Today’s opening of the Smilow Cancer Center will create both new jobs and more traffic.
With more than 25,000 people in the Greater New Haven workforce unemployed, community leaders interviewed welcomed the 300 jobs they said they expect the cancer center to create this fiscal year, even if the center also brings additional congestion to an area already wrangling with traffic safety issues.
Nancy Collins, director for recruitment and staffing at Yale-New Haven Hospital, said hospital officials are committed to providing job opportunities for New Haven residents. Future positions will include clerical and support services and nursing jobs, in addition to the environmental services and facilities employees Yale-New Haven has already hired.
“I think the opening of the center is very favorable for the unemployment rate in New Haven,” she said. “We are a major employer in the city, and the 300 new positions will be filled hopefully by people from the city.”
The hospital has already started to inform New Haven residents of the new positions. Last week, the hospital hosted a career fair that attracted approximately 1,700 locals to the New Haven Fieldhouse where Connecticut Works and Strive New Haven, two non-profit employability services agencies, provided information about the job search to New Haven hopefuls.
Bruce Alexander, Yale’s vice president for New Haven and state affairs, said any major decision the University makes has community input, and he stressed that it is important for the University to the needs of community when it takes actions that affect the community.
“I think the University has clearly played a role in the growing economy of New Haven,” he said.
Community leaders interviewed said the jobs the center will not only create are not only well-paying jobs but many are also entry-level positions suited for the skill set of New Haven’s unemployed.
“If you’re pushing a broom at Yale-New Haven Hospital, you’re making a living wage,” said Andrew Orefice, program director of Strive New Haven.
Orefice said his organization has already sent 54 of its graduates to interview for positions at the hospital this year. He said many of the jobs opening are entry-level and registered nurses positions, both skill sets well-represented in the unemployed population.
Still, some community members said they had initial concerns about whether the Web-based application process was accessible to New Haven’s unemployed. Lisa Hopkins, a Dixwell community activist, said many of the people who need jobs most in New Haven do not have Internet connections. But Roxanne Condon, the chair of the Dixwell Community Management Team, said that while she had heard that the Internet application process might pose a barrier for some unemployed people, the computers that are available for use in the hospital’s human resources department address the issue.
Vin Petrini, senior vice president for public affairs for Yale-New Haven, said the hospital anticipated the accessibility issue and has reached out to the local community. In addition to last week’s career fair, he said the hospital has hosted a job fair at the Wilson Branch Library in New Haven’s Hill Neighborhood. As a result of the outreach events, the hospital’s director of recruitment and staffing said many city residents have established links with the hospital.
Yale-New Haven Hospital is currently the second largest employer in New Haven, after the University.
To mitigate the traffic that the new cancer center will create, the hospital has agreed to install a new traffic signaling system, Petrini said.
The new system, which will cost $1.2 million and coordinate signals across 12 intersections, will allow pedestrians to cross more safely and decrease congestion around the hospital, he said.
Another improvement is the instillation of an underground loading dock at 55 Park St. In the past tractor trailers had to back into traffic to reach a loading dock, which was a cause of congestion and a presented a safety hazard, said Jonathan Romanyshyn MED ’10, co-coordinator of the Yale Medical Traffic Safety Group.
Anstress Farwell GRD ’78, president of the Urban Design League, said the urban plan of the area surrounding the hospital was a “hodge-podge of accumulated problems.” There have been two deaths in the hospital area in the last two years, she said. Anstress called the Smilow Center a “tragedy that added to the problems, rather than begin to solve them.”
Romanyshyn said that while the hospital has taken steps to improve traffic issues, his group was upset that the improvements to walkability around the hospital were the last to be made.
Another issue of concern is the pollution that increased traffic will generate, Farwell said. She explained that high traffic volume, beyond threatening pedestrians, may reduce air quality.
“It’s ironic in a place where you’re bringing people who need health care into such an unsafe environment, both in terms of traffic safety and air quality,” she said. “Nothing we tried worked to convince the hospital to look at its own physical environment as part of its own medical mission.”
But the hospital took care to offset the center’s impact on traffic in the community, Petrini said. He explained that Yale-New Haven works with the Connecticut Department of Transportation to encourage workers to use public transportation. For example, the hospital provides all employees with CT Transit bus passes.
The Smilow Cancer Center has been under construction since 2004. During the construction process, the hospital hired 350 people and funded 15 apprenticeships for potential New Haven Building Trades Council union members, Petrini said.
Christine Bonanno ’01, New Haven’s deputy economic development administrator, said the construction of the center brought “huge local benefits.” The building of the new Smilow Center generated $5 million in building permit fees alone, she said.