New Green uses planned

The Project for Public Spaces has been tasked with improving the New Haven Green and finding new uses for the public space. Plans to be included in their proposal include suggestions for activities and varied infrastructure improvements.
The Project for Public Spaces has been tasked with improving the New Haven Green and finding new uses for the public space. Plans to be included in their proposal include suggestions for activities and varied infrastructure improvements. Photo by Eugene Yi.

In celebration of the Elm City’s 375th anniversary next year, city administrators and the New Haven Green’s proprietors have begun to discuss ways to improve the public space.

The Proprietors of the New Haven Green have hired the Project for Public Spaces (PPS), a nonprofit planning and design organization, to gather input from nearby residents and businesses about how to improve the New Haven Green, according to head proprietor and Yale Law Professor Drew Days III. No official plans have been developed, but PPS is drafting a proposal that it will eventually present to the Green’s proprietors and the New Haven Green Restoration Committee.

“It seems fairly clear that there’s an interest in more activity [on the Green] and infrastructure improvements, such as better seating arrangements, social gatherings and positive activity,” said Christy Hass, deputy director of the New Haven Department of Parks, Recreation and Trees. “We’re not doing any of these things yet, but we’re putting ideas together and there are a lot of things between now and when it actually becomes a plan for development.”

Days, who heads the centuries-old self-perpetuating group that owns the Green, said that there is no guarantee that a plan will be implemented. Even if PPS’s proposal were accepted, he said, there would be no dramatic change on the Green as PPS tends to focus on “lighter, cheaper and quicker” changes.

Ward 7 Alderman Doug Hausladen ’04 said that PPS has looked at “low-dollar, high-impact” options and is using a “bottom-up community-based process” in which the group engages all the constituencies that surround the Green and surveys residents.

PPS has held a number of public meetings, distributed surveys and asked people on the New Haven Green to gather suggestions about how to improve the Green, Days said. Days added that he did not want to mention specific suggestions, but said that the ideas the group has received have been “quite diverse.”

Hausladen said that certain suggestions from people he has heard have included setting up chairs and tables on the Green where people can eat and socialize, building an ice skating rink and adding a performance space.

Claire Criscuolo, the owner of Claire’s Corner Copia on Chapel Street, said that she would like to see a number of gardens representing different nationalities on the Green, mentioning Japanese, French and Italian gardens.

Sandra Olsen, minister of the Center Church on-the-Green on Temple Street, attended a public meeting PPS held at City Hall two weeks ago and said that her church has had internal discussions about what they want to see on the Green. She said the meeting was well-run and that over 45 people attended.

“I think the Green is lovely, but it could use spiffing up, and we as a church are in favor of special events being held there,” Olsen said. “But we do not want to see permanent structures on the Green. I want the Green to be a space you can sit on in the warm weather, or walk across, and just enjoy it.”

Future Green developments will require long-term funding for the maintenance of any new additions or programs at the Green, Hausladen said. Options include creating a new nonprofit to manage the Green or assigning the task to an existing city business or retail group, he added.

“PPS wants to make New Haven a destination, and they want to make the New Haven Green the focal point,” Hausladen said. “The Green has been the center point of New Haven, and always will be.”

Both Criscuolo and Olsen said that they feel that they have adequately expressed their views and that the Project for Public Spaces is making a concerted effort to gather people’s thoughts and ideas.

Clients of PPS have included Bryant Park and Times Square.

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