Tag Archive: Up Close

  1. UP CLOSE | Building Yale’s sustainable future

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    Some call it “Darth Vader’s Summer Palace.”

    Stretching across approximately 150,000 square feet of land at 55 Lock St., the dark, looming structure that houses the Yale University Health Center may look formidable to some. But the interior floods with natural light — just one aspect of the structure’s sustainable design initiatives.

    Thirty-four percent of the Yale Health Center’s installed material came from recycled materials such as locally manufactured steel, concrete and wood. In an effort to promote public transportation, the location is also easily accessible — it can be reached on foot, bike or bus.

    The building is the most recent Yale facility to receive Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification, guidelines set by the nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council for evaluating a building’s sustainable practices. When it opened in August 2010, it was the 12th Yale building to be certified since 2005. Seven Yale labs, which are part of larger buildings, have also received LEED certification.

    As one of the highest consumers of Yale’s energy resources, laboratories offer a high potential for energy savings to help meet University-wide sustainability goals, said Virginia Chapman, director of sustainability initiatives for the Yale Office of Facilities. But the LEED ranking system pertains to more than just science-related buildings: it also applies to educational, retail and housing facilities. The new residential colleges, for example, will be constructed to meet LEED Gold certification standards, as will the Klein Chemistry Laboratory and Yale Biology Building that are currently being designed.

    The third floor of Brady Memorial Laboratory, the seventh floor of the Laboratory of Epidemiology and Public Health, and the Yale School of Management — all currently under construction — are targeted toward meeting LEED Gold standards, she added.

    While adhering to LEED standards requires an added investment from the University — approximately 2 percent of the overall construction cost is added to the baseline construction cost — Chapman said these buildings yield monetary and environmental benefits for Yale. And for now Yale shows no sign of straying from its LEED commitment.

    SETTING THE STANDARD

    Yale’s sustainability practices are guided by goals set in its 2003 Environmental Principles, in which the University committed itself to demonstrating “outstanding environmental performance” in the design, renovation and construction of its campus facilities.

    LEED did not play a role in furthering the University’s environmental aims until 2005, when the first campus building planned according to LEED standards opened.

    Four years later, Yale Facilities established formal requirements for the construction and renovation of campus properties. Those requirements mandated that all future construction projects of “comprehensive scope” — such as the creation or restoration of new buildings — adhere to the standards for LEED Gold or Platinum certification, in addition to meeting other University-specific regulations. University projects of “small or limited scope” do not require LEED certification, but must adhere to basic sustainability requirements set by the University.

    Still, several of Yale’s peer universities, such as Stanford and Princeton, do not mandate LEED certification for campus buildings. Stanford, which has a mix of LEED and non-LEED buildings, leaves the decision to the individual school or entity of the building instead, said Fahmida Ahmed, associate director of the Stanford Office of Sustainability.

    “We certainly wouldn’t want to force anyone to do it, and we leave it to the discretion of the school who’s the owner of the building,” she said.

    Regardless of whether a project ultimately becomes LEED certified, Ahmed said, it tends to meet or exceed the sustainability guidelines recommended by the University. She added that Stanford’s guidelines draw on a variety of practices for which LEED is “a valuable leverage point.”

    Chapman said Yale considered other ranking systems but ultimately chose the LEED ranking system because it took multiple aspects of design into account. Renovation and new construction projects are evaluated in five assessment areas: sustainable site development, water efficiency, energy efficiency and atmospheric impact, indoor environmental air quality, and materials and resource selection and use. Extra credit categories, such as innovative design practices or adherence to regional priority credits, can give additional points to projects awaiting LEED certification.

    Though not affiliated with the U.S. government, the LEED ranking system is “recognized as the national standard measure of sustainability,” Chapman wrote in an email to the News.

    To achieve LEED certification for a structure, project designers typically go through the Council’s checklist to determine how they will achieve the desired number of points qualifying them for a specific ranking, said Kristin Simmons Ferguson, a LEED-accredited professional of the Green Building Council.

    Ferguson added that obtaining LEED certification is a way for institutions to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability.

    Though the Council does not require the hiring of LEED-trained architects and engineers for projects, she said that constructing new buildings necessitates the consultation of a trained official. The architect, she said, will usually register the project on the Council website and declare the project’s intent on receiving certification. The applications are reviewed twice before they are approved or rejected.

    A SCIENTIFIC START

    The first college lab in the world to receive a LEED ranking sits near the top of Science Hill, at 275 Prospect St. Named for the Yale class responsible for funding the project, the Class of 1954 Chemistry Research Building opened in October 2005 and achieved silver LEED certification in 2006.

    “Laboratories are one of the highest consumers of resources, so they are great opportunities to address our sustainability goals,” Chapman said.

    The Building consumes 25 percent less energy than a “standard high-intensity laboratory” of its size, according to a report on the building published by the Office of Sustainability.

    To avoid wasting heat, the building’s ventilation system circulates tempered air — which consists of low-temperature air added to a heated airstream — through the offices at carefully calculated velocities. This temperature-regulated airstream then travels to the lab workspaces and is released through reduced-volume fume hoods, said LEED Accredited Professional Patricia Culley, who works for the Bohlin Cywinski Jackson architecture firm that designed the building.

    Instead of having preconditioned air for separate lab areas, the Building takes air from the outside, conditions it and uses it to cool or heat the offices. Then, that air, instead of returning outside, circulates to the lab zone, where it ultimately travels through a fume hood and returns outside. Culley added that this system, with only one source of preconditioned air rather than several, reduces wasted energy.

    The building’s air flow system further saves thermal energy by capturing heat from the air traveling through the fume hood. This captured heat is used to condition the air entering taken in from outside the building.

    This system not only reduces energy use but also ensures healthy air quality, a necessity for safe chemistry research.

    In the new building, one can hardly smell any organic compounds, a change from previous chemistry department laboratory setups, said Chemistry professor Robert Crabtree, who has worked in the Yale Chemistry Department since 1977. He added that the building is the preferred facility among chemistry students and researchers alike.

    “We users of the building are happy to use it, but we don’t really know the technical details that the architects obviously work out for us,” he said.

    While all the labs he has worked in contained fume hoods, he said fume hood positioning was limited in the past — the window could either be completely open or completely closed. The Building’s horizontal and vertical fume hoods allow for the opening and closing of specific panels, leaving a minimal amount of surface area exposed and allowing for more efficient air passage.

    Though Crabtree said he had never heard of the term “LEED buildings,” he said building occupants do notice the effects of this sustainable technology.

    SUSTAINABLE DESIGN

    As Yale’s LEED pilot project, the Chemistry Research Building utilizes several technologies that have since been implemented in other LEED projects across campus. Together, the 19 buildings and lab spaces have contributed two percentage points toward the University’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 43 percent of 2005 base levels, Chapman said.

    The Building required sustainable design from the start: It was constructed from products like recycled steel and sustainably harvested wood, which comprises 75 percent of the building’s wood content. Nearly three-fourths of the material that resulted from the demolition and the material leftover from the construction was recycled.

    Windows in the Yale LEED buildings are positioned to maximize natural lighting. The Chemistry Research Building’s open laboratories were also designed to face north in order to allow the most natural sunlight possible to pass through their tall windows, Culley said. Other features, such as the use of glass enclosures for writing spaces, further minimize the use of artificial lighting by borrowing the labs’ light.

    “The sun comes in and makes people feel happy,” Crabtree said, adding that the well-lit facility helps foster a sense of camaraderie and excitement to conduct research.

    Windows can also help regulate temperature. Offices located on the south-facing side of the Building contain smaller windows equipped with horizontal solar shading to reduce glare and heat gain during the summer.

    To further avoid wasting energy, occupancy sensors turn lights on and off automatically based on the detected amount of human activity, as well as minimize airflow in emptier rooms.

    New Haven has also placed its faith in the LEED system. The Elm City currently ranks sixth in terms of LEED-certified buildings in the Northeast and ranks third in the New England region, said Robert Tufts, a business intelligence specialist at the US Green Building Council.

    LEED certification is not mandated in Connecticut except in a few cases, but the majority of the Elm City’s recent construction projects — such as Gateway Community College and 360 State Street — have successfully met LEED standards, said Giovanni Zinn ’05, who works as a consultant for the New Haven Office of Sustainability.

    New Haven’s education buildings, he added, have set a precedent for the rest of the state — the city is home to the Barnard Environmental Magnet School, Connecticut’s first public school to achieve LEED certification.

    “Before LEED really became a thing at all, we brought our own high-performing school specifications that really promoted efficient schools,” Zinn said. “We’ve seen millions of dollars in savings in utility bills in that and all of our energy initiatives in the city.”

    DOUBTS, CRITICISM

    But not all Elm City residents are as accepting of LEED’s ranking system.

    In 2010, New Haven’s Environment & Human Health, Inc. published a study criticizing LEED’s emphasis on energy reduction at the expense of human health.

    EHHI President Nancy Alderman said the idea of sustainable, LEED-certified buildings may incorrectly imply a healthy and safe interior environment, so construction projects can achieve the highest-ranked LEED Platinum certification without accounting for toxins such as indoor air pollutants.

    “Some of the LEED buildings, of course, are wonderful, but our point was that you could have a building that was not a terrific building that could still be LEED-certified,” Alderman said.

    Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies professor John Wargo, the report’s lead author, said that although LEED has become one of the nation’s most widely recognized building certification programs, he was concerned by the lack of uniform federal standards for sustainable buildings.

    He added that he hopes Yale‘s future projects continue to surpass LEED standards, and take typically undervalued LEED criteria — such as controlling hazardous material used in building products and improving methods of exchanging outdoor and indoor air — into consideration.

    Environment school professor Arnulf Grubler said the LEED ranking system consists of too many categories of focus, and that not every indicator can be so easily measured.

    “The rating of the indicators are at best arbitrary, and at worst, counterproductive,” he said.

    He added that the current classification system does not hold buildings accountable for clearly demonstrating how they benefit the environment over time. The Green Building Council does not require already LEED-certified structures to re-apply for the title, said Ferguson, who works for the Council.

    “LEED is largely a design of constructing a building and doesn’t check how the building performs over its entire lifetime,” Grubler said. “My perspective is it is the performance of the operation phase of the building that dominates its environmental footprint over its entire lifetime because buildings are just here for such a long time.”

    LONG-TERM INVESTMENT

    Chapman said she sees LEED buildings as a long-term investment in Yale’s financial and sustainable future.

    Nationwide, buildings account for almost three fourths of energy consumption and over a third of energy use, carbon dioxide emissions, and raw material use, Chapman said. Buildings, she added, produce 30 percent of waste output — 136 million tons annually — and account for 14 percent of potable water consumption.

    As Yale’s campus continues to expand, she said, LEED buildings consistently use energy efficiently, which contributes to the University’s goals of reducing energy, conserving water, recycling and improving air quality. LEED technologies and building practices, she said, include features which reduce the environmental impacts of these buildings.

    The impact of Yale’s LEED buildings may not be quantifiable just yet. But with just a year left as Yale approaches its 2013 deadline for accomplishing the goals outlined in its 2010-’13 Sustainability Strategic Plan, the University will once again evaluate how successful a role LEED buildings play in helping the University meet its goals.

  2. UP CLOSE | City evaluates DeStefano era, looks beyond

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    The New Haven and Yale of 20 years ago are a far cry from the city and University of today.

    Twenty years ago, a committee was searching for a replacement for then-interim University President Howard Lamar. Across the New Haven Green in City Hall, John Daniels, the Elm City’s first black mayor, struggled with seemingly insurmountable budget problems and New Haven’s ranking as the seventh-poorest city in the country. Unemployment rates soared in the face of a gutted manufacturing sector, and with tough economic times came other ways of making a living. In New Haven, that meant a growing drug trade and higher crime.

    High unemployment may have contributed to a record high of 34 homicides in 1991, a rate unmatched until 2011. Among those 34 homicides was Yale student Christian Prince ’93, who was shot to death on the steps of St. Mary’s Church on Hillhouse Avenue in February of that year.

    When Mayor John DeStefano Jr. and University President Richard Levin took office within a few months of each other two years later, neither had an easy job. Levin faced old, deteriorating buildings, persistent labor union strikes, an $18 million deficit and fresh fears about the safety of Yale’s campus in the wake of Prince’s death. DeStefano, meanwhile, had to fight the typical urban problems of deeply entrenched crime, poverty, unemployment and school dropout rates from a mayor’s office that had built a reputation for inertia.

    “Intangibly, the spirit in New Haven was a downbeat civic spirit. It was one of ‘How do you manage decline?’” said University spokesman Michael Morand ’87 DIV ’93, a former Ward 1 alderman.

    In the past decade, a revitalized downtown, a jobs-heavy science park, a newly created “jobs pipeline” and a plan to redevelop Route 34 to focus on New Haven’s emerging biotechnology industry have lifted the city’s economic prospects. Today’s town-gown relations, too, would be nearly unrecognizable to anyone 20 years ago — in place of the antipathy that defined the past, Yale and New Haven now cooperate on initiatives like the New Haven Promise scholarship program and the Yale Homebuyer Program, which saw its 1000th participant last year.

    While Levin announced his retirement in August, describing his 20th anniversary in office as “a natural time for a transition,” DeStefano, who will pass the record for longest time served by a New Haven mayor on Oct. 4, has shown no such inclination to leave. An invitation to DeStefano’s birthday party in May asked attendees to support the mayor’s reelection — complete with a campaign email address — and the mayor recently visited a senior housing complex carrying “DeStefano for Mayor 2013” bags.

    Despite widespread acknowledgement among city residents that the mayor has played a significant role in the city’s recent upswing, DeStefano won his election last fall by the narrowest margin of his tenure — 55 to 45 percent — despite higher name recognition and a vast cash advantage. At the same time, a slew of labor union-backed aldermanic candidates defeated many DeStefano allies on the Board of Aldermen during last September’s primary election, giving Yale’s unions a majority on a board that has traditionally been perceived as a rubber stamp for the mayor.

    [ydn-legacy-photo-inline id=”1021″ ]

    “After 20 years, people are a little tired of one-party rule, and maybe even one-person rule in this case,” said Charlie Pillsbury, a former Democratic Party activist who ran twice for the Board of Aldermen as a Green Party candidate.

    With his hold on office growing increasingly tenuous each election cycle, DeStefano’s next race may be his last — forcing a city whose politics have become synonymous with a single person to consider a future without him. DeStefano’s success next fall will depend on how his legacy is judged, a subject on which local citizens, political observers, city officials and DeStefano himself disagree.

    POLITICAL BEGINNINGS

    New Haven’s decline began decades before DeStefano entered politics.

    Former Mayor Richard Lee, who began his 16-year stint at City Hall in 1954, focused his efforts on lifting New Haven out of poverty by enacting federally funded urban renewal projects, razing lower-class neighborhoods and replacing them with new infrastructure, most notably highways. At the time, New Haven — which received far more urban renewal funds per capita than any other American city — was hailed nationwide as a “model city.” Lee, admirers claimed, had created the first slumless, modern city, and many expected other cities to follow the Elm City’s example.

    But the feeling of success was short-lived, as employment declined and urban renewal was revealed to be less successful than initially expected. Poverty soared, and many city residents fled the city for the surrounding suburbs. When Lee left office in 1970, his attempts at urban renewal were largely regarded as failures. His early optimism was destroyed by the city’s accelerating descent into poverty and crime: “If New Haven is a ‘model city,’ God help America’s cities,” he said, according to a book by School of Management professor and former New Haven Chief Administrative Officer Douglas Rae.

    DeStefano began his political career in Lee’s shadow. He worked for nine years as one of Mayor Ben DiLieto’s chief budget aides, before running against John Daniels in the 1989 Democratic primary following DiLieto’s retirement. DeStefano lost by a wide margin in an election that drew about 70 percent of the city’s voters.

    Jim Farnam, who worked for the DiLieto administration for 10 years until 1989, said DeStefano’s defeat was caused by an unusual coalition of DiLieto’s detractors and black voters. DeStefano, he said, was perceived as “DiLieto’s guy,” a costly association.

    But Daniels had been “dealt a tough agenda,” Farnam said, and DeStefano decided to run again in 1993 after Daniels announced his retirement.

    “[DeStefano] was perceived as a technocrat with his accounting background,” Farnam said. “The perception was that he was some kind of a manager who would come in and fix things. There were a lot of issues that people had with some of the things Daniels did.”

    With the backing of the Democratic machine, DeStefano defeated John Yopp with an overwhelming 80 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary.

    THE EARLY YEARS

    DeStefano faced a series of political challenges immediately after he took over the mayor’s office on the second floor of City Hall, including a court ruling ordering the city to pay the Board of Education millions of dollars in a settlement. But being new to the role, DeStefano said, meant people went easy on him.

    “I was new. It’s good being new,” DeStefano said. “I think an advantage I had was I had been around in the bureaucracy for 10 years and sort of knew my way around.”

    He saw a few successes during his first term — including two budget surpluses, $2 billion in savings during labor negotiations, an end to tax hikes and an overall expansion of city services — so his reelection seemed guaranteed. Having delivered on many of his campaign promises, DeStefano defeated Republican challenger Ann Piscottano with 72 percent of the vote.

    But one of his most noticeable successes, the drastic drop in the homicide rate, was not the result of any of his own efforts. It was thanks mostly to the Daniels-era arrival of New Haven Police Department Chief Nick Pastore, who implemented a community policing strategy that encouraged officers to form connections with the communities they patrolled. Neither does DeStefano deserve full credit for the dramatic turnaround of New Haven’s relationship with Yale, the mayor admits. In a break from their predecessors, DeStefano and Levin had made a point of working with, and not against, each other, and both leaders took the mayor’s overwhelming margin of victory as a clear mandate to continue their partnership.

    “I’ve developed an excellent working relationship with Mayor DeStefano. I find him a person with tremendous energy and with a real vision of improvement for the city,” Levin told the News at DeStefano’s 1995 victory party. “I look forward to another two years.”

    By the 1997 election, New Haven had seen such dramatic improvement under DeStefano that he ran unopposed in the Democratic primary, winning the general election with 79 percent of the vote against four independent challengers.

    “We haven’t won the total battle yet, but the mayor’s done a good job,” Morand told the News at DeStefano’s victory party that year, but his opponents complained about DeStefano’s reliance on the “old machine” of the Democratic Party.

    During his 1999 reelection campaign against James Newton, DeStefano argued that New Haven had completed an “about-face” under his stewardship. During his 1997-’99 term, DeStefano spearheaded the renovation of nearly all of the city’s schools. Will Ginsberg, who worked with DeStefano in DiLieto’s administration before heading the Science Park Development Corporation, called that initiative “nothing short of extraordinary.”

    These successes were enough to win DeStefano reelection against Newton, though he did so by his tightest margin yet, and lingering memories of the 1998 disappearance of $2.3 million of federal funds for DeStefano’s anti-blight Livable City Initiative (LCI) tarnished his image in that race.

    The scandal threatened to overwhelm City Hall — a U.S. Attorney’s Office investigation of the initiative was underway — but DeStefano saved face by dismissing top LCI officials and placing Henry Fernandez LAW ’94 at the agency’s helm. That move allowed DeStefano to stave off Newton’s charges of corruption, winning his fourth term by a wide margin, with 62 percent of the vote to Newton’s 38 percent.

    In 2001, DeStefano faced State Senator Martin Looney in the city’s Democratic primary in the most expensive campaign in New Haven history, with over $450,000 raised for the mayor’s reelection fund. Looney, who had then served 21 years in the state legislature, insisted that New Haven residents wanted a change after eight years under DeStefano, and criticized the mayor for his corruption scandals, poorly-performing schools and a failed proposal for a Long Wharf galleria.

    But DeStefano asked voters to remember how far the city had come under his stewardship, emphasizing his point in a speech at Bella Vista the night before the election.

    “Look at where we started eight years ago,” DeStefano said, the News reported. “I think I’ve done a pretty good job.”

    Voters agreed, and the DeStefano won reelection with 62 percent of the vote in the primary. Looney, though, argued that his loss was in part to blame on the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center that had occurred the same day, which he said suppressed turnout.

    In the shadow of those attacks, which took place just 90 miles south of New Haven, DeStefano told attendees at his post-election party that his victory was a “clear and strong message” from voters on his record.

    FACING CHALLENGES

    After winning his 2003 election against an independent challenger with 88 percent of the vote — an all-time high — DeStefano decided to try his hand at higher office, launching a campaign for governor against Republican incumbent Jodi Rell.

    He said he saw the campaign as a “natural extension” of the changes he had enacted in New Haven. But after spending most of his campaign funds in a bitter primary battle with then-Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy, DeStefano’s cash-strapped campaign was overwhelmed by Rell’s attack advertisements and he only received 35 percent of the vote. It was DeStefano’s first and only run for state office.

    His gubernatorial campaign was perhaps the high-water mark of DeStefano’s time in office — in its aftermath, critics called him an absentee mayor and some of his previous successes began to unravel.

    Pastore, the driving force behind community policing, resigned in 1997 after admitting to fathering a child with a prostitute. With his absence came a shift in department priorities away from community policing. This was not a conscious choice, DeStefano said, but rather the result of revolving police leadership.

    But an increase in the city crime rate lagged a few years behind the change in police strategy, and it took nearly a decade after Pastore’s exit for the city to recognize it had a crime problem.

    “It’s the old story that if you throw a frog into a pot of boiling water it’ll jump out, but if you put it in a pot of cold water and turn up the heat it’ll boil to death,” DeStefano said. “I think that sometimes in your life or in a community’s life, change is imperceptible and so incremental so as to not be detectable … I think, with community policing, my antenna didn’t pick that up.”

    The city’s schools, too, lost their upward trajectory. While educational facilities were new, scores remained below state and national standards.

    Another area of mixed success was election reform. After the expensive race against Looney and his administration’s corruption scandals, DeStefano pushed for the creation of the New Haven Democracy Fund, which provides public matching funds and grants to mayoral candidates who agree to certain restrictions on fundraising. DeStefano, who trumpeted the Fund as a victory for clean and transparent elections, used money from the Fund in his two following reelection campaigns.

    But in 2011, facing an anti-incumbent mood and a tough challenge from budget watchdog Jeffrey Kerekes, the first challenger to qualify for Democracy Fund money, DeStefano abandoned the Fund. He claimed it “[didn’t make sense]” any more, an explanation New Haven Independent editor Paul Bass called “phony.”

    “[DeStefano] completely sold out on public financing,” Bass told the News. “He abided by it until he had a serious challenge, but he immediately gave it up when he thought his job might be threatened.”

    Without the limits imposed by the Democracy Fund, DeStefano outspent Kerekes by a factor of about 20, ultimately winning the race by less than 10 percent for the first time since he was elected.

    THE POLITICIAN

    With almost 20 years in office behind him, DeStefano has seen his share of difficult days. But his success at remaining in office may have stemmed just as much from skilled political gamesmanship as it has from tangible achievements.

    A large part of that prowess is evident in his ability to build coalitions, a skill that he used to win his first election in 1993 and which he has continued to refine. The mayor, Morand said, has been remarkably good at governing a city without a racial or ethnic majority, adding that DeStefano can be friends with — or enemies with — someone regardless of their class, neighborhood or ethnicity.

    “[DeStefano’s] very astute in the way he’s kept his coalition together,” Farnam said. “He’s managed to keep the black community largely supporting him over any other challenger because of his relationships he’s built up over years in the community, his relationship with [African-American superintendent of New Haven Public Schools] Reggie Mayo, who helps deliver the sort of older, old-line black community.”

    This penchant for coalition-building has earned him a robust fundraising operation that kicks back into gear every two years. But much of this fundraising, according to Bass, is “hypocrisy.” A large portion of the money DeStefano receives in every campaign is donated by city employees and contractors doing business with the city, a practice that Bass said goes against the spirit of the clean election laws DeStefano has advocated.

    “I think the way he raises money is legally corrupt, the way he shakes down people who depend on him for their livelihood,” Bass said. “It’s morally bankrupt because of the way he positions himself as a reformer who pushes for clean elections.”

    But DeStefano disputed those charges, pointing out that neither his campaigns nor his office has ever been found guilty of corruption. As for fundraising, he argued that his campaign has never knowingly broken the law.

    “We follow the rules as they’re set out, we follow them to the letter,” DeStefano said. “When we make a mistake, we try to correct it.”

    More recently, DeStefano heeded the political winds following last year’s Democratic primary, where he won a plurality but failed to secure a majority. With a slate of labor-backed candidates calling for a return to community policing after a year of high crime, DeStefano brought back community-policing champion Dean Esserman, one of Pastore’s former assistant chiefs, to head the NHPD.

    Then, with a new Board of Aldermen focused on the creation of a “jobs pipeline” to prepare and connect New Haven residents with local jobs, DeStefano adopted the idea in his February State of the City speech. With his weight behind the initiative, it was enacted by a unanimous vote of the Board of Aldermen earlier this month. While many new aldermen were elected last fall on a wave of anti-DeStefano sentiment, DeStefano and the Board have seen eye to eye on almost every policy question.

    “DeStefano’s very good at seeing how politics change, how the issues change and understanding what kind of policies and coalitions keep him in power,” Bass said. “He’s good at reinventing himself, paying attention to issues and responding to what people want.”

    For all his political skills, DeStefano considers policy more than most public officials, Bass said, and is effective at achieving the results he wants. It was the mayor’s interest in progressive policy that led to some of the more notable achievements of his tenure, including the school reform effort that led to what many have called a breakthrough teachers’ contract in 2009, as well as the Elm City Resident ID Card, which provides documentation to city residents whether or not they reside legally in the U.S.

    This interest in progressive policy, DeStefano said, came out of his work at City Hall under DiLieto in the 1980s.

    “In order to be here 20 years and be relevant to the people who live here, I think you have to be open intellectually and emotionally to what people are facing, and recognize the challenges of 2012 are different from the challenges of 2002 or 1992,” DeStefano said. “If you’re going to be able to stick around, you have to be able to engage things.”

    TWO MORE YEARS?

    Acknowledging the desire among many city residents for a fresh face in the mayor’s office, DeStefano said his time in office has offered him a perspective on “what works and what doesn’t work.” Still, he said, longevity breeds complacency.

    “It’s important to grow with your city: people who live here and work here are different than the people who were here 20 years ago,” DeStefano said. “I think when you’ve been around for a long time you run the risk of isolating your relationships.”

    Over the next 20 years, New Haven will face a whole new set of problems. Cheap housing stock, DeStefano said, will will continue to attract many to the city, where they will likely face a gap between the skills they possess and the type of work available. With New Haven’s growing reliance on its education and medical sectors, DeStefano said he sees that gap quickly widening.

    This issue, however, may not be DeStefano’s worry much longer. While no one has yet declared their candidacy in next year’s mayoral race, an August phone poll by Yale’s unions for their internal use asked city residents for their opinions on DeStefano, Kerekes, Fernandez, State Reps. Gary Holder-Winfield and Toni Walker, State Sen. Toni Harp, Board of Aldermen President Jorge Perez and Greater New Haven NAACP President Jim Rawlings. Most of the names in the poll are recognized citywide, suggesting potential mayoral candidates in next fall’s election.

    DeStefano, though, said he has set no limit on the time he would spend in office. He will leave City Hall, he said, once he decides he is no longer serving a useful purpose and enjoying his position — or if he should lose an election.

    “I don’t think it’s so much the time [spent in office], I think it’s whether you’re relevant and whether you can derive satisfaction,” DeStefano said. “Whether you’re actually a part of solutions and helping people accomplish their aspirations, whatever that may be: starting a business, going to school, having a splash pad in their neighborhood, getting their potholes fixed.”

    While he said he is most proud of New Haven’s transformation into an “opening, welcoming community” to immigrants and other groups, DeStefano said he won’t be giving much thought to his legacy once he leaves office. The only people whose opinions concern him are his wife, children and other loved ones.

    But that hasn’t stopped others from opining on the mayor’s tenure.

    “You can quibble with any one thing or things he’s done,” Farnam said. “But overall he’s guided the city well through very tough times.”

    “He’s not only been mayor for 20 years but he’s provided strong, effective leadership in this community for 20 years,” Ginsberg added. “Not many communities have been that fortunate, I think — what he chooses to do with [that leadership] remains to be seen.”

  3. Harvard/Yale cross-admits explain their decisions

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    Last year, Stephanie Kan ’14 had to make the hardest decision that thousands of high schoolers would love to make: Harvard or Yale?

    For some time, Kan, who hails from Philadelphia, said she was tempted by Harvard’s name and reputation as the most selective college in the nation. But eventually she decided that what mattered most to her was a sense of community and belonging. That’s why Kan chose Yale — unlike a majority of Harvard-Yale cross-admits, about 65 percent by some estimates.

    “Sometimes I still wonder if I might be missing out on something in turning down Harvard,” Kan admitted. “They are both amazing schools.”

    Interviews with 31 students accepted to both Yale and Harvard revealed that those who chose Yale mostly relied on a gut instinct or a sense that Yale paired strong academics with a more laid-back atmosphere. Those who opted for Cambridge said they were attracted to the college that they perceived had a more rigorous academic environment and greater professional opportunities. With both schools offering similar financial aid packages, money was not a tipping factor for those interviewed, and only three students mentioned location as a key consideration. (All three chose Harvard.)

    Most cross-admitted students said the choice between Harvard and Yale was a difficult one. All said they consulted family, peers and their college guidance counselor before making their choice. Some said they crafted extensive spreadsheets ranking each college according to criteria that ranged from academic opportunities to dining hall menus. A few said they “freaked out” after the May 1 matriculation deadline sealed their fate for the next four years.

    Admissions officers said they try to provide personalized attention to each of their admits but ultimately, the decision falls to the student — and many said that, particularly for schools that, by all accounts, are quite similar, the choice came down to a mere “gut feeling” about where they would feel more comfortable living for the next four years. And there’s very little an admissions office can do to change that.

    THE HARD NUMBERS

    In a 2004 paper titled “A Revealed Preference Ranking of U.S. Colleges and Rankings,” Harvard economists collected matriculation data from 3,240 high-achieving high school seniors across the country who entered college in 2000 and ranked colleges according to how they performed relative to other colleges which accepted the same students. The results of the study revealed that of those admitted to both Harvard and Yale, about 65 percent chose Harvard.

    Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeff Brenzel declined to release Yale’s own cross-admit figures, but he said Yale’s data is fairly consistent with the data from the 2004 report.

    Harvard does not keep track of where its cross-admitted students choose to matriculate, said Marlyn McGrath Lewis, director of admissions at Harvard College, but anecdotal evidence suggests that Harvard’s greatest overlap in admits is with Yale.

    “When it comes to which college these students choose, we tend to do well against Yale,” McGrath Lewis said, “But Yale also does well against us.”

    While Brenzel confirmed that more cross-admits choose Harvard, he noted that of all the students who turn down Harvard, more choose Yale than any other rival school.

    “I would conclude that Harvard does in fact have a very strong brand,” Brenzel said in an e-mail, “but that for those looking past the branding strength, Yale has enormous appeal.”

    Brenzel added that he expects that appeal to grow.

    Still, some college counselors said the preferences of cross-admitted students provide only a partial understanding of where high school seniors prefer to go to college. Some students are so sure of their preference, they do not even apply to the other school, said Chris Bleeker, chair of college counseling office at Hunter College High School in New York City.

    The two students admitted to both Harvard and Yale this year from Hunter both chose Harvard, Bleeker said, although seven students also matriculated at Yale, and a majority of them did not apply to Harvard after getting in early to Yale.

    [ydn-legacy-photo-inline id=”6199″ ]

    THE COLLEGE ‘COURTSHIP’

    McGrath Lewis described the months leading to the annual May 1 matriculation deadline as a “courtship” — a time when the university rallies its administrators, students, faculty and alumni together in a concerted effort to woo prospective students.

    McGrath Lewis said that Harvard, Yale and other well-known colleges around the nation all employ very similar strategies when it comes to attracting prospective freshmen. Students at both schools receive the proverbial big envelopes urging them to attend visiting weekends in April. Both Harvard and Yale also make extensive use of interactive websites for admitted students to allow them to explore the schools’ opportunities before they even set foot on campus. Admits who are particularly desired may receive personal calls and notes from administrators and faculty while those with special interests and those who belong to particular minority groups may be contacted by relevant college departments and organizations. Cultural houses, for instance, might reach out to students from minority backgrounds.

    The schools emphasize different means used to convey their message — with Yale depending heavily on its students to convey a first-hand account of the opportunities on campus, said Jeff Brenzel, dean of undergraduate admissions.

    “The unabashed enthusiasm with which Yalies talk about their experiences and the accessibility of professors are two qualities that distinguish Yale among major research universities,” said Liz Kinsley, director of outreach and recruitment for Yale’s admissions office.

    Harvard, McGrath Lewis said, does not try to showcase any specific strength. Rather, the goal of the admissions office is to demonstrate to students how their individual interests and goals can be explored at Harvard, she explained.

    “We tell students to choose the school they want to go to,” McGrath Lewis said. “We try to be as helpful as possible without creating unrealistic expectations.”

    Still, Yale’s emphasis on its “enviable sense of community” does not mean that Yale places any less emphasis on its other resources than Harvard.“It is just that we count on the students themselves to convey their actual, lived experience of those resources, whether on the admitted student website, in the Bulldog Days events, in their phone calls and e-mails,” Brenzel said.

    Both Yale and Harvard also encourage prospective freshmen and their families to contact its financial aid office if they have concerns about their financial aid package. Both universities will even match each other’s financial aid package and pay for the cost of travel to respective visiting days, cross-admits said.

    YALE: A GUT DECISION

    In spite of the efforts of both admissions offices to impress her this spring, Kan said her impression of Harvard and her eventual decision to attend Yale developed much earlier.

    During the summer before senior year, Kan took summer classes at Harvard through a scholarship funded by the QuestBridge Program, which assists low-income students in applying to college. While Kan would later apply, she said her experience there convinced that it was too stressful an environment.

    “During my seven weeks there, I rarely got the chance to go into Boston,” Kan said.

    She added that when she spoke to students who visited Harvard during its admitted students days this year (Kan did not attend Harvard’s visiting weekend), she found that many students spent their free time studying and some had taken time off to get away from the academic stress. The source of pressure on students at Harvard, Kan reasoned, could not be simply academic.

    “Harvard and Yale have very similar academic programs so there must be some discrepancy in the social environment and the level of undergraduate focus,” she said.

    Before her college visits, Kan said her guidance counselor advised her to look out for two things: the number of students wearing sweatshirts emblazoned with their college name and how long it would take for someone to approach her if she seemed lost.

    “Yale was the only school where someone approached me — and I wasn’t even lost,” she said.

    Likewise, Christopher Logan ’14, of San Bernardino, Calif., said his decision came down to a question of opportunity and college environment. While he said Harvard and Yale were comparable in the opportunities each offered, their environments could not be more different. At Harvard, he said, students seemed more concerned with potential future rewards of the Harvard name rather than their immediate happiness. Yale, on the other hand, seemed to Logan as a place where “everyone was happy to be.” Yale, he reasoned, offered a similar reputation to Harvard without the tension and constant status anxiety.

    Raquel Zepeda ’14, said she was unnerved by Harvard’s atmosphere.

    “Harvard was welcoming, but there definitely was a ‘vibe’ in the air that made me nervous,” said the Piedmont Cali. native, “At Yale, everyone I encountered took time to introduce themselves, offered to carry my luggage, gave me support, and showed me around campus.”

    Meanwhile, Liliana Varman ’14 of Houston, who was also accepted to Harvard and is hoping to study neurobiology, said she found Yale to be “a happy medium” between science and humanities and added that she liked that the University’s growing strength in the sciences is complemented by a strong English program.

    HARVARD: BETTER KNOWN, BETTER LOCATION

    Ben Marek of Houston, too, had a gut feeling after visiting schools last spring, but his told him to choose Harvard.

    “I simply felt more comfortable here,” Marek said, writing from Cambridge. “From the moment I stepped on campus, I felt at home, and I knew that I could live here happily.”

    Marek also disagreed with Yale students’ characterization that Cantabs have less fun. Just a few weeks into his freshman year, he said his social calendar is already full, and that parties “abound.”

    Harvard’s location and academics also helped win over Marek. The Texan said that while New Haven was much nicer than he had expected, it simply could not compare to Boston’s activities and culture, as well as its trove of other colleges.

    For Talhah Zubair of Atlantic City, N.J., admitted to both schools, the Harvard name proved too difficult to resist. As the only student accepted to Harvard from his high school, he said he felt a strong push from both his friends and parents alike to attend.

    “My parents and friends were all leaning toward Harvard, convinced by its reputation,” Zubair explained, “If you say the Harvard name, it will open doors for you, not just in the U.S. but internationally as well.”

    Zubair added that many other students he met who were deciding between Yale and Harvard saw reputation as major tipping factor.

    Dany Jradi, who was also admitted to Yale this year, said he also chose Harvard based on its international reputation and the future opportunities and connections the Harvard name would bring. Originally from Lebanon, Jradi said that most people in his home country have only heard of either Harvard or Oxford.

    “Considering the fact that I would like to go back to the Middle East for work in the future, what the community’s opinion of where I graduated was important for me,” Jradi said.

    The question of future opportunities was also a top priority for Irene Chen, who said she did not develop a “gut feeling” for either Harvard or Yale after visiting both colleges from Atlanta and ultimately resorted to pinning down the pros and cons of each college on an extensive spreadsheet. Chen looked especially at the academic strengths and opportunities offered at both schools. Together with her parents, Chen, a prospective science and humanities double major, said she thoroughly analyzed the strengths of relevant departments at Harvard and Yale, looking at the research and teaching experience of departments’ professors.

    Unlike Varman, Chen said she concluded that Harvard had a much stronger science program, and the opportunity to take classes at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology proved too irresistible.

    Chen said she decided not to place as much emphasis on quality of life at college simply because it seemed too difficult to make predictions about how things would turn out over four years after having spent barely three days on campus.

    For others, such as Chris Stock and Alyssa Reimer, both Harvard freshmen who were admitted to Yale, the decision to choose Harvard was more straightforward: Stock said he was recruited for Nordic skiing and could not pass on the opportunity, while Reimer, from Plainview, New York, said she simply preferred the convenience of living close to Boston.

    SECOND GUESSING

    While all the students interviewed said they are very happy with their choice two weeks into the freshmen semester, most said the decision was not easy and some said they had last-minute doubts about their decision.

    Kan said it took some time to convince her mother that Yale would offer the same opportunities and connections as Harvard. Even today, when family friends at her local church ask where Kan is headed to college, her mother will mention that she was accepted to Harvard but chose to attend Yale instead to which there would be gasps of “why Yale and not Harvard?” Kan said.

    While Chen said she is now thrilled to be at Harvard, she experienced doubts about her choice almost immediately after committing.

    “I submitted my decision on April 28 but afterwards, I freaked out when part of me began to question whether I made the right decision,” Chen said.

    Others said they realized that regardless of which college they chose, no decision could be perfect.

    For Stock, choosing Harvard meant passing on his preference for Yale’s intellectual environment while Zepeda said choosing Yale prompted her to give up a dream she has held since childhood.

    “I dreamed of being a Harvard student ever since I was six years old,” she said. “But Yale seemed like it belonged to me.”

    Correction: Sept. 21, 2010

    The article “Making the Choice” contained several errors. First, Stephanie Kan ’14 studied at Harvard during the summer before her junior year, not her senior year. Kan did, in fact, travel to Boston during that summer. Finally, Kan’s impression of the academic stress at Harvard was based on anecdotes from students who attended Harvard’s Visitas program, not her own experiences.