Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

As the city of New Haven reaches the end of its 35-year lease to manage Union Station, the state Department of Transportation and city officials are debating who should control the station and retain its profits.

House Bill 7278, introduced this January by State Rep. Juan Candelaria, D-New Haven, would essentially pass possession of Union Station from the state’s Department of Transportation to the City of New Haven and the New Haven Parking Authority at the end of its current lease, set to expire at the end of 2017. The state DOT wants simply to extend New Haven’s lease for at least a year because the state administration is building a new garage at the station and does not want to change management during that process. However, Mayor Toni Harp and many officials in New Haven want longer-term control.

“We want to actually own it. Now that we’ve made it profitable, they’re sort of saying, ‘We want it back. We want to control it,’” Harp said during WNHH radio’s “Mayor Monday” show on March 13.

New Haven residents demonstrated their support for the bill last Monday in a public hearing in front of the state legislature’s Government Administration and Elections Committee. More than a dozen people attended, according to the CT Mirror, while many more residents sent in testimonies via email.

In a March 18 email to New Haven residents, New Haven Director of Public Transportation, Traffic and Parking Doug Hausladen ’04 asked for support and testimonies to help the bill’s case prior to the Monday hearing. According to Hausladen, the bill could “save the future” of the New Haven Parking Authority and its over 100 union jobs that “provide career opportunities for dozens of New Haveners.”

Susan Godshall LAW ’73 ARC ’75, a board member of the New Haven Preservation Trust and former deputy corporation counsel for the city, pointed out that the state has only managed Union Station for a decade of its 97-year history. During that decade, the station was closed and slated for demolition.

Caroline Smith ’14, co-organizer of New Haven Bike Month and the Lead Generation Executive of the local communication platform SeeClickFix, also used history to make her point at the hearing and noted that from its start New Haven has done well under direct ownership.

“This station will be most successful if its future is informed by the individuals it most immediately affects,” she wrote in her testimony.

Last year, Gov. Dannel Malloy and his administration announced their plans to build a seven-level garage next to the current one at Union Station.

According to the CT Mirror, state DOT Commissioner James Redeker said that once the garage is built the state might consider a “competitive procurement” process to choose a service provider or providers. The department hopes to bid out management for the facility.

At last Monday’s hearing, according to the CT Mirror, Redeker characterized the city as not wanting to compete or be held accountable for the station. He admonished New Haven for failing to repair the station, improperly plowing the surrounding area during snowstorms and allowing the station’s revenue to decline.

The bill is still in committee, and it remains unclear if it will be brought for a vote in the coming weeks.

Union Station first opened in 1920.