Bruce Alexander ’65, vice president for the Office of New Haven and State Affairs, announced in a letter in early June addressed to New Haven city officials that Yale plans to hire 500 New Haven residents within the next two years.

In the letter, sent to Mayor Toni Harp and Board of Alders President Tyisha Walker, Alexander wrote that the University has made a commitment to hire at least 100 New Haven residents to work for its contractors on construction projects and 400 to work regular University jobs.

“We realize how important high quality jobs are to this process, not only in improving the economic vitality of the city, but also and especially to support the well-being of New Haven residents and their families,” Alexander said in the letter.

Alexander said the University plans to conduct the hiring through New Haven Works, the “jobs pipeline” program that, as of 2014, had helped 117 Elm City residents find jobs.

Alexander also underscored that Yale’s ability to meet its goal of hiring 100 construction workers would depend on the number of available New Haven residents in the skilled trades unions. He noted that he hoped Yale’s new commitment to employing city residents would motivate external employers to hire within New Haven.

In a press release, Harp said she believes this contribution can help jumpstart the local economy.

“Yale’s pledge to hire 500 more New Haven residents over the next two years is a most welcome commitment from what is already the city’s largest employer to continue collaborating with the city to create local jobs for local workers,” Harp said in the statement. “New Haven will thrive and continue making public safety advances to the extent its employable residents can work and earn a living wage.”

The high unemployment rate in New Haven has been a significant point of controversy this summer. Two days after Alexander’s announcement in June, over 1,000 New Haven workers gathered outside City Hall, calling on developers and employers to create more employment opportunities for residents in the city.

Though the University announced just two days earlier its plans to hire 500 New Haven residents, protestors called on Yale and Yale-New Haven Hospital to create more jobs for underemployed groups. Yale unions Local 34 and 35 joined New Haven Rising, a grassroots labor organization advocating for economic and social justice, to organize the event.

The unemployment rate in the Elm City is 14.6 percent, almost three times the national average of 5.5 percent. The city’s unemployment rate for minorities is more than double the unemployment rate for white residents, which is 7.7 percent.

In an interview with the News, Walker said she was worried that Yale’s promise would not affect geographic and ethnic inequality in the city.

New Haven Rising co-founder Reverend Scott Marks shared his concerns. “The jobs crisis in New Haven disproportionately affects people in communities of color, where unemployment is at 20 percent. Yale needs to engage with this reality and hire more people specifically from the neighborhoods of need.”

Yale University and Yale-New Haven Hospital are two of city’s largest employers.

City Hall spokesperson Laurence Grotheer said that the city has not been in additional contact with the mayor’s office about the letter. However, since Yale, as a private institution, is autonomous in its hiring process, this is not abnormal.

“The city was certainly happy to receive that pledge from the university and welcomes the university’s part in fulfilling that pledge,” he added.

Approximately 4,000 of Yale’s 13,000 employees are New Haven residents.