At a banquet last October, Mayor John DeStefano Jr. and the New Haven Colony Historical Society presented the Seal of the City award to Yale in recognition of the University’s contribution to the quality of life in New Haven. At the banquet, DeStefano recalled the many prejudices he held against Yale while growing up in New Haven, and he recounted the long history of tension between the University and the surrounding city. But, as DeStefano also noted that night, the once tenuous relationship between town and gown has become stronger over the years.
Though Yale may be a beacon for New Haven, there are some Yalies who do not realize that the interplay between the University and the city determines the well-being of not only New Haven residents, but also of the Yale community. Thus, students should pay close attention to the city’s upcoming mayoral election, as the candidate elected to office on Nov. 6 will have the charged with the task of managing and improving the delicate town-gown relationship.
Both mayoral candidates — incumbent Democrat DeStefano and Republican challenger Joel Schiavone ’58 — have a long history with Yale. DeStefano is a lifelong New Haven resident and has been mayor of New Haven for the past eight years. Schiavone is a Yale graduate and has decades of experience in city business and real estate circles.
During his four terms as mayor, DeStefano said he has developed “a textured and rich relationship” with Yale. The mayor is an advocate of student organizations such as the Yale Entrepreneurial Society, and he has recruited key figures in his administration from the Yale community. His administration has also collaborated extensively with the Yale Office of New Haven and State Affairs on economic development projects such as Broadway redevelopment and the Yale Homebuyers Project, which gives Yale faculty better opportunities to live in the city.
Schiavone’s involvement with Yale has proved somewhat more tenuous. The University fired the Republican candidate’s management company after Schiavone filed two lawsuits relating to his management roles on Broadway and Chapel Street properties. Schiavone has also not hidden his disdain for the Office of New Haven and State Affairs, which he accuses of mistreating merchants and New Haven residents and depersonalizing the Broadway retail strip.
But Schiavone does realize the importance of a solid relationship with the Yale community. He claims no disagreements with Yale President Richard Levin, and he maintains warm relationships with many professors and students. Like DeStefano, Schiavone supports YES and other student groups, but he has cited an important differentiation between Yale’s educational backbone and the corporate, impersonal side of the University that Schiavone calls Yale Inc.
With the election fast approaching, both candidates have clearly articulated their vision of the mayor’s ideal relationship with Yale. Now it is the job of all members of the Yale community, as well as New Haven residents, to listen, compare and decide.