This is the fifth in a series of posts from Jessica’s Utterly Unofficial Guide to New Haven. Previous posts:
- The Utterly Unofficial Guide to New Haven: Events
- The Utterly Unofficial Guide to New Haven: Parks and Outdoor Spaces
- The Utterly Unofficial Guide to New Haven: Destinations
- The Utterly Unofficial Guide to New Haven: Destinations #2
- The Utterly Unofficial Guide to New Haven: How to Get Around
If you’re a recent transplant, here are a few quick facts about the city. Check out the links to news outlets to learn more.
- New Haven has a strong mayor governmental structure paired with an elected Board of Aldermen. The current mayor, John DeStefano, is in his record-setting tenth term of office and has a large amount of control over the budget and appointees of the city, balanced by the 30 aldermen. That many aldermen (spread over a moderately-sized city of roughly 130,000) mean that representation is very neighborhood-specific and it can be difficult for any group to act as an effective check on mayoral control.
- Connecticut is a unique home for a city. Like many New England states, Connecticut was historically governed very locally. The state still has more than 160 incorporated towns within it, which means that each individual unit is responsible for its own municipal services and decisions. New Haven, then, has to work with many surrounding municipalities to implement any programs in its metropolitan area.
- While New Haven has certainly had its share of crime over the years, it is often misrepresented in magazine lists, partly for the aforementioned reasons. Mark Abraham, who leads DataHaven, wrote a great response on Quora about exactly this: http://www.quora.com/What-is-the-crime-rate-in-New-Haven-CT
- New Haven is trying some cool school reform right now. It’s always been known for its high number of magnet schools that specialize in everything from aquaculture to farming, and now New Haven is paving ground with its Promise scholarship program and its contract with the teachers’ union. To learn more, here are a few relevant articles:
- “Public School Kids Get A College ‘Promise,’” New Haven Independent: http://bit.ly/WMCCRF
- “The New Haven Experiment” and “New Haven’s Teacher Improvement Plan,” New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/26/opinion/new-havens-teacher-improvement-plan.html and http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/16/opinion/kristof-the-new-haven-experiment.html
- “Can Public Schools Really Change?,” Slate (by local resident and writer Emily Bazelon) http://slate.me/Vbwt7e
- The city is best understood as a collection of neighborhoods. The below image, from DataHaven, can be found in its original form at http://www.ctdatahaven.org/neighborhoodmap.php. Each area of the city has its own fairly distinct character, its own community management committee, and often its own website or set of events. I’ve also listed a few articles with more information.
- DataHaven has basic facts about each neighborhood here: http://www.ctdatahaven.org/neighborhoodprofiles.php
- The City of New Haven also offers its own collection of maps: http://www.cityofnewhaven.com/Maps/index.asp
- Wikipedia has a pretty good collection of the historic districts: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neighborhoods_of_New_Haven,_Connecticut
- Yale has a fairly university-centric description of a few neighborhoods: http://www.yale.edu/livingnh/community/nhprofiles.html
- The New Haven Independent regularly tags its stories by neighborhood, and you can browse them using the dropdown menu to the left of their homepage or see an overview here: http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/category/neighborhoods/
- Catherine Osborn ‘12 took her own tour of New Haven and chatted with several residents who have seen the evolution of the city’s public housing over time: http://www.thenewjournalatyale.com/2012/04/rebuilt-and-recultured/
- And a Mother Jones reporter wrote a piece on the ghosts of the Oak Street neighborhood, a section of the city that was demolished in the name of urban renewal: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2000/09/death-neighborhood. (Though there has been considerable talk and planning around building it back up: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/18/realestate/commercial/a-plan-in-new-haven-to-right-a-highways-wrong.html?pagewanted=all)
- New Haven carries quite an urban renewal legacy. It received more per capita federal dollars for mid-twentieth-century urban renewal projects than any other U.S. city, added freeways where there were once neighborhoods, and turned parking garages into forms of art. There are more stories and articles here than I could possibly list, but if you are curious, there is a ton to learn about New Haven’s role as a “model city” for the rest of the nation and the ways in which that era permanently changed the face of the city.
- For an excellent read on New Haven’s growth and decline in national context that doesn’t focus solely on urban renewal, I recommend Yale prof Doug Rae’s “City: Urbanism and its End.”
- The New Haven Oral History project documented the reactions of many residents to urban renewal: http://www.yale.edu/nhohp/modelcity/#
- New Haven has been known for its fairly stable “eds and meds” economy since the collapse of its industrial base. Yale University and the Yale New Haven Hospital are the city’s two largest employers. There has also been a lot of investment recently in entrepreneurship and bioscience, culminating in the Science Park project, which allows for the reuse of the former 15-acre manufacturing site of the U.S. Repeating Arms Corporation as lab and office space.
- Check out these high-quality media (or media-tied) sources for regular city news:
- New Haven Independent (my personal fav, but as a former Urban Fellow who reported with them, I’m biased…still, I’d recommend setting it as your homepage if you’re serious about getting to know the city. It’s a nonprofit news org with a lifelong reporter at the helm. Also read the comments.)
- New Haven Register (more traditional corporate-owned newspaper)
- New Haven Advocate (alternative weekly – you can find it for free on many street corners)
- SeeClickFix (a citizen-driven public 311 of sorts in website and app form. Other disclaimer: I worked here, too, so yes I do think they’re great.)
- La Voz Hispana (Spanish language newspaper)
- Channel 8 WTNH (local TV news)
- Yale student publications like the New Journal and the Yale Daily News and Yale Herald regularly publish articles about the city
- The city is, indeed, known for being a city of “firsts.” First: city planning in America, Frisbee, hamburger, corset, tape measure, phone book, football game, lollipop, open heart surgery, and many more… http://www.newhavenmuseum.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=55&Itemid=74
- New Haven’s nickname of “Elm City” is no longer all that accurate. Many of the original elms that gave the city its name died due to Dutch Elm Disease, though some have been replanted, and there are many other trees that now line the city streets.
Sections that are still to come: get involved//email lists and more. Sign up here for email blasts from Roammeo that will include the new posts as they arrive! You can also follow us on Facebook or Twitter to get all of the updates. And download the Roammeo app to find the events going on in your city.
Congrats on your newfound expertise!