Winchester and Mansfield streets are generally quiet, residents say, and seem far removed from the Yale campus. Except when the bustle of Friday-night hockey games at Ingalls Rink makes parking virtually impossible, locals say they appreciate the residential environment, everything from the low crime to the fresh air.
But for the residents of this neighborhood, just north of the Prospect-Sachem Triangle that would house Yale’s two new residential colleges, all that could change come Friday.
The next decade may see a new, as yet undefined, relationship between the old streets and the changing University. But even as, just a few blocks south, University President Richard Levin encourages the Yale Corporation to approve the expansion up Science Hill, most of the dozen residents interviewed in their Winchester-Mansfield neighborhood are not even aware of the plans.
When told of Yale’s potential growth just a day after Levin gave his green light, many expressed ambivalence toward the project and worried about how the construction will change the intimacy and calm of the neighborhood.
Without offering specifics, locals emphasized that Yale should make more of an effort to reach out to the Prospect community — if only to seek its input — and to keep residents informed about plans as they develop.
Pushing a stroller into her front yard on Winchester on Tuesday afternoon, Julise, who declined to disclose her last name, pointed to graduate-student residences across the street. Already, she said, she is aware of Yale’s presence in her neighborhood.
But if plans for new colleges are indeed approved on Friday, she has just one request for the University administration, “It would be nice if they interacted, if they passed out flyers, kept us informed.”
Yale can certainly make the transition easier, she said.
The biggest indication of goodwill
Around the corner, on Compton Street, which connects Mansfield and Winchester, two women at a home day care expressed similar concerns.
Mia and Rhea, both of whom declined to give their last names, said they think there is a sense that Yale can simply take whatever it wants, and that there is no room for resident input. Neither said they were concerned with the actual college construction themselves, though.
“But Yale should reach out,” Rhea said. “Maybe then the community would do more.”
In between the expected approval and the eventual ground-breaking — should it come to that — Ward 22 Alderman Greg Morehead, who represents the neighborhood, said he would solicit constituent opinion. He also said he would bring in Yale officials, such as Michael Morand, associate vice president of the Office of New Haven and State Affairs, to answer residents’ questions and allay any worries.
“I don’t want it to just be something that is coming from me,” Morehead explained.
He said, though, that among those constituents to whom he has spoken regarding the residential colleges, none seems to think it was a big issue of concern.
But one nonplussed resident said he doubts that Yale, despite its good intentions, can expand without damaging the community.
“The neighborhood is the mouse, and Yale is the elephant,” Ignatz Mockley said, on the porch in front of his home on Winchester Street.
Yale’s presence is a double-edged sword, he said. He noted that the Rose Center, which is attached to the Yale Police Department headquarters, has a beneficial presence in the neighborhood. But Yale’s growth, he said, is sure to irrevocably change the character of the area.
He speculated that the University would tear down many of the vacant residential properties it owns to make more room for new construction to accompany the colleges and would buy up properties it does not own, such as the nearby gas station, which he said had been there since World War II.
Still, perhaps the biggest indication of goodwill, Mia and Rhea said, would be if Yale promised to solve what they see as the parking crisis.
Locals have to apply for parking passes from the city, but there is still never enough room, they said. In homes and apartments that may house upwards of four adults, the few residences that have driveways certainly cannot accommodate all the cars, they said.
Remarked Susan, another local who only gave her first name, “It’s very annoying to come home with loads of laundry and then have to walk three blocks.”
Upsetting — or enhancing — the balance?
Along the east side of Mansfield Street, the closest to Prospect Street, the residences house mostly graduate students. Despite being as close in proximity to the potential colleges as the longer-term New Haven residents, the graduate students living on Mansfield seemed to react with indifference to the news of the two new colleges.
Ahmer Alam SOM ’09 said because he knows his stay in the Elm City is temporary, the issue is less relevant to him than to New Haven residents.
“We had no idea that was happening,” Alam said. “It doesn’t affect us at all, because we won’t be here … We barely feel like we’re a part of campus.”
That, of course, could change if the construction goes forward. And, in that case, many graduate students identified potential positive impacts of building the two colleges nearby.
Caroline Levy DIV ’08 expressed dislike of the current gap between undergraduates and graduate students, citing the University’s plan for new colleges as a possible remedy.
“It would probably give a different tone to the neighborhood. It’d be nice to have more undergraduates around because we have so little contact with them,” Levy said. “There’s not a lot of mixing between graduate and undergraduate students. We have very different experiences at Yale.”
Still, she said that were she an undergraduate freshman, she would not want to live on Prospect Street.
Not all graduate students perceive this gap between the graduate and undergraduate populations. Rob Berschinski ’02 GRD ’08 said he feels very much a part of the Yale community, and as a TA and through other social outlets, is able to interact with undergraduates all the time.
But, Berschinski’s perspective as a graduate student has changed significantly since his Yale College days, he said.
“Your version of what is distant from central campus is different as a graduate student,” he said. “A lot of undergraduates don’t know this street exists — but we’re right by the hockey rink … once you hit the base of Science Hill, that’s the end of the universe [for undergraduates].”
One thing is clear: if the expansion of the Yale universe proceeds, undergraduates will find the opportunity to interact much more with both local residents and graduate students.
But, until then, the non-Yalies around Prospect Street have two requests for the University — step up parking and more importantly, keep local residents in the loop.
Walking down Mansfield on Tuesday afternoon, her small dog in tow, Susan said she valued the peaceful environment the neighborhood offered. Crime, she said, is relatively low in the neighborhood and noise pollution usually absent.
Although she had not yet heard of the college construction plans, she said she hopes the addition of hundreds of students would not upset the neighborhood’s integrity.
“But I have a vicious dog,” she joked, as it yapped and strained at the leash, “so it’s all okay.”