Nearly five years have passed since Occupy New Haven –— an encampment of protesters advocating for economic rights for “the 99 percent” -— caused $130,000 worth of damage to the New Haven Green. Still, debates are reverberating again through city government about how to prevent such destructive activities from occurring on the Green again.
To prevent a repeat of such an incident, Downtown and Wooster Square District Manager Sgt. Roy Davis told attendees at his area’s Community Management Team meeting earlier this month that a curfew on the Green is being considered. This is not the first time city officials have floated the idea of a curfew on the Green. An ordinance amendment for a 10 p.m. curfew on the Green was presented to the Board of Alders in 2013.
In 2013, the proposed curfew was met with such vehement opposition from local activist organizations that it was unable to move forward. One homeless and housing advocate publicly set the proposed new legislation on fire during a press conference at the Amistad Catholic Worker house in January 2014. Ward One Co-Chair Chris Rice ’18 said the 2013 controversy stemmed from beliefs that a curfew would displace homeless individuals who reside on the Green.
But the debate has raged on, due to opinions expressed by key city leaders about possible benefits of a curfew. New Haven Police Department Media Liaison David Hartman said the Green has earned itself the reputation as the ideal venue for criminal activities over time. He said out-of-town drug addicts from as far away as New London and Waterbury congregate on the Green by the hundreds during the night and participate in illegal drug trades. Hartman said there is a great deal of logical justifiability behind a curfew.
“We are not really dealing with the New Haven homeless population. We are dealing with a transient, drug-addict population that rises in the morning, and leaves in the afternoon,” he told the News.
He said enforcing a curfew could also beautify the Green, maintain its amenities and prevent vandalism, in addition to curbing crime.
To further complicate matters, the Green is privately owned by the Committee of the Proprietors of Common and Undivided Lands, a small group of private individuals who are not accountable to city government. City government merely maintains the Green and its day-to-day operations due to a contract.
Rice said he conjectures that if the idea of placing a curfew were rekindled, it would be because of support from this committee since its members wish to see the Green restored to its former glory.
The New Haven Green, a 16-acre park, has acted as the center of town activity since 1683.