City | 1:01 am | November 29, 2011 | By Nick Defiesta

Board can reconsider Wall, High Street closure, lawyers say

Members of city unions held a press conference in April to demand that the University make additional payments to the city for the continued closure of portions of High and Wall Streets.
Members of city unions held a press conference in April to demand that the University make additional payments to the city for the continued closure of portions of High and Wall Streets. Photo by Alon Harish.

A legal opinion released Monday by Oliver Dickens and Robert Ricketts of a Hartford-based law firm said the Board of Aldermen have the authority to renegotiate a deal that closed portions of Wall and High Streets.

The original agreement, reached in 1990, allowed Yale to close portions of the streets in exchange for a payment of $1.1 million and the University’s support on other matters, including voluntary payments to the fire department and assistance in economic development. Twenty years later, the agreement is up for a planned review, and some members of the Board have called for additional concessions from Yale in exchange for continued closure.

Yale officials have argued in the past that the city doesn’t have the authority to renegotiate any of the financial aspects of the agreement, with the scope of the 20-year review limited to traffic considerations. They’ve also stated that, should the agreement be renegotiated, the university may choose to stop its voluntary payments to the city.

But the legal opinion seems to disagree, and says the 1990 agreement “virtually acknowledges the City has the authority to reopen the streets,” and adds that “there will be no adverse legal impact to the City” if it chooses to do so.

Dickens and Ricketts will appear at the Board’s City Services and Environmental Policy Committee meeting this Wednesday to answer questions about the opinion. A new agreement on the streets’ closure has yet to be reached between University and the city.

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