Fifteen minutes. That’s the length of an intermission between periods of a hockey game. At some point along the way, some Yale students thought that 15 minutes could be enough time for a team of two to run a half-mile from Ingalls Rink to 90 Wall Street, eat a large pizza, drink one pitcher of beer and return to the hockey game before the next period’s start.
These students’ names have been lost to history, but their idea lived on; brave Yalies have attempted the Wall Street Challenge, with varying degrees of success, year after year. The challenge changed over time; in its later years, it became an individual effort to eat half a pizza and drink one pitcher. The last person to have successfully completed the challenge was Jack Lee ’19 this past January. Now that Wall Street closed for good, he will be the final Yalie to have ever completed the challenge.
Wall Street Pizza was not a tradition in the same way that the YSO’s Halloween show or the Harvard-Yale Game is. It would never have appeared in an admissions brochure. The pizza was good by most standards but didn’t break into the upper echelon of New Haven’s competitive rankings. Its significance came in it being the kind of place where you could go with friends, get a pizza — or breakfast sandwich, served all day — and relax. If you didn’t have the liberty of relaxing, it was also a place to study, offering free Wi-Fi.
It was closer than Pepe’s and Modern, had more seating than Brick Oven, and, unlike Bar, was open to customers of all ages. In my mind at least, however, the essence of Wall Street was that it was the kind of place that would let students order pizzas and beer for their friends in anticipation of teams bursting through their doors to wolf down pizza and Bud Light only to sprint back out of the restaurant in about eight minutes.
I, like many of us, underutilized Wall Street. I probably went fewer than a dozen times over the past three years, but it still left an indelible mark on my Yale experience. It was unmistakably an extension of Yale’s campus, but also carried with it enough local color to feel like a bridge, however small, between Yale and New Haven.
I don’t know the circumstances that led to Wall Street’s closure and apparent sale to the University, and I wish its owners and employees the best. Wall Street Pizza, sadly, won’t be coming back, and we are left only to reminisce and regret how we took it for granted while we had it. Wall Street’s closure probably marks the end of the memories I’ll have at 90 Wall Street; it’s doubtful a new business will be up and running in that spot before I graduate — if all goes according to plan — this May.
90 Wall Street, however, will continue to exist long after I’ve left New Haven. Now that Yale owns the building, it has the power to decide how it will use the space. Yale’s investment in the Schwarzman Center, Hall of Graduate Studies and new Science building have all involved a stated desire to create more spaces for students to have opportunities to come together on campus. I’m no expert in property development, but I beg Yale to consider how it could use the property at 90 Wall Street to create that kind of space for students.
I’ve spoken to students who have been perturbed by the preponderance of high-end boutiques on Broadway, but many don’t know that Broadway used to be a strip including cafés, bars and a record store until Yale bought and redeveloped the properties in the 1990s. Just because I like the idea of having bars and record stores instead of Lululemon and J. Crew on Broadway doesn’t mean that Yale didn’t have good intentions in redeveloping the street.
There are many arguments about gentrification and the Yale-New Haven divide that have been made in the News’ opinion section. I recommend you read these pieces and try to understand Broadway’s history, but I can’t pretend to have nostalgia for a place that didn’t exist by the time I was born.
That being said, however, I will give myself the liberty of having nostalgia for Wall Street Pizza. I know what kind of space it was, and I’ll miss it dearly. It would be a shame to profane the quintessential image of cheap pizza and pitchers in New Haven with a store that most students have no interest in entering, and I hope that Yale will carefully consider what Wall Street Pizza represented when choosing its replacement. Whatever does occupy 90 Wall Street, it won’t carry the legend of the Wall Street Challenge, but I trust in Yalies’ ingenuity in making new traditions. Yale just needs to give them the kind of space that will encourage them to do so.
ROBERT DENNISTON is a senior in Davenport College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .