After drawing out negotiations for an obscenely long time, city, union and Yale-New Haven Hospital officials surprised us Wednesday with an agreement on the cancer center that includes a long list of progressive compromises from all three parties. While we are amazed that a debate typically measured in months, if not years, was reportedly settled largely in its last 48 hours, we laud everyone involved for working to make the center a reality.
That said, we remain troubled by the clear political motivations of several aspects of the deal, and we are concerned that by the time the Board of Alderman votes on the accord in a month — a lifetime, in the world of politics — the cooperation we saw this week will have already eroded. When turning to the as-yet-unaddressed issues tied to the cancer center, we ask that all sides maintain the current spirit of compromise, even when the results do not yield photo opportunities with cheering crowds.
Earlier this month, we argued against implicit bartering of voluntary donations by Yale-New Haven for movement on the cancer center. In light of the size and scope of the donations outlined in Wednesday’s agreement, such an exchange seems more than implied. If this is the case — as hospital representatives suggested last month — the whole victory is tainted by political maneuvering. We sincerely hope it is not.
We do, however, find it difficult to argue with some of the projects that Yale-New Haven’s money can jumpstart, from youth initiatives and job training programs to residential and economic development. It seems evident that the hospital is at long last taking the first major steps toward a more productive relationship with the city and with the Service Employees International Union, even though the union did not get quite what it wanted. We have seen some Yale-New Haven initiatives painted as more expansive and effective than they truly are, but the terms of the current agreement give us reason to believe it can effect real change.
Still, in the midst of all this agreement among officials, several important questions voiced by area residents remain unanswered. Chief among these are the zoning issues that have stalled construction time and again. The management of increased traffic, pollution engendered by that traffic and night patrols of the adjacent parking structure are valid concerns, and we believe the hospital’s assertion that aligning traffic lights will solve most of these problems is overly optimistic. It also remains to be seen who will replace the parks and recreational space that will be swallowed by the center.
Economic development in the area surrounding the planned cancer center site must begin now. The center does too little good for New Haven’s long-term growth if its patrons see nothing that encourages them to stop and shop, and work zones will not accomplish that goal. While this may seem a major risk for the city if further delays ensue, we believe there is little choice in the matter.
With these considerations in mind, it is critical that the city, the union and the hospital continue working to accommodate each other’s goals, as well as those of local residents. While there was much to be gained symbolically from Wednesday’s accord, all sides still have plenty to do if they are to keep this symbol from becoming an empty one.