Burrito in hand, Jeff Scribner looked out across the water, soaking in the panoramic view of the Long Island Sound just minutes from downtown New Haven.
Scribner, who has lived in East Haven for 35 years, had just purchased his burrito from one of the numerous food trucks on the recently renovated Long Wharf Drive, which now features a two-way protected bike lane and additional parking spaces after renovations last spring.
“Food truck paradise has been completely renovated with new parking stalls and utilities for mobile food vendors to use,” mayoral spokesman Laurence Grotheer said. The only project that has yet to be finished is a new boathouse, a project that Grotheer said is “moving along very quickly.”
Other nearby construction projects, such as those on I-95 and the Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge, have led to a decrease in foot traffic in the Long Wharf area over the last several years. Local businesses and city officials hope that the new renovations will bring customers back to the area. Maritza Cintron, who has operated the Santa Apolonia Taco truck on Long Wharf for 18 years, told the News last fall that she expected the renovations to have a positive impact on her business.
But according to Cintron, who spoke to the News again Wednesday, business is still slow, even now the renovations are complete. She said the city has yet to follow through with its plan to replace each truck’s noisy generator with publicly supplied electricity. Citron said she has been waiting to get rid of her generator since July. Still, there is another explanation for the slow business: more competition.
“There used to be 14 trucks here,” she said. “Now there are 30.”
And many, like Cintron’s, sell Mexican food.
Beside Cintron’s truck is the newly arrived Caribbean Wood Fire Pizza truck, which owner Luis Caraballo moved to Long Wharf from downtown New Haven a few weeks ago. Business was very slow downtown, he said, and was looking to move somewhere with more foot traffic. Although he has only been at Long Wharf for a couple of weeks, Caraballo has already seen business improve, and he said he is optimistic about his future along the water.
One of the newest additions to Long Wharf is the Snack Shack and New Haven Info Center, a cafe and information center with a picturesque view of the Sound. The Snack Shack, which had its grand opening last week, was reopened by Val Capobianco after being closed for more than a decade. It offers a variety of goods and resources, from snacks for the road to Yale sweatshirts to brochures about New Haven and New England.
Capobianco, who is also the owner of Brazi’s Italian Restaurant, located just across I-95, said Snack Shack showcases the many opportunities, sights and events in the New Haven area. It is more than merely a snack bar or rest stop, he said.
“The whole concept is that New Haven has so many things to offer, so why don’t we advertise them?” Capobianco said.
Since the Long Wharf area is located just off I-95, a main east coast thoroughfare, many of the people who frequent the area are travelers.
Snack Shack recently had customers from Wales and Germany who stopped by the restaurant before scoping out the town. Capobianco said he was thrilled to provide them with information about New Haven and help them explore the history and culture of the area.
Although Long Wharf is a convenient stop for travelers and commuters, the city hopes that local residents also begin to see its potential.
“With all of those improvements, Long Wharf is becoming a destination for not only travelers along I-95 but for New Haven residents as well,” Grotheer said.
Emphasizing that the “the city has made great progress” on the waterfront, Grotheer called the reinvented Long Wharf a wonderful place for people to enjoy the shoreline and natural beauty of the Sound.
Max Graham | firstname.lastname@example.org