New Haven is 31.8 percent white, 35.4 percent black, 27.4 percent Hispanic/Latino and 4.6 percent Asian. More than 26 percent of New Haven residents are living below the poverty line with a median household income of $37,420 and only 32.6 percent of New Haven residents hold a bachelor’s degree. When contrasted with the predominantly white student body at Yale where approximately 69 percent of students come from families with annual incomes over $120,000, the socioeconomic disparities between New Haven residents and Yale students are striking. This has made it exceptionally challenging for Yale students and New Haven residents to form an organic relationship.
It can be especially difficult to relate to residents when the Yale bubble often acts as a vacuum swallowing us whole so our interactions are limited to Ronnell Higgins emails and the occasional trip down Whalley Avenue. New Haven residents are not “townies.” They are not the scary people we clutch our bags around based solely on Higgins’ warnings. They are our neighbors and friends. We should be striving to make a more positive impact on the city and its residents.
But how? Enter the Ward 1 alder. The Ward 1 alder is someone who is perfectly situated to serve as a means to this end. Unlike most other alders, the Ward 1 alder does not have to split his or her priorities with constituent demands such as better-paved streets and security. The Ward 1 alder has Yale to thank for a well-maintained and secure environment. Thus, the alder has much time to devote to bridging the gap between town and gown while introducing, implementing and furthering progressive policy relating to the New Haven educational system, social justice, housing and employment.
But who is best for the job? Enter Fish Stark. Fish Stark is a current junior who is running for alder as a Democrat. Fish wants to bridge the gap between New Haven residents and Yale students while simultaneously producing real change in the New Haven community. On his campaign website, Fish has proclaimed that just as Yalies should be proud to call themselves residents of New Haven, Elm City residents should feel respected by Yale.
“But this sounds like a lot of lip service,” you might be thinking. “Sarah Eidelson has said pretty similar things and I haven’t seen much fruits of her labor in her two terms. What’s so special about another politician telling me everything I want to hear?”
Fish Stark is no politician. He’s a representative. And more than that, he is passionate about New Haven. This is not a resume filler for Fish. Fish cares about New Haven and her residents. There is no other candidate, Democrat or Republican, who is as invested in New Haven as Fish is. Through his work with Squash Haven, Fish has been able to not just teach but also learn from New Haven students. He has his ear to the ground and is in tune with the needs of the community.
Through his work with the Yale College Democrats, Fish has proven his ability to organize and rally Yalies towards progressive candidates and policies. Fish is a born leader and cares about impacting the community in positive ways such as by advocating for restorative justice, fighting the gentrification on Broadway, pushing for responsible outreach by Yale students, protecting the diversity of New Haven and making Yale a more positive presence in the lives of New Haven residents.
In a community where many of our interactions with New Haveners can be ones where it is implied that we are the solution to their problems, Fish wants to change “us” and “them” to “we.”
“We owe it to New Haven to get involved, because we gain so much from this city, but we also owe it to ourselves to break some of the inaccurate conceptions we have about this city and its citizens,” he told the News in an interview about his summer in New Haven.
New Haven does not need judgmental students who stay for four or five years yet proclaim to be specialists. It does not need students who refer to anything outside of Old Campus as “sketchy.” It does not need students who are critical of everything and everyone but themselves.
New Haven needs allies to aid in the fight against gentrification, violence, homelessness and social injustice. We can be those allies if we have an alder who is present, vocal and passionate about New Haven and giving the city a better future. Based on those running for alder this year, it is my belief that we can only hope to find that in Fish Stark.
Brea Baker is a senior in Saybrook College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .