Daniel Zhao, Senior Photographer

In the week leading up to the Sept. 12 Democratic primary, the two candidates vying for the Ward 22 seat are focusing on their priorities for the ward — and especially how those priorities relate to Yale.

Both candidates, six-term incumbent Jeanette Morrison and challenger Anthony Geritano Jr. ’20, are residents of the Dixwell neighborhood. 

Ward 22 is half made up of permanent New Haven residents and half Yale students and faculty — encompassing Ezra Stiles, Morse, Timothy Dwight, Silliman, Pauli Murray and Benjamin Franklin colleges. The demographics of the ward has made the relationship between Yale and New Haven a prominent issue on the campaign trail.

Morrison has emphasized her record of pushing Yale to give more jobs to New Haveners and more money to the city, while Geritano has argued his experiences as both a Yale undergraduate and a Dixwell resident allow him to better understand all the wards’ voters.

“I want to make sure that whatever growth and development are proposed [in the neighborhood], that the community has input,” Morrison said. “I want to continue bridging the gap between the Dixwell part of the community and Yale, because growing up in New Haven there was an unsaid rule that the two shouldn’t involve themselves with one another.”

Morrison was endorsed by the Democratic Town Committee on July 25, automatically listing her name on the primary ballot. Geritano, who was not endorsed, was left to gather signatures from 5 percent of voters in the ward in order to petition his way onto the ballot.

With Geritano submitting 46 signatures, over the requirement of 40 signatures, he was successfully able to petition onto the ballot, leaving both the fate of their campaigns in voters’ hands next Tuesday.

Yale student turned politician

Geritano, who double majored in history and ecology and evolutionary biology at Yale, got involved in Dixwell politics after graduation. 

He told the News that he began hearing complaints and requests from residents through his involvement with the Dixwell Community Management Team. He noticed a pattern of a lack of communication between the city and its residents, which prompted him to run for alder. Geritano officially filed to run in April.

During his campaign, Geritano has been focused on Yale’s contributions to Dixwell, advocating for improved income equality and better housing conditions for residents.

“Income inequality is where it all begins and ends,” Geritano said. “I know that’s broad. I sent out a letter to members of Ward 22 entitled ‘Open Letter to Dixwell’ on Aug. 1. In it I talk about issues around rent and, particularly, how Yale plays a role in that.”

With the opening of Pauli Murray and Benjamin Franklin Colleges in 2017, Yale pushed north into Dixwell, which Geritano said has put a strain on longtime residents. He claimed that those residents now have to compete with students who are opting for off-campus housing near Pauli Murray and Benjamin Franklin Colleges. In his letter, Geritano makes an appeal to Yale to improve the quantity and quality of on-campus housing in an effort to decrease housing competition between students and permanent residents.

Twelve years of bridging the Yale-Dixwell divide

Morrison — a 30-year Dixwell resident — has spent her years in office attempting to bridge the gap between Yale students in Ward 22 and permanent residents. 

“I decided to run again because I’ve done a lot of work in the community and I have to make sure that I protect the community, to ensure that the needs of all residents are maintained,” Morrison said. “We have a very different type of ward, with half students and faculty and half external residents. It’s important to have relationships on both sides, and I have those relationships.”

One of Morrison’s largest projects and accomplishments in her time as alder has been leading the charge to bring the Dixwell Community House — better known as the Q House — back. The Q House, founded in 1924, serves residents Dixwell and Newhallville neighborhoods. After its closing in 2003 due to insufficient funding, advocates made substantial efforts to reopen the space. Joined by Morrison in the fight, they ultimately succeeded in raising enough money to reopen it in 2021

While campaigning for this election, Morrison secured the endorsement of Local 34 — the politically powerful union of Yale’s clerical and technical workers. 

“I’ve lived in New Haven my whole life, and I know that Jeanette Morrison is the right person to serve as Alder of Ward 22,” Barbara Vereen, chief steward of Local 34, wrote to the News. “We’ve both walked the union path, and I’ve witnessed firsthand her grit and passion as a union leader. When she joined the Board of Alders, she brought that union spirit to city hall to advocate for all our residents.”

Morrison’s fight for Yale to support the city with better monetary and employment contributions has led to her garnering support from undergraduate groups fighting for the same causes.

Students Unite Now — an organization that advocates for better financial aid and student health care and is affiliated with Local 34 — has been tabling in residential colleges in the ward in an effort to get more Yale students to register to vote — and vote for Morrison. 

“Her background as a union member and public servant, history of leadership, and work to [support] this ward and city shows her dedication to our communities,” SUN member Tenzin Jorden ’25, a Silliman resident, wrote to the News.

“It’s important to me that my neighbors have affordable housing and that my classmates have access to quality healthcare at Yale Health,” added Sadie Lee ’26, a resident of Pauli Murray and another SUN member. “I am excited to cast my vote for a candidate that will hold Yale accountable.”

Ward 22 residents can vote in the Sept. 12 Democratic primary at the Wexler-Grant School, 55 Foote St.

Mia Cortés Castro covers City Hall and State Politics, and previously covered Cops and Courts. Originally from Dorado, Puerto Rico, she is a sophomore in Branford College studying English.