Yale’s youngest fraternity is having trouble settling in around campus.
Chi Psi, which was re-established at Yale in 2013 after being inactive for 50 years, has not yet been able to secure permanent housing for its members despite a long-standing search for a suitable home. The fraternity was supposed to move into a 12-person house at 48 Dixwell Ave. in August, but ongoing renovations have temporarily relegated some members to a house almost two miles away in Newhallville, a neighborhood described as among New Haven’s most dangerous in a recent report published by the Neighborhood Housing Services of New Haven.
“This house is not comparable at all,” said Taylor Rogers ’17, president of Chi Psi. “There are a lot of things wrong with it. Obviously the increase in danger is incredible.”
Rogers said before signing the agreement for the house on Dixwell Avenue, he had a clause put in the lease that obligated the landlord to provide the prospective residents with “suitable and comparable” housing in case the house was not ready by the time school started. Throughout the summer, Rogers said he was told by the landlord that the house would be ready by the second week of September at the latest. However, at the beginning of August, Rogers was informed that the house’s construction crews would have to redo the house’s entire foundation to make it more stable. A local historical society prevented the house from being demolished, as it predates the Civil War, Rogers said, adding that the house should now be ready by the first week of November.
Braden Currey ’17, a resident of the Chi Psi house in Newhallville, said the brothers had the option of splitting up and living in separate houses closer to campus. But, wanting to stay together, the brothers opted for the larger house farther from campus, Currey said.
The Taurus Cafe, which is across the street from the Chi Psi house on Winchester Avenue, has a history of being home to drug trafficking and shootings. According to NBC Connecticut, the city successfully pushed to have the bar shut down in the past, only to have it reopen again.
But despite the neighborhood’s reputation, residents of the Newhallville house said perceptions of danger there are exaggerated. Crime across the city has dropped significantly over the last five years, according to City-Data.com. Last October, Newhallville received a federal grant of $1 million to bolster community relations with the police and ensure safer streets.
“The neighborhood just gets a bad rap because of the bar across the street, but whenever the bar is open, there’s a police presence,” Isaac Morrier ’17, another resident of the Chi Psi house, said.
Morrier said the brothers take standard safety precautions like using an alarm system and locking their doors, but added that he does not feel particularly unsafe living in the house on Winchester Avenue.
According to three house residents, the brothers are engaging well with the community and have met many of their neighbors.
“We’ve definitely seen some stuff and heard some stuff, like gunshots one day,” Rogers said. “But for the most part, it’s been fantastic. It’s really a community that we’re just out of touch with at Yale.”
Last Sunday night, Rogers said the brothers were sitting on their porch observing the lunar eclipse. He said patrons from the Taurus Cafe came over to talk to them and to look at the moon with the brothers in front of the house.
The fraternity’s unexpected relocation to Winchester Avenue marks the latest chapter in a search for a permanent house that has gone on since last November.
Last fall, Chi Psi bought a house on Lake Place, where they hosted mixers and social events while it was being renovated for full-time living. However, two months later, Chi Psi withdrew its application to zone the property as a fraternity house due to complaints from neighbors to the city government.
Baker Duncan ’48, a former member of Chi Psi at Yale, purchased the house for the fraternity at the beginning of last year but sold it amidst the controversy. Chi Psi was then forced to look for other housing. Over the next few months, Chi Psi looked at other properties, but each one ended up being unavailable or not properly suited to the fraternity’s needs.
When it came time to register for on-campus student housing, the Chi Psi brothers were forced to choose between accepting dorm rooms and taking the risk that they might not have a house by the time classes resumed.
“Some people dropped because of the worry that it wouldn’t happen,” Rogers said. “Eventually we got 12 guys that were ready.”
While Currey said he was glad to be moving closer to campus on Dixwell Avenue before the winter cold set in, he, Rogers and Morrier noted that there are some positive aspects to living so far from Yale’s campus.
“We can just kind of escape school for a little bit, which is nice,” Rogers said. “We come home, the grill’s on, we hang out. We’re all getting so close, which is the whole point of this.”
Currey added that everyone in the house has bikes, and that the commute is only about a five to 10 minute ride to campus.
Despite housing troubles, the newly revived fraternity is growing: Chi Psi just extended nine new bids this semester. The fraternity also just adopted a golden retriever puppy named Buck, who lives in the house with the brothers.
Chi Psi has active chapters at 31 universities.