Mayor to universities: Buses encourage drunkenness

Mayor DeStefano said the extra security necessary outside clubs on weekends was an unnecessary tax burden on New Haven residents.
Mayor DeStefano said the extra security necessary outside clubs on weekends was an unnecessary tax burden on New Haven residents. Photo by Juliet Liu.

If Mayor John DeStefano Jr. has his way, the violence that hit the downtown area earlier this month could spell the end of one of New Haven’s storied institutions: the QPac bus.

At a Tuesday press conference on the city’s recent efforts to contain downtown violence, DeStefano also took on liquored-up students and called for greater cooperation between the city and the universities that bus thousands of young people to downtown night clubs and bars each weekend.

Standing at the intersection of College and Crown streets, the mayor said he questions the value of busing 2,500 undergraduates to the downtown area to party. Universities’ shuttles, though valuable because they reduce drunk driving, have become a license for students to get “fall-down drunk,” he added.

DeStefano said his goal is not necessarily to get rid of the buses, but to work with universities to change undergraduate behavior, adding that he will not have a concrete plan until he speaks with university administrators about discouraging unhealthful drinking habits.

“Frankly, [the universities have] stepped away from any responsibility for policing this behavior,” he said.

Quinnipiac University spokeswoman Lynn Bushnell said in an e-mail that student safety is of “paramount importance” to the university and that it will work with the city on its future efforts to improve security downtown.

“If there are steps we can take to further ensure the safety of our students as they travel in and out of New Haven, we would surely discuss that with the appropriate parties,” she said.

In addition to Quinnipiac, Southern Connecticut State University, among others, buses students to downtown New Haven on weekend nights.

Still, DeStefano said, the biggest problem is not the students, but the clubs they frequent, and he renewed his call for clubs to pay their share of “Operation Nightlife.” The initiative, which the city launched last week in response to a gunfight that erupted Sept. 19 on College Street, cost the city $15,000 in overtime pay this weekend, DeStefano said, equivalent to $800,000 in taxpayer dollars in a year. The clubs should share that burden, he said.

By comparison, DeStefano said, the Crown Street nightclub Static, formerly known as Oracle, paid less than $1,000 in city taxes last year. Static could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

Club owners have not exactly been cooperative, he said, and have had an “antagonistic” relationship with the city, often denying any responsibility for what happens when patrons leave their establishments.

“This attitude is totally out of whack,” DeStefano said. “The clubs don’t get it.”

Over the weekend, the city fire marshal shut down two bars, Humphrey’s East on Humphrey Street and the Pearl Lounge on East Street for fire code violations as part of Operation Nightlife. In addition, the NHPD stopped 15 people for underage drinking and seized eight fake IDs, New Haven Police Chief Frank Limon said.


  • jnewsham

    I never realized that it was Qpac students starting these gunfights.

  • YaleMom

    There is nothing wrong with fraternizing with the opposite sex, Mr. Mayor! And, if a little social lubricant is needed, well, what of it? Bring on the buses, I say!

  • ds747

    jnewsham makes a good point. The shooting didn’t involve any college students, whether bused in or from Yale. It could just as well have happened on a Sunday night…

  • sigh

    Racists! Of COURSE it was the buses!!!

  • harbinger

    It’s amazing DeStefano will mention the fake ID’s seized from students, whne the city willingly issues them to “undocumented citizens” who have broken several federal laws to get here. The club’s don’t get it? DeStefano doesn’t get it. Are SCSU, Yale or QPac students running around breaking into cars, mugging people in broad daylight, livening up the neighborhood with a little gunfight? The mayor is simply doing what he does best, distracting the public from the overwhelming problems of crime in New Haven that he and his band of merry men are unable or unwilling to cope with.

  • Goldie08

    While no college students were involved in the recent shooting, the rampant party atmosphere contributes to the culture of lawlessness. These clubs suck anyway and toad’s is better on wednesdays. Destefano has a point that nobody wants to admit is right.

  • aluminterviewer

    The Mayor is doing his usual grandstanding, which is to be expected. The problem is that the Yale administration is in bed with him, as a consequence of numerous quid pro quo deals over the years, so that it is Levin, in fact, who is responsible for enabling this pathetic hack.

  • prion

    Are those four police officers neglecting their desks in the photo, or merely costumed actors?

  • alum2001

    These buses enable students to spend money in downtown New Haven establishments. I guess Destefano would rather this not happen? Sheesh.

    And yes, it’s not like the college students have been causing the violence. Will someone vote this clown out of office already?

  • ohno

    The buses obviously encourage drunkenness. But please don’t get rid of them; it won’t stop people on isolated campuses from coming into New Haven to party, it’ll just turn them to driving their own cars. Read: drunk driving. Keep the buses.