange Street, be extended across the urban boulevard.

“I believe that the trail should lead to useful places,” he said. “There needs to be a really practical route for cyclists — for example, a designated path to Union Station.”

While the city plan committee was discussing the grant application, across City Hall the Board of Aldermen Finance Committee was reviewing the city’s July budget figures and discussing a new parking ticket forgiveness policy.

The finance committee unanimously voted to allow the traffic department to look into the possibility of forgiving parking tickets if the recipient receives the ticket while doing business in City Hall or the Hall of Records.

New Haven residents often park outside City Hall on Church Street and the nearby Hall of Records between July and January, when they go there to pay their taxes and do other business, Ward 11 Alderwoman Maureen O’Sullivan-Best said.

In recent years, lines at both buildings have been much longer than residents anticipated, and often by the time they return to their vehicles, their parking meters have expired and their vehicles have been ticketed.

O’Sulliven-Best said the department of transportation will report back to the board on how to best craft a new policy.

“The department of transportation will eventually report back to the Board of Alderman in a workshop,” she said. “With a formalized investigation, they will return to us with policies for reform.”

The committee also discussed the latest analysis of the city’s fiscal year 2009-’10 projected revenues and expenditures, which suggest the city may have run a modest $81,907 budget surplus. The numbers show that City Hall spent $4.1 million less than it appropriated but had revenues of about $4 million less than expected.

Though the city spent about $2.5 million more than it budgeted on workers compensation and health benefits, its total expenditures were less than expected largely because of an approximately $2.6 million reduction in debt service and public works spending.

The aldermen said they were pleased with the budget report, but Ward 5 Alderman Jorge Perez said the July figures should not be seen as indicative of a larger trend.

“It is not realistic to expect to do well again,” he said. “We need to start talking about next year’s potential problems so that we can step ahead.”

The finance committee is next scheduled to meet October 12, and the city planning committee is scheduled to meet Oct. 20.

Correction: Sept. 24, 2010

An earlier version of this article misreported that the Board of Aldermen Finance Committee approved parking ticket reform. The committee charged the director of transportation, traffic & parking to develop new guidelines and policies for parking penalties. The drafted guidelines will go before the full Board of Alderman in the next 30 days.

Comments