The Board of Aldermen held a public meeting Wednesday evening to discuss reopening and renovating the Q House, Dixwell’s now-shuttered community center.
At a joint committee meeting of the Youth Services Committee and the Human Services Committee, aldermen heard community testimony and approved a resolution asking the state for funding to reopen Dixwell’s defunct Q House. Until 2003, the Q House supervised children after school before their parents came home from work, which proponents argued kept them away from negative influences of the street.
The joint committee, chaired by Ward 1 Alderman Sarah Eidelson ’12 and Ward 26 Alderman Sergio Rodriguez, invited testimony from the residents of New Haven’s Dixwell community and their neighbors, Yale students, to offer their perspectives on and experiences with the Q House. Ultimately, the Board hoped that the meeting would result in both securing funding from the state and encouraging the community to raise money to invest in its own future, said Ward 22 Alderman Jeanette Morrison, who spearheaded the effort to fund the Q House again.
Throughout the meeting, those who testified referenced the Wednesday drive-by shooting of a 16-month-old infant in Dixwell, which residents said heightened the “dire need” of tackling a growing violent crime problem in an area so near to Yale’s campus. The chamber was filled with mostly New Haven residents waving makeshift signs — although a half dozen Yale students also attended the meeting — and a majority of these attendees ended up speaking.
“We heard moving testimony from a whole range of people: alumni kids, alumni volunteers, clergy, teenagers and young kids,” said Josef Goodman ’14, the Democratic Town Council co-chair of Ward 22. “Each spoke to the necessity of the institution and the vacuum its closure has left.”
A majority of the speakers said they were long-time Dixwell residents and had benefitted from the former community center in a way their children have not. Every single attendee who testified said that giving local children a safe place to interact with one another and learn from adults was a crucial first step in decreasing crime in Dixwell, as they said the Q House had succeeded in doing since its opening in 1929.
Prominent community members — like Hillhouse High School principal Kermit Carolina, former mayoral candidate Clifton Graves Jr. and Dixwell Avenue Congregational Church pastor Frederick Streets — spoke about their own experiences growing up with the Q House and the youth violence they have seen increase in their communities since it shut its doors.
Toward the end of the meeting, a group of elementary school students filed into seats facing committee members and delivered original testimonials toward the end of the meeting. One nine-year-old girl told the committee that she would like a place for youth to go after school so they could socialize and exercise rather than “just watch television,” and so kids would stop “selling things they shouldn’t be selling.”
Then, an elderly woman who could not walk to the podium due to a physical disability said from her seat that the Q House is to Dixwell “what the Taj Mahal is to India,” adding that the Q House could be a place for profound intergenerational exchange. Both these testimonials received a standing ovation from attendees.
Some Yale students in attendance said they have been involved in different ways to revive the Q House. Goodman, along with other Yale students living in Silliman, Ezra Stiles, Morse and Timothy Dwight colleges, is a resident of Ward 22 and has been working with Morrison on issues facing youth and unemployment in Dixwell since her term began.
New Haven Action President Drew Morrison ’14 and Jacob Anbinder ’14 also testified at the meeting, presenting to the committee a map they developed that showed the high concentration of violent crime in certain areas in Dixwell since the closing of the Q House.
The city has already received $40,000 in state funding, Morrison said, which will be used to conduct a feasibility study of what will be a complex renovation. It is likely that the city will tear down the deteriorating building and rebuild it from scratch with brand new facilities, she added.
New Haven saw 34 homicides in 2011, the highest rate the city has experienced in two decades.