Postcards hung from a clothesline over Cross Campus yesterday, gathered by the New Haven Students’ Fair Share Coalition to represent student support for a tighter fiscal relationship between the University and the city it calls home.
In five hours yesterday on Cross Campus, the coalition gathered around 500 postcards — two each from 250 Yale students — in support of further negotiations between the University and the city government. Formed in the spring of this year, the coalition is a joint effort of 16 Yale student groups to convince the University to pay taxes the coalition believes Yale owes to the community of New Haven.
The postcards contained a three-point message, asking the University to make up for revenue lost due to Yale’s tax-exempt status, to annually contribute an amount of money tied to Yale’s growth, and to ensure the contribution is accompanied by a commitment to benefit the New Haven community.
At the end of the day, the postcards were delivered to Yale Vice President for New Haven and State Affairs Bruce Alexander and the office of New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. Although DeStefano was not present at the time of delivery, Alexander was and met with representatives of the coalition.
Phoebe Rounds ’07, a member of the group, said Alexander expressed interest in meeting with students to discuss their respective views for the future of the Yale-New Haven relationship.
“We’re all coming together to have this meeting about our collective concerns,” Rounds said. “I think we all look at this as a really exciting opportunity to pursue partnership between the University and the city.”
Coalition representatives said that although Yale, as a not-for-profit organization, does not have to pay taxes, its tax value — the money it would be required to pay if it paid taxes — was estimated at around $51 million last year. While the Connecticut state government compensates the city of New Haven for this lost revenue under the Payment In Lieu Of Taxes program, the compensation only amounts to $38 million.
Joshua Eidelson ’06, a member of the coalition, said although the University makes some payments in lieu of taxes to the city as well as taxes on its for-profit property, he feels that the University is still not fulfilling its responsibility to the community.
“Since 1990, Yale has tripled in growth. The city, unfortunately, has not,” he said. “At a time when property taxes have gone up and everybody else is shouldering the burden, we think that Yale should step up to the plate.”
The Yale University Office of New Haven and State Affairs’ Web site says Yale will contribute more than $7.5 million to the city of New Haven this year in the form of property taxes, fees and voluntary payments.
While mayoral aide Robert Smuts ’01 said he could not comment on the postcards in particular, he stressed the high quality of the current relationship between Yale and New Haven.
“I don’t know exactly what the students wrote [on the postcards], but I hope that they’re supportive of the strong partnership the city of New Haven is building with the University, and our partnership is a relationship built on trust and cooperation,” Smuts said. “We’re happy that we’re in such a strong place with the University.”
Eidelson said Yale’s treatment of the issue has changed significantly since the coalition was first formed.
“I’m glad to see a shift in the public rhetoric of the University,” Eidelson said. “Yale has come around and said we need to be doing more.”
And that more is just what coalition member organizations — from the Black Student Alliance at Yale to the Yale Student Environment Council — are after.
Emerson Davis ’06 said it was obvious to him that his organization would be involved in the group.
“BSAY cares deeply about the city we live in,” Davis said.
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