After three years as Ward 1 alder, Sarah Eidelson ’12 will leave city government at the end of the year.
During her tenure as the Ward 1 alder, Eidelson served as the minority leader, or “third officer,” of the Board, an internally elected position that has rarely been held by a Yale alder. She served on the aldermanic Legislation Committee and as the vice-chair of the Youth Services Committee, where she helped develop the New Haven Youth Map: an online database that assembled city services for youth to ease the process of searching for activities across the city. Over the course of her aldership, she has worked on projects such as The Escape and Q-House — planned community centers in the Dixwell neighborhood that are still in the works but have made major developments.
Looking back on her six years in office, Eidelson told the News in an August interview that New Haven has made progress on many fronts since she first ran for alderman in 2011, adding that the Board is currently driving a proactive agenda on issues like the city’s policing policies.
“I feel like things are on the right track,” she said. “It felt like the right time to leave.”
In addition to her career as the Yale alder, Eidelson also took on the role of press secretary for UNITE HERE, an umbrella union that represents Locals 33, 34 and 35. Pointing out that she still has four months in office, Eidelson said she will take time to plan her next projects, and for now she plans to stay in the Elm City and continue working for the unions.
Eidelson’s love for New Haven began not when she entered City Hall, but as soon as she walked through Phelps Gate in 2008.
“I fell in love with New Haven pretty quickly and realized that I wanted … to be part of a broader community beyond campus, in addition to my Yale community,” she said in a Monday interview.
Throughout her time at Yale, Eidelson became progressively more involved in city politics. As a first year, she participated in Dwight Hall’s Early Childhood Education Fellowship, which spurred her interest in community organizing and activism. The summer after her sophomore year, Eidelson volunteered for a nonprofit that worked to increase voter turnout in the areas of the city with the highest rates of violence and the lowest voter engagement. It was these experiences, Eidelson said, that drove her to want to make a difference in New Haven and eventually to run for Ward 1 alder.
Eidelson’s constituency is comprised of roughly 80 percent Yale students, with the remainder of constituents living in apartment buildings near campus. According to Eidelson, her work ranged from working on major legislation that affects the broader community to dealing with day-to-day quality-of-life issues. Even though she is one of just two alders that represent Yale students, Eidelson believes the concerns her constituents raise are similar to those of other wards — that “they want New Haven to be an even stronger, healthier, more equitable place.”
Within the Board of Alders, Eidelson serves on two committees: legislation and youth services. The former committee handles official changes to the city’s code of ordinances, and the latter works to make sure there are opportunities for young people throughout the city.
Her work on the Youth Services Committee — specifically The Escape, a teen drop-in center — has earned her praise from Mayor Toni Harp, mayoral spokesman Laurence Grotheer said.
“Mayor Harp is especially pleased with [Eidelson’s] work on the Youth Services Committee,” Grotheer said. “She has been an effective advocate for the city’s young people throughout her time and … appreciates the work Eidelson did to get [The Escape] project off the ground.”
The Escape, modeled on The Door youth center in New York City, garnered aldermanic approval in July 2015 but has yet to open.
Additionally, Eidelson serves on the Board of Alders leadership, which includes the president of the Board and the majority leader. Eidelson is technically the minority leader or the “third officer.” Her position would normally go to a member of the minority party, but since all alders are affiliated with the Democratic Party, the position is internally elected. As third officer, Eidelson is “involved in the overall work of the Board and making sure that all the alders have the resources that they need to be successful,” she said.
Eidelson acknowledged the challenges that come with serving on leadership, many of which involve navigating how the state’s budget issues will affect New Haven.
She also pointed out major collective projects she takes pride in. One is the Dixwell Q-House, a former private community center that closed in 2003 due to lack of funding. The city purchased the property in 2012, and a new center is set to include a fitness center, a full-court gymnasium and a day care center, as well as spaces for art and dance. Construction on the Q-House will begin this year, Eidelson said.
Ward 22 Alder Jeanette Morrison, who also represents Yale students, said the Board of Alders relied on Eidelson’s “diligence and support” to help the youth committee gather community support and that she was essential for making the Q-House a reality.
Eidelson described her decision to leave the board after six years as “difficult … because it has been an extraordinary honor to serve for so long.” But she expressed confidence that her fellow alders will make New Haven a better place to live.
Hacibey Catalbasoglu ’19, who is running uncontested for the Ward 1 seat to replace Eidelson, announced his candidacy in April. At the time, Eidelson had yet to announce publicly whether she would seek re-election. But in August, Eidelson announced she would not seek a fourth term, leaving New Haven-raised Catalbasoglu as the only candidate in the election.
Catalbasoglu told the News he is looking forward to working with student organizations to help connect them with City Hall.
He is running as an unaffiliated candidate and had decided to run before Eidelson announced she would not seek re-election.
Although Catalbasoglu will not be challenging Eidelson, other Yale students have before. In 2015, Fish Stark ’17 and Ugonna Eze ’16 both ran against her.
Eidelson’s last day in office will be Dec. 31.
Isabel Bysiewicz | firstname.lastname@example.org