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Alder To Yale: Bring Back The Bread

by Thomas MacMillan | Mar 25, 2014 1:44 pm

(7) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: City Hall, Higher Ed

Thomas MacMillan Photo Yale President Peter Salovey told city lawmakers he wants to keep more student entrepreneurs in town when they start new businesses. Dwight Alder Frank Douglas told him to keep the the old businesses around, too — by bringing local bread back to the dining halls.

Douglass said as much to President Salovey (pictured) Monday evening in City Hall, during a meeting with the Board of Alders.

Salovey stopped by with other Yale officials Monday to meet with lawmakers, one of a number of periodic briefings the Board of Alders has with the city’s larger institutions.

After some brief remarks, Salovey took questions from alders.

“I’m a little upset,” said Alder Douglass. He said he has worked for Yale for over 20 years, mostly in food service. He said the dining halls “have moved away from supporting local businesses.” Local vendors have been “replaced with vendors from God-knows-where.”

Douglass later said that, until recently, the university contracted with Lupi-Marchigiana bakery in the Hill to supply its bread. Douglass said he used to receive fresh hot loaves every day at 5 a.m. Now, students eat bread that’s shipped in from out of town, then stored in a warehouse in West Haven for two days.

He asked Salovey why the university changed its food vendors.

“I haven’t heard about this,” responded Salovey. “I’m happy to talk to [Yale Dining Executive Director] Rafi [Taherian] about it.”

Buying locally is good for the local economy, and it’s “greener” since the food doesn’t have to be shipped from far away, using fossil fuels, Salovey said.

“I’ll try to find out more,” Salovey promised.

Lupi’s owner Pete Lupi said Tuesday morning that Yale stopped buying from the bakery last November.

“We had them for for 60 years,” Lupi said. Then “they dumped us” for a regional suburban supplier that brings bread in from New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Lupi said other local colleges and universities still order from his family’s bakery.

Lupi’s never had a formal contract with Yale, he said. “It was a pretty good portion of our business. We had all the dining halls. They would run short and we would always help them out. We still help them out” if the university runs short.

Yale told him “they wanted to keep trucks off the road because of emissions” and sought to consolidate deliveries into big tractor trailer loads, not a lot of trucks, Lupi said. Now they’re buying bread from New York that goes into a warehouse in West Haven, he said. “They’re paying more for the product” that arrives on campus “three days old, four days old.” 

“I dropped my membership at the [Yale] golf course because of it,” Lupi remarked. “I would go there and have lunch and have it on someone else’s bread.”

PILOT

In his opening statements to the board, Salovey addressed a recent hot topic in town: PILOT.

That stands for payment in lieu of taxes, the money that the city is supposed to receive from the state in exchange for having Yale University — which is largely exempt from property taxes — in town. In recent years, the state has not funded PILOT fully, and state lawmakers have recently proposed legislation to remedy that situation.

One proposal — proposed by state Sen. Martin Looney —  would increase PILOT payments by establishing a tiered system that would guarantee New Haven at least 50 percent payments. The other — proposed by House Speaker Brendan Sharkey — is being called “reverse PILOT” because it would require universities like Yale to pay taxes to their local municipality, and then seek reimbursement from the state.

The second plan would be unconstitutional, said Yale Vice President Bruce Alexander before Monday’s meeting.

“In tight times, you hear a lot about the solution is to get Yale to pay,” Salovey told the alders. He went on to enumerate all the ways that Yale already does pay money to the city.

Of all the private universities in the country, only a handful provide voluntary payments to their local municipality, and Yale is a leader among those, Salovey said. In 30 years, Yale’s annual voluntary payment to the city has increased from $1.5 million to $8.5 million. Yale has given a total of $82 million over that period, he said.

Yale also has a homebuyer program that has helped 1,000 Yale employees buy homes in town, he said. And the university supports New Haven Promise, the program that pays college tuition for New Haven public school graduates who meet certain requirements.

“It’s true we don’t pay property taxes on academic property,” Salovey said. But the university owns a good deal of non-academic property, and pays about $4 million a year in taxes, he said.

The university tries to decrease its burden on city services by paying for its own trash removal and police force, he said. And the university is an economic engine for New Haven, employing 4,000 New Haveners.

How To Tempt Tech

What’s new, Salovey said, is that he would like to find a way to convince students and faculty who are starting new businesses “to do it here.”

Students always think they have to go to Palo Alto or Cambridge or New York to start their company, he said. “This is a great place to start.”

Keeping people in New Haven will stimulate the local economy, he said. “We’re trying to figure out the formula to get people to stay.”

“We’re talking to students and faculty right now” to figure out what they would need to stay in New Haven, Salovey said after the meeting.

He said the university is looking at ways to have inexpensive space for new companies and to create an “ecosystem” of investors and advisors. He suggested pairing Yale business school students up with undergrad entrepreneurs, as advisors.

A big part of the effort will be Yale and the city cooperating on improving the city’s transportation infrastructure, he said. That would mean increasing flights and destinations from Tweed airport, or getting a one-hour train to New York, or expanding Amtrak service in New Haven.

Once the city/university tech startup scene reaches a critical mass, it will grow on its own, Salovey said. Yale can support work toward that mass by creating a startup “incubator,” like the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute, but on a “different scale.”

 

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posted by: Joe City on March 25, 2014  9:23am

I guess the real question is, what is the actual total tax bill for Yale’s real property? Has it ever been calculated?

posted by: TheMadcap on March 25, 2014  10:04am

Speaking of local bread, on the private market side I’ve noticed recently Stop and Shop has stopped carrying bread from the Chabaso bakery in Fair Haven and now carry their own ciabatta, which not only costs more and tastes worse but is shipped in from god knows where(they want the illusion it’s made in their store bakeries, it’s not, it comes in on trucks)

posted by: grounded on March 25, 2014  11:40am

re bread purchasing: that’s really dumb.  kudos to douglass for raising the issue.

posted by: wendy1 on March 25, 2014  2:03pm

Forget bread, how about paying better wages to all the locals who do Yale’s scutwork.  Cityhall shoud be speaking to B. Sharkey from Hamden not treating the Yale folks like royalty.

Yale is against Sharkey’s “reverse PILOT” (see yesterday’s Yale Daily News).  The BOA should stand up for the taxpayers not the Corp.

posted by: HewNaven on March 25, 2014  5:37pm

Wendy1,

They’re far from perfect,  but right now Yale is one of a few companies that offers our residents a livable wage for mopping floors and cooking meals, andthey offer first-time homebuyer incentives to actually keep middle-class wage earners from fleeing to the suburbs. Tell someone who works for minimum wage how bad those Yale jobs are and they will laugh at you. Get a grip!

posted by: alex on March 25, 2014  7:37pm

I guess if Bruce Alexander tells us we can’t tax Yale, then there’s Connecticut can do. So much for that whole ‘popular sovereignty’ thing, or democracy or whatever. Yale says we can’t tax Yale so let’s take Yale’s word for it.

posted by: SteveOnAnderson on March 27, 2014  9:04am

I believe there is going to be a real opportunity for radical tax revision over the next couple of years, including the possibility of amending the state constitution. It’s not just Yale’s property that is in question, but also its endowment and patent profits. Altogether, this could mean Yale paying hundreds of millions of dollars a year in taxes. Hey, if you want to act like a corporation, you gotta carry the obligations of one.

A pretty good background to the history of tax-exempt property in New Haven (with Yale at the center) is Peter Dobkin Hall’s article “Is Tax Exemption Intrinsic or Contingent?” and you can read that here:
http://www.hks.harvard.edu/fs/phall/PDH-NHtax.pdf

It is imperative that New Haven and Connecticut do not get intimidated by Yale when demanding tax reform over the next few years. I am here because of Yale and I support the educational mission of the university, but I also believe that Yale is not fulfilling the obligations that come with its transformation over the past 40 years into a primarily financial and real estate institution. Sometimes you have to save an institution from itself, and in this case (especially with the news of Rick Levin taking up the job at Coursera) it’s pretty clear that the Yale Corp has lost its way.

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