Sophie Sonnenfeld, Contributing Photographer

New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker introduced Westville residents to city officials for face-to-face meetings at a Tuesday evening “Meet the Mayor” event. 

At the gazebo on the corner of Whalley and West Rock Avenues in Edgewood Park, over 30 Westville residents brought their concerns and ideas for the neighborhood to city officials including City Engineer Giovanni Zinn ’05, Westville top cop Lt. Elliot Rosa, and Arlevia Samuel from the Livable City Initiative, or LCI. Neighbors milled from table to table as the officials took careful notes, got names and fielded suggestions. 

“It’s been a very tough time over this past year and a half but I think that we’ve done a lot of work as a community to come together,” Elicker said. 

Elicker spoke about the increased opportunity for the city with money it will receive from the state’s Payment in Lieu of Taxes program each year. He said the city is also close to submitting a proposal to the Board of Alders that will outline how the city will invest its remaining American Rescue Plan dollars, federal COVID-19 pandemic aid. 

He mentioned policies that would bolster the city’s economy, such as an expanded home buyers program, workforce training programs and climate change initiatives. 

“Frankly I’m excited that we have the election behind us and we can focus purely on the work because a lot of times I think that while really good for getting people’s voices out there, those conversations can sometimes distract a bit from the work,” Elicker said. “I’m glad that we can roll up our sleeves and get to work again.”

At the end of his remarks, Elicker said that New Haven needs work on a “functioning government.” 

“We as a city, while we don’t have enough resources and constantly we’re working to trim your tree, make sure that you have public safety, fix your sidewalk, just return your call,” Elicker said. “Just address blight issues. The simplest things.” 

He said he thinks New Haven can “do better” at delivering these basic services. Elicker added that the city can provide more “friendly” constituent service. 

Zinn, who is responsible for the design and construction of the city’s infrastructure, set up at one table to talk about the West River Bridge, which he said is almost up to bid for contractors to fix along with traffic calming, sidewalks and roads projects. 

Arlevia Samuel, the current Acting Executive Director of LCI, which is the city’s anti-blight housing development inspections agency, spoke with residents at the next table over. 

Lt. Rosa met with neighbors at another table as they brought concerns about speeding and traffic calming efforts. “We have a big push for motor vehicle enforcement,” Rosa told residents Tuesday night. 

Arthur Lindley has lived in Westville for 40 years and said he came to the meeting with concerns about traffic calming in Westville. “It’s as bad as it’s ever been,” Lindley said. 

“People are driving like crazy people these days.” Lindley said he’s seen people in Westville driving through bike lanes, speeding and “basically people being impolite and stupid.”

He said he would like to see traffic calming down across neighborhoods rather than on a street-by-street basis. “If it’s one street then it will travel to the next street,” he said. 

Lindley noted that traffic violations on Yale Avenue have been particularly bad. “The attempt to slow people down I don’t think is working,” Lindley said. On Yale Avenue, Lindley said he’s seen drivers speeding through markings and endangering bikers. 

He said he thinks narrowing the streets could help to solve speeding issues.

“They’ve got to make it so you can’t drive from zero to 60 in a street,” he said.

Lindley said he often attends Westville community meetings and was happy to hear the mayor was hosting an in-person meeting for the neighborhood. “I think most of the people here like the idea of face-to-face contact,” he said. 

This summer, Westville approved a two-way cycle track, a midblock raised pedestrian crosswalk and speed humps on Yale Avenue to serve as traffic calming measures.

Sophie Sonnenfeld is Managing Editor of the Yale Daily News. She previously served as City Editor and covered cops and courts as a beat reporter. She is a junior in Branford College double majoring in political science and anthropology.