Yale Daily News

New Haven’s political and community leaders gathered Thursday night to celebrate the city at a black-tie gala hosted by the Board of Alders’ Black and Hispanic Caucus.

Many of the Elm City’s notable names joined together for the caucus’ seventh annual gala at Anthony’s Ocean View on Lighthouse Road, where they enjoyed an evening of speeches, dinner and dancing. At the event, New Haven’s elected official and leaders stressed the importance of personal connections at a local level. The night, which began at 6 p.m. and lasted until 10:30 p.m., honored programs and individuals who have made an impact on the Elm City. This year’s honorees were local literacy nonprofit New Haven Reads, two leaders of New Haven Academy — Principal Gregory Baldwin and Program Director Meredith Leigh Gavrin — and state representatives Alphonse Paolillo, D-New Haven. and Juan Candelaria, D-New Haven.

“The Alders don’t have a salary and work really really hard for the city,” Ward 1 Alder Hacibey Catalbasoglu ’19 said. “[The gala is] the one time a year where we get to sit down and take a moment to appreciate it all and honor spectacular programs like New Haven Reads.”

Aside from general tickets and sponsored tables, the city’s alders were each given a table with 10 tickets. Traditionally, each alder invites leaders and prominent residents of their wards. Catalbasoglu, who is the alderman for New Haven’s only majority-Yale ward, invited several prominent Yalies to the event, which was titled “A Red Carpet Affair” with a 1920s theme.

The Black and Hispanic Caucus is the Board of Alders’ most significant caucus, in terms of membership size. Currently, 22 of the 30 alders are members of the caucus, including Board President Pro Tempore Jeanette Morrison. Morrison and Nico Rivera, the student representative on the Board of Education, co-hosted the event.

Tickets for the event were $75 in advance and $85 at the door. Ticket sales have made the event one of New Haven’s biggest annual fundraising events, as proceeds benefit a slew of local nonprofits and events. For example, even though events for children and the elderly are supported by volunteers, the gala provides the funding necessary for the events to actually come to fruition.

“It’s a really beautiful event in its concept and goal to receive funding that we, the Black and Hispanic Caucus, utilize to fund a lot of programs,” Ward 4 Alder Evelyn Rodriguez said.

For many, the fundraiser was also a rare opportunity to see the city’s politicians let loose. Mayor Toni Harp, whose administration  currently faces mounting criticism about the city’s deteriorating fiscal standing, joined alders to hit the dance floor in the later part of the night.

Catalbasoglu first attended the annual event as a high school student at the invitation of his Ward 2 Alder at the time. (His family’s restaurant, Brick Oven Pizza, is located in Ward 2.)

Catalbasoglu’s own invitees this year all hailed from Yale’s community and included several campus political leaders. Members of the Yale College Democrats, including President Jordan Cozby ’20, formed a significant portion of Catalbasoglu’s table.

Other Ward 1 invitees included Yale College Council President Sal Rao ’20, who attended the event for the first time. Rao said she was not aware of the event before Catalbasoglu extended the invitation to her this year.

“I had a great experience,” Rao told the News. “It was a fantastic night and a really unique way to bring together leaders from across the New Haven community. It’s so easy to stay within the confines as a Yale student.”

Both Catalbasoglu and Rao highlighted the symbolic importance of Yale student leadership joining with their New Haven counterparts. Rao called attention to the YCC’s newly formed New Haven-Yale task force, on which Catalbasoglu will serve as a member.

This year, the gala was also colored by a sense of urgency regarding the upcoming elections. New Haven has been a Democratic Party stronghold for more than half a century, but the party’s control of the state rests on much narrower margins and will be challenged on the ballot in less than two weeks. Current Gov. Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, is one of the nation’s most unpopular governors, and the state senate is currently split evenly between the two major parties.

Attendees on Thursday included the Democratic candidates for lieutenant governor and state treasurer — Susan Bysiewicz ’83 and Shawn Wooden, respectively. Both Bysiewicz and Wooden asked their fellow celebrants to work towards getting out the Elm City’s substantial Democratic vote.

Election day in Connecticut is Tuesday, Nov. 6.

Angela Xiao | angela.xiao@yale.edu .