Karen Lin, Photo Editor

The Board of Alders voted Monday night to grant final approval to a historic new agreement between Yale and New Haven, which will increase the University’s voluntary contribution by $52 million over the next six years. 

This change comes after years of activism by local unions and community organizations, which demanded that Yale contribute more to its home city. In addition to the increased contribution, the deal includes provisions for a new Yale-funded Center for Inclusive Growth, the conversion of a portion of High Street into a pedestrian walkway and a commitment by Yale to offset all city revenue lost on buildings taken off the tax roll. 

The new six-year agreement between Yale and the New Haven city government was first announced at a press conference last November. Just three weeks after a favorable vote from the finance committee, the full Board of Alders has now unanimously approved the deal. Five alders spoke in support of the deal at the meeting, although almost all expressed that it is only a first step — and a hard-fought one at that. 

“The city can use the money, so I’m glad for the cash and grateful to the people who made it happen,” said Ward 10 alder Anna Festa. “But it’s also upsetting that we must always wheel and deal like this, and in the end always have to give something up … I feel like our hands get tied when dealing with these types of negotiations. And it’s a take it or leave it type of situation.”

In her speech to the board, Festa shared her concerns about the “loopholes” and unanswered questions in the deal as it currently stands. She shared that she was troubled by a lack of clarity regarding what will happen after the set term of the deal is up, “because we still need the money after six years.” 

Festa warned of the reversion of Yale’s voluntary contribution to what she called the “pins” currently being paid to the city annually — $13 million out of a $42.3 billion endowment. That figure increases by $10 million for the first five years and only $2 million in the sixth, and the recompensation policy ends after six years, both of which are of concern to Festa.  

In response to complaints regarding Yale’s voluntary contribution, University officials have emphasized that Yale’s voluntary payments already were more significant than those of its peer institutions prior to this new ideal.

Other alders spoke on the importance of continued activism and collaboration to ensure Yale continues to contribute to the city beyond the six-year scope of the commitment. 

“[This new deal], in my point of view, is a down payment,” said Ward 14 alder Sarah Miller. “We need more money from the University in order for the city to function, and I am committed to working with the community to keep pushing until we get what we need.”

Ward 22 alder Jeanette Morrison, whose ward includes both Yale properties and permanent Dixwell residents, shared that, despite its flaws, this agreement is central to her goal as a city leader to “close the gap between this town and the University.” 

“I’m a lifelong resident, 54 years old, and there’s always been the unsaid rule that Yale individuals and city individuals should not involve themselves with one another,” Morrison said. “So to see something like this happen, to see that the University sees the importance of the city, sees the importance of these residents … To have this money be given to the city in order for our city to continue to grow is definitely a step in the right direction.”

Ward 25 alder Adam Marchand reported community feedback from the March 14 finance committee meeting on the new deal to the committee. Marchand said that the public wants clear communication from the city and University to ensure the “proper implementation” of all four components of the deal. 

Overall, Marchand said, residents urged approval of the commitment, which they saw as “hard-won progress” by community activists. However, central to the conversation was the “sizable need for additional future support and investment in the community by New Haven’s most prominent institutional partner.”

“While Yale’s endowment has grown to unimaginable levels — over 40 billion dollars right now — our city’s youth are in a state of crisis,” said New Haven Rising organizer Marika Phillips in her speech to the committee last month. “We’re going to need Yale to increase their voluntary pay much more.”

Regarding the proposed Center for Inclusive Growth, Festa noted that the finance committee had not yet received a “rough draft” of the plans. She emphasized that members of the Board of Alders and other city leaders should be included in the decision-making process for the new center. 

Kerwin Charles, dean of the School of Management, will preside over the new center, which Yale will establish with an additional $5 million funding base. University President Peter Salovey said in November that the Center’s programming will be designed to guide “the problems and challenges of urban centers like the city of New Haven in the current age,” encouraging collaboration between Yale students and faculty and New Haven community members.

Another crucial component of the deal is the conversion of the block of High Street between Elm and Chapel Streets, which passes by Old Campus, into a pedestrian walkway. These renovations will be funded by Yale, but the street will remain under city ownership as a public space. 

Festa reminded the board that the city would lose the revenue from 30 metered parking spaces as a result of this conversion, arguing that this would also increase the difficulty of finding parking spaces downtown.

Festa clarified that despite her concerns, she supported the plan’s immediate approval.
Yale’s tax-exempt properties in New Haven were recently valued at $4.2 billion.

Sylvan Lebrun is a Managing Editor of the Yale Daily News. She previously served as City Editor, and covered City Hall and nonprofits and social services in the New Haven area. She is a junior in Pauli Murray College majoring in Comparative Literature.