Yale Flees Newhallville After Prof’s Mugging

Thomas MacMillan PhotosAfter an 83-year-old architecture professor was attacked at the Lilac Street building site of a Yale-designed house, the university plans to pull out the newly installed foundation—and has decided it’s just too dangerous to build a home in Newhallville.

The site is at 32 Lilac St., a narrow vacant lot which was to be the location of the latest house designed and built by students at the Yale School of Architecture. For decades, architecture students have put up a new house each year, in cooperation with local housing agencies, for sale to low-income home buyers.

For 24 years, 83-year-old architecture professor Paul Brouard (pictured) has supervised building of the Yale homes. On the morning of Thursday May 9, he showed up at 32 Lilac St. for scheduled excavation work and was assaulted from behind. Someone knocked him over the head and took his wallet. Brouard said he was hospitalized overnight, but has recovered from the attack.

Yale initially decided not to allow students to work on the site while a security plan was developed to keep them safe there. The Yale School of Architecture went ahead with excavation and installed a foundation last week.

Then Yale police Chief Ronnell Higgins decided the university couldn’t guarantee the safety of students working on Lilac Street. Since completion of the house is a course requirement for first-year architecture students, architecture professor Adam Hopfner began scrambling to find another site.

With help from the city, he may have found one. The current plan is to move the foundation to a city-owned vacant lot on Greenwood Street in West River, a spot where students can work in safety.

The house was being built on Lilac Street with the cooperation of Neighborhood Housing Services, a not-for-profit developer that has for decades brought stable homes for working families to low-income New Haven neighborhoods. Yale’s withdrawal from Newhallville is a blow for a neighborhood that NHS has been working hard to lift up with “clustered” development over the last couple years. It also follows a withdrawal by Habitat For Humanity, which also decided that the neighborhood was too dangerous to build a house in. After a woman fled her Habitat-built home in 2007, the organization suspended plans for more houses there and hasn’t been back since.

“A Screeching Halt”

“I was knocked silly,” Brouard (pictured at a Yale building site last year) said, recalling the mugging. “I was attacked from behind.”

Brouard said he fell to the ground and was “in and out” of consciousness. “I think it was two people but I’m not at all sure.”

Nothing like this has happened in his all his years building Yale-designed houses in New Haven neighborhoods, Brouard said.

Hopfner said he and Brouard arrived separately to the job site on May 9. Hopfner parked on Lilac Street; Brouard parked on the south side of the lot. After speaking with the excavator operator, Hopfner walked over to meet Brouard. He saw a man lying on the ground.

“‘Lord, please don’t let this be Paul,’” Hopfner recalled thinking. “I get there, and he’s been beaten unconscious.”

Hopfner said he went to the hospital with Brouard, made sure he was stabilized. Then he met with Alan Organschi, another architecture professor, and the dean and associate dean of the department. Hopfner said they decided to proceed with construction, but not to let students on-site until they had a plan for their security.

Excavation went ahead. Last Wednesday, Hopfner oversaw the installation of the house’s pre-fab foundation.

Then late on Wednesday evening, Hopfner got a call from Associate Dean John Jacobson, who told him that Chief Higgins had “essentially said he could not guarantee the safety of students on Lilac Street.”

The university kept the incident, and its decision, out of the public limelight. Higgins referred questions Tuesday to Yale public relations, which did not return a call for comment.

No students, no house. “The building project came to a screeching halt at 10 p.m. Wednesday,” Hopfner said.

On Thursday, Hopfner started making “frantic calls.” By Friday evening, with the help of the Livable City Initiative’s Erik Johnson, Hopfner had found a possible new site to build the house: 116 Greenwood St. in West River.

“So we are doing everything we can to mobilize and make that happen,” Hopfner said. “I’m literally in crisis mode right now.”

The building project already had a very tight time frame. So relocating an already-installed foundation is a setback. Hopfner said he may not be able to break ground on Greenwood Street until the second week of June. In the meantime, he’s trying to find warehouse space where he can start building with the architecture students, turning the building into a partially prefabricated endeavor.

“A Piece Of The Pie”

“It’s an unfortunate circumstance that someone chose to attack an 83-year-old man doing something good in the neighborhood,” said LCI’s Johnson (pictured).

Johnson said he understands Yale’s decision to pull out of the neighborhood. The university has to ensure the safety of faculty and students, who are completing the house as a course requirement. Nevertheless, he said he’s “disappointed” in the decision, he said. “It’s bad for the neighborhood and it’s bad for residents who are trying to make positive change happen.”

“It’s a miserable, miserable situation,” said Jim Paley, head of NHS. His agency has been doing intensive housing rehab work in targeted blocks of Newhallville. “We’ve been working hard in all of our clusters. Everything had been percolating there. This is a real setback.”

Paley said NHS is working to rehab three other properties on the block. “This was going to be a real showpiece of a block.”

He said NHS will fill in the excavated hole and then divide 32 Lilac St. between the two houses on either side, one of which NHS owns.

Claudette Deer, who owns the house on the west side of the lot, said she saw the aftermath of Thursday’s attack. She looked out her window and saw Brouard on the ground. “He was laying out like he was dead. The man got hit hard.”

Deer said the attack shows that the street needs more attention from the police department. She said people know when the cops are less likely to be out. “They know when the shifts are and when to act up.”

Yale’s withdrawal will work out well for Deer. She said she might get space for parking on her property. “I’m going to get a piece of the pie.”

“I ain’t sorry,” said Diane Pearson, who lives across the street. She said she doesn’t mind a new house being built, but she’d like to see it built with local paid labor, not by Yale students. “I just don’t like the way they do it. ... People here do really need jobs.”

“They’d Be Safe”

Hopfner said the architecture school will have to do a “post-mortem” on the situation to figure out if the safety “threshold” for choosing future building sites has to change. He said he would like to see the Yale building project return to Newhallville at some point.

“The reason I’m doing this is because I think that it is something for the common good,” Hopfner said. “You know, we’re not building on St. Ronan St. I’m certainly committed to the social agenda of this thing.”

“We’re not just going to lay down and play dead because of the intimidation,” said Paley. “We’re not giving up on this neighborhood.”

Meanwhile, on Greenwood Street Tuesday morning, 72-year-old Lee Williams was getting ready to mow his neighbor’s lawn. He said building a new house at 116 Greenwood (pictured above) sounded like a great idea. “It’d be beautiful for the neighborhood.”

Yale architecture students wouldn’t need to worry about crime in the neighborhood, Williams said. “I think they’d be safe.”

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posted by: anonymous on May 21, 2013  4:16pm

This story could use some more investigation. 

What percentage of total citywide shootings take place in Newhallville, and what percentage of police officer walking beats are spent there?

posted by: John Fitzpatrick on May 21, 2013  4:41pm

When Claudette Deer saw Prof. Brouard lying on the ground, did she do anything to help him?

posted by: BetweenTwoRocks on May 21, 2013  4:51pm

This is really disappointing.  I try not to have high expectations for the worst examples of humanity, but stuff like this is really frustrating.  And the worst part is that there’s no real answer for, “How do we get people to stop being such colossal jerks?”

posted by: getyourfactstraight on May 21, 2013  5:35pm

A damn shame…...

posted by: mm on May 21, 2013  5:58pm

#1—No good deed goes unpunished
#2—I used to own a number of multi-families in the NewHall/Lilac neighborhood, but after being mugged, properties being torched, car vandalized, etc. I sold them all (along with my other New Haven Properties) and moved out of the city.  I am New Haven at least once a week, but nothing would make me move back or invest in New Haven Real Estate.
#3—20 years of DeStefano and it didn’timprove

posted by: Bill Saunders on May 21, 2013  6:00pm


Unfortunately, the meaning of the word “jerk” changes as you cross socio-economic lines.

posted by: Stephen Harris on May 21, 2013  6:06pm

Attacking anyone, especially an elderly person is shameful and cowardly. I hope the attacker comes to realize the harm he’s done to the neighborhood.

posted by: JustAnotherTaxPayer on May 21, 2013  6:14pm

This is a shame and thank God the professor recovered.

posted by: Truth Avenger on May 21, 2013  7:42pm

It’s a shame that this portion of Newhallville will lose out on some forward-thinking housing because of one or two cowardly evil doers. Yale should not have cut-and-run but should have deployed security to the site, along with NHPD for the duration of the project. The punks win, denying a needy family and community with a much-needed catalyst to improvement. Meanwhile, stereotypes about the neighborhood are reinforced, and society is left to think the worst of a neighborhood chock full of decent, hard-working and respectful citizens. The perpetrators need to be apprehended and locked up for a long time - a fate that is too good for them in actuality.

posted by: HhE on May 21, 2013  8:21pm

Bill Saunders, mugging an 84 year old qualifies as being a “jerk” in every social economic level that I know of. 

Stephen Harris, I doubt he will ever know, yet I am certain he will never care. 

This is the tragedy of Newhallville:  the best people you could ever know are obliged to live side by side with the worse.

posted by: Anderson Scooper on May 21, 2013  8:29pm

Awful what happened, but I’m not sure I can agree with the equation that Greenwood Street = safe, and Lilac Street = not safe.

Last I checked muggings happen across New Haven, even in so-called “Yale areas”... (Not to mention that someone got shot dead last weekend, just one block from the freshman Quad.)

posted by: SteveOnAnderson on May 21, 2013  8:43pm

This is too infuriating on too many levels. The fact that Yale is integral to the structural causes of poverty and violence endemic to particular neighborhoods in the city will sadly go unaddressed, as always.

posted by: Lost in new haven on May 21, 2013  9:27pm

All we keep hearing from the police department is how crime in the city is down.  Guess it’s time for a new chief and thankfully not soon enough a new mayor..

posted by: Samuel T. Ross-Lee on May 22, 2013  12:22am

The subtle and significant racism in this incident is palpable and disturbing. What could it possibly mean that TWO police departments cannot protect a group of people in one neighborhood? 

But, more importantly than that, however, is why it is OK to characterize and penalize an entire community based on the misdeeds of one person. I’ll tell you why, as it is not uncommon for the dominate culture in America to stigmatize an entire group of minorities if even ONE member of that group misbehaves, or is even believed to have misbehaved. 

This type of characterization is not only typical, it is a consistent tool of marginalization used against Black, poor, or other oppressed people in America.  It is an excuse to never attempt or to abandon projects that otherwise are supposed to help the same.

There is something fishy about this situation and something shameful about the fact that the commenters here seem to have swallowed it hook, line and STINKER.

The Rev. Mr. Samuel T. Ross-Lee

posted by: SSSS on May 22, 2013  7:56am

SteveOnAnderson, please elaborate.  How does Yale cause poverty and violence?  Or maybe I misunderstood your comment.

posted by: robn on May 22, 2013  8:56am

So let me get this straight…

Volunteers donate time and labor to construct an affordable home in a struggling neighborhood.

An 84 year old volunteer gets mugged.

One neighbor is gloating because the project wasn’t being built by local paid labor.

One neighbor is pleased because she’ll be able to park he car on the empty lot.

Really? REALLY?

The “structural” problem here isn’t Yale.

posted by: SaveOurCity on May 22, 2013  9:05am

Sad story but indicative of how the city has ignored the neighborhoods.  I would be VERY interested to hear how the 7 candidates for mayor would use policy to change our current course. 

As an aside, the locals are far from helpful in the situation.  We hear from one neighbor who is against having a house built FOR FREE (she suggests that it be done by paid labor but no developer will set foot on that block).  Another neighbor sees someone knocked down who looks ‘dead’ and takes no action.  Who would want these two as neighbors?

posted by: BetweenTwoRocks on May 22, 2013  9:06am

To Rev. Mr. Samuel T. Ross-Lee,

I don’t think Yale is implying that there’s necessarily anything wrong with the community itself or the hardworking people who are part of the neighborhood.  Indeed, 99.9% of people didn’t attack or mug an older Yale professor.

But the fact remains that Yale feels it’s not capable of providing a secure environment in this neighborhood due to the actions of very few.  Race has nothing to do with it.

I don’t know that I agree with it, but it’s not a shocking decision, and I don’t think it’s race-based.

posted by: Truth Avenger on May 22, 2013  9:22am

@Rev. Ross-Lee, as you may have read, not all of us are swallowing the hook and line…In fact, you comments closely mirror the comments I made.  That said, I am curious to know what the mayoral candidates that live in the Newhallville District, along with the aldermen, are not only saying, but doing about this travesty-NOW.  Moreover, it is not only the politicians who are under-performing with regard to this issue and others, but clergy, community leaders and other institutions that have a stake in the future of Newhallville. Beyond lip service and complaining, who has taken action to see that the entire community does not suffer for the actions of one or two criminals? Who is allowing this stain to remain on a community that deserves better?  Finally, what is Yale teaching its students-architectural and otherwise, when at the first show of real adversity, they cut and run. They should be teaching their students the merits of courage, perseverance,and character along with the mechanics of building adaptive architecture. Bring all the parties together and draw up a plan to see this project through.  Anything else should follow with a pox on all their houses.

posted by: HhE on May 22, 2013  9:22am

SteveOnAnderson, if you are going to say, “The fact that Yale is integral to the structural causes of poverty and violence endemic to particular neighborhoods in the city will sadly go unaddressed, as always.” I put it to you that you can speak to that now.  I also submit, that if a person is going to make such a claim, it is incumbent upon them to substantiate that claim. 

Samuel T. Ross-Lee, I find your posts to be among the most well reasoned and articulate.  In this case, I am not altogether clear about your meaning, and I believe disagree with you. 

I don’t think that Yale is painting everyone in Newhallville with the same brush.  I believe they made a rational (albeit disappointing) choice about the amount of resources it would take to have a sworn Officer on site whenever Yale students or staff might be working there, against the value of placing an affordable home at that address.

I look forward to your clarification, which I do not doubt will be thoughtful as always.

posted by: westville man on May 22, 2013  9:38am

This is the prime example of what’s wrong with New Haven leadership. Good people who live in this neighborhood must survive daily with these types of incidents.  The liberals talk a good game, but 1 mugging sends them packing. And we’re talking about a billion dollar corporation here. If Yale claims it can’t protect its own, how do we expect people there to enjoy a peaceful existence. 
Our priorites must change. The next mayor must make some tough decisions.  That’s why i like Kermit Carolina’s ideas like the civil gang injunctions. We need to get tough on repeat offenders while offering meaningful opportunties for those looking to turn their lives around. A campaign from the grass-roots cares for the grass-roots. I, too, would like to hear from the mayoral candidates on this issue.  We can’t run away from crime; it doesnt work that way.
ps- I agree with the Reverend.  This has racial overtones to it, no doubt.

posted by: SSSS on May 22, 2013  9:57am

So Yale is racist because it does not want to provide uniformed police officers, a scare resource to be sure, to protect students and faculty performing an altruistic act?

posted by: Gretchen Pritchard on May 22, 2013  10:06am

This strikes me as an extreme over-reaction, and fodder for the accusation that Yale is excessively elitist.  Naturally I feel distress for the professor.  But the people who actually live in Newhallville deal with this sort of thing all the time, and Yale’s answer is to abandon them to their fate because it can’t “guarantee” the safety of a crew of healthy grad students in their 20s, after an 83-year-old (who was alone) is mugged from behind, once?????  Is Yale going to pull out of everything else in the neighborhoods too?  What about all the Yale students who go to the city schools as tutors?  What about the students who actually live on Mansfield and Winchester, a block or so away from Lilac Street?  This is (forgive the phrase) white flight at its most hysterical.

posted by: Samuel T. Ross-Lee on May 22, 2013  10:31am

@ Josh Levinson: The racial element in this situation is undeniable, as it is foolishly consistent with how the African-American community is engaged by the dominate culture in America whenever conflict arises no matter how limited or unidimensional. The “hobgoblin of little minds” is on full display here, and coming from Yale that makes this a double sin.

@Truth Avenger: You’re right.  I over stated my claim by suggesting that ALL of the posters here have either been taken in by or are complicit with the perspective apparent in the article, though that was not my intention.  I did mean to point out, however, that too many people have done so.  My apologies for not having read (or remembered in my response) your comments closely enough.

@Hhe: My point was not so much about Yale painting the entire community with one brush, though I did, inartfully, suggest that.  The more significant point is that their “rational” decision came down to taking away something from the entire community because of the actions of one (or a few).

Of course, determining what is “rational” is an exercise in the subjective.  I, for one, do not believe that a “rational” cost/benefit analysis concludes that a short-term expenditure of resources is unworthy of the long-term value that affordable housing would bring to an underserved community.

Further, but simply, could they not have called on the NHPD to assist in this matter, given the benefit that would accrue to the New Haven community?  I realize that both Pres. Levin and Mayor DeStefano are leaving office soon, but shouldn’t the well-touted relationship they have built up over the years, AT LEAST, extend this far? Or does it only extend as far as the city selling parts of its streets for Yale to own and control long after they are both out of office, like…FOREVER?

posted by: Eva G on May 22, 2013  10:35am

This story makes me really sad. Regardless of thoughts I had about the costs of the project (cf. Bill Saunders’, and others’, comments on the subject at an earlier NHI article), I basically thought, “cool! Build a little house! Neighborhood will benefit! all good.”
That this gentleman was attacked, and that the neighbors really do seem to react to this news—and the news that Yale is pulling the project away—with… the best I can come up with is “reactions that seem inappropriate to me” .... depresses me. Whoever attacked the professor really is a cowardly jerk; and to be *satisfied* that things aren’t moving forward is just wrong-headed.
I’m not glad that Yale is moving the project, but I can understand their logic. I wish there was another way here.

posted by: HhE on May 22, 2013  11:08am

Samuel T. Ross-Lee, I find your second post to be of your—typically—high standards.  Thank you for the clarification. 

I do essentially agree with what you said, albeit, without the complete decision making matrix, I cannot be certain one way or the other about Yale’s decision. 

At the end of the day, I am rather disappointed.

posted by: Eddie on May 22, 2013  11:22am

It is clearly the wrong decision on Yale’s part.  Yale managed to provide security for Science Park, which is located just a few blocks away.  This construction took place over a much longer period of time.  It continues to provide security for those who work in Science Park. Why can’t it provide the same when investing in project that directly benefits a few neighbors of Science Park?  In this case, the contrast between Yale’s commitment to its own expansion and its commitment to the neighborhood that hosts this expansion could not be more stark.

posted by: anonymous on May 22, 2013  12:01pm

I agree with Eddie and Pritchard - this looks very bad for Yale. I think alumni may stop donating if they hear about this. But I also think it’s ultimately their decision and they may be acting on information that didn’t make its way into this particular news piece.

posted by: Ali on May 22, 2013  12:10pm

A lot of criticism here directed at Yale for withdrawing…yet no one seems to have noticed that they tried to stick it out after even Habitat left.

“Yale’s withdrawal from Newhallville ...follows a withdrawal by Habitat For Humanity, which also decided that the neighborhood was too dangerous to build a house in.

Either way, it’s sad that the rest of the neighborhood will suffer.

posted by: Babz Rawls Ivy on May 22, 2013  12:16pm

I as a personal rule do not have conversations about race with White people.  I have said this openly and publicly.  My church… The Church of The Redeemer, a UCC church is taking on the topic of race and race relations.  They are are tackling tough questions. I admire and respect and love my Church family. I have deliberately stayed away from these topic.

I do not talk abut race with White people. It is pointless and exhausting.  I say this to say I see the racist undertones here and I am staying away from it for my own sanity and well being.

This mugging and assault is terrible.  And as a parent I could see how the university would err on the side of pulling up and getting out.  I am also a Woman of Color who knows all too well the racial undertones of what this means… the entire Newhallville community must pay until “those” people can be reigned in.

Everyone is afraid…even the folks here on this very public site…hiding in plain view and hurling comments and accusations ripe with racist undertone all while under the cloak of

Do something… something must be done…  but no one knows exactly what that “something” is.  But yet can criticize all day, everyday from the comfort of their homes far from the maddening crowd of Newhallville.

Nothing scares me.  I am at home in this entire city.  I am hopeful that the School reconsiders and act like freedom fighters.  I do pray that the neighborhood in question invites the students to come back to work and build.

There is real opportunity in this moment to make a real difference in community that needs a difference to be made.

posted by: anonymous on May 22, 2013  12:53pm

I agree with Babz.  We need our community and statewide leaders to step in and address this issue, now. 

Where are the leaders?  Too busy working on how they can widen more streets & highways so that commuters from out of town can get to their jobs at Yale (one of the only places with good jobs left) more quickly? 

Certainly they aren’t too busy because they are spending too much time the bus, like the rest of us - look at the last Mayoral debate.

The silence is deafening.

posted by: anonymous on May 22, 2013  1:05pm

The mugging took place at 32 Lilac on May 9th. Here are a few things that have happened since, on this two-block-long street:

May 14, 2013: Shots fired. Five 9mm shell casings found at 39 Lilac Street, car speeds away.

May 15, 2013: Shooter enters driveway at 12 Lilac Street and fires bullets.  Intended victim is able to run away.

posted by: Webblog1 on May 22, 2013  1:56pm

The fact is that this area in the neighborhood of Newhallville has long been known to be a high crime area. When New Haven Housing partnered with Yale to perform this project, partly in order to provide Yale students experience and class credit, they both did so at their individual risk. Most if not all construction sites in the city pay for off duty officers to police the site. in fact as the article describes: “Yale initially decided not to allow students to work on the site while a security plan was developed to keep them safe there. The Yale School of Architecture went ahead with excavation and installed a foundation last week”.

This was a conscience decision by Yale.

In deed, Yale a multi-billion dollar Corporation, nor, NHHS saw fit to provide this basis service. Fest up Yale and take responsibility and stop allowing others to beat up on a neighborhood long neglected by the city and Yale.
To escape to greenwood st. in West River only invites a copy cat if Yale continues to fail in it’s duty to provide security.

posted by: mm on May 22, 2013  1:56pm

It’s not fair to compare a single unit of housing that would be provided to the community at a loss to an Industrial Park that provides paying jobs.
Security must be provided for worker in Science Park, and if the NHPD can’t do it, the landlord must.

Yale had no obligation to build a single family home on a sliver lot in Newhallville and was smart to cut its losses.  The legal exposure for endangering students and faculty is far too great for Yale to complete the project.

posted by: TheMadcap on May 22, 2013  1:57pm

Where are the leaders? Where are the people? What is wrong with Lilac St? 40, 50, however many streets in Newhallville, and somehow Lilac is the one that repeatedly comes up in crime stories. It doesn’t help when the neighbors seem rather nonchalant about it as well.

posted by: JSJ on May 22, 2013  2:10pm

This Yale School of Architecture Vlock Building Program has been designing and building houses and other structures predominantly in low-income areas since 1967. You can read about it here: http://www.architecture.yale.edu/drupal/student_work/building_project

Racism has not, to the best of my knowledge, ever caused this program to leave a build site. The attack of a lead faculty member and the seemingly callous attitude displayed by neighbors and observers are probably the real reasons. This is tragic on so many levels. This program has built beautiful, well-constructed homes in many parts of New Haven with similar demographics. The Lilac St. site will not join the list and will likely remain a vacant lot- or a parking lot for the neighbor’s car.

It’s especially revolting that Paul Brouard, a wonderful guy who’s been building homes in “dangerous” neighborhoods for over 2 decades, was brutally attacked and no one had the simple human decency to help him.

posted by: Bill Saunders on May 22, 2013  2:14pm

Wait, I am confused again…...

This mugging happened two weeks ago, and yet, up until the day the Independent covered this story and people asked questions, Yale was still in the game.

There is more to this story….....

posted by: Lisa on May 22, 2013  2:25pm

There is an article in the New Haven Register today about the gun violence and how there have been shots fired every day for a week on Lilac and the surrounding streets.  It has gotten so bad that Federal law enforcement is coming to help NHPD.  Its awful that this happened to the professor.  Its tragic that the house won’t be built.  Its tragic that there is so much violence in that neighborhood.  After reading the NHR article, I can understand why Yale made this decision.  Shots were even fired at 11:00 AM. From the article: “Then, shots were fired between Newhall Street and Winchester Avenue shortly before 11 a.m. Monday. Police found two piles of shell casings and as far as police know no one was injured. The evidence so far is indicative of two groups shooting at each other, Grasso said.”  What would protect those building the house from stray bullets?  I feel terrible for the hard working good folks who have to live with this day in and day out.

posted by: A.T. on May 22, 2013  2:48pm

I don’t believe it makes sense to build a home in this location. Is this a good place for a low-income family to invest in a home and raise children?

Yale made a decision on behalf of their students and regardless of whether their fears are reality based, certainly the people who will own the home and will be rooted there, will face far tougher challenges on a daily basis with no additional security. It’s not a wise investment.

posted by: Anderson Scooper on May 22, 2013  3:18pm

Upon further consideration, this situation seems less and less about a site being abandoned simply because a professor got mugged, and more and more a case where the Architecture School made a sizable mistake in choosing a project site in the middle of a “hot” block.

If that block of Lilac Street is indeed that hot, with drug activity and violence running rampant, then Yale is likely doing the right thing by abandoning the 32 Lilac site, as this is not the type of thing that can ever be brought under control quickly.

I also sort of understand why no one is owning up to the mistake, but I hope someone at the School of Architecture will at least give it a try. (As it stands now, it does feel as if Yale is writing off all of Newhalville.)

posted by: anonymous on May 22, 2013  3:27pm

A.T. Wrote: “Is this a good place for a low-income family to invest in a home and raise children?”

It’s a good question - but one that nobody has the guts to raise in public.

On one hand, we should be building more of these “sliver-lot” homes at the eastern edge of Woodbridge, where schools and neighborhoods are not failing, where schools are not overcrowded (because very few young families can afford to live in Woodbridge), and where there is a Stop and Shop and bus line within walking distance.

On the other hand, if we stop investing in Newhallville altogether, it might be perceived as unfair, given that we probably spend $20 million dollars every year just to arrest people who live there and keep them housed in prison.  If we took that $20 million and instead used it to build nice housing and neighborhood infrastructure, the crime might disappear.

posted by: anonymous on May 22, 2013  3:33pm

Anderson, I think you are right. Also, it is not just about Yale, there are other nonprofits who are partnering with Yale to build this affordable housing.

There are stable blocks within Newhallville. Hopefully the program will choose one of those for their project next year, and not flee the neighborhood entirely.

posted by: Bill Saunders on May 22, 2013  3:35pm


You are certainly on the right track.

The crime stats are available.  The fact the Yale has it’s own Police Department makes them READILY AVAILABLE.  Plus, this piece of land didn’t magically appear out of nowhere—someone granted something to someone.

But sometimes you don’t even need stats to reinforce common knowledge.  When people live in a bubble, they shouldn’t be surprised when it bursts.

posted by: mm on May 22, 2013  3:47pm

@Bill Saunders
The Yale Police force is empowered to act on the Yale Campus or if in HOT PURSUIT of a suspect when the chase begins on the Yale Campus. The YPD would NOT be readily available to provide police protection off campus.

Why should Yale have to expend dollars for protection of faculty and students off campus?

NHPD has a long history of NOT making Newhallville a safe place. The NHPD has failed, the mayor has failed and the Board of Aldermen have failed.

posted by: A.T. on May 22, 2013  5:06pm

For me, the Yale students are the least important part of this story. They’ll be on a site for what? A few weeks? No homeowner, particularly a low income one, can just up and move easily if it goes bad. They’ll have a mortgage and their primary asset will be their house.

It’s wise that the project has moved to another street. If I’m reading the article correctly, two other houses will be built there? Lilac is a tough street (and has been for a long time). Would you let your kid play in the yard? Ride a bike down the street? Newhallville has other, more stable blocks, plus there’s a whole big city out there. Affordable housing is important. Affordable, safe housing that brings homeowners a good quality of life, is a better standard. I don’t know what it will take to bring Newhallville up, particularly this area, but asking someone without many resources to invest $150,000 in Lilac Street right now? Shaky ground there, ethically.

posted by: Bill Saunders on May 22, 2013  7:17pm


I have more about this that I am researching, but in quick response to your post:

It is not about the Yale Police Force being empowered to act on campus, or in HOT PURSUIT, it is about the access to information to make informed decisions.  Clearly the Yale Corporate Ocopus is all tangled up in it’s own legs.

posted by: LisaAnne on May 22, 2013  7:33pm

I don’t get it.  If Yale decided that students could not work on the site until there was security there in place for them, then what was the professor doing there without security? 

Seems they should go through with the project.  In the future, they should use the same security precautions for everyone involved in projects taking place in high crime areas.  Knowing too that these projects will be investing in a better future for that neighborhood, they should push forward.

posted by: Hill Resident on May 22, 2013  7:39pm

I am first saddened to hear of Paul being assaulted, but glad to hear that he is bruised but alright. And having read all the comments thus far, I am inclined to agree that perhaps this part of Lilac street is not the best place to decided to build this project. I have been blessed to own a Yale house in the Hill (off Truman Street) and in the 4 years since purchasing this home, have had my home hit by a stray bullet and witnessed several drug deals on this street - some right in front of my home. But since that time, 6 drug houses have been ‘shut down’ on this street and we are building a community garden. I agree with poster who wrote that the homeowners do not always have the option to ‘pull up and move’ when something goes wrong, and I can also sadly agree with Yale’s decision to move this project. I think that Yale should consider returning to Newhallville, find a more suitable lot and build. Or use the funds that the project would spend to warehouse the prefab build and the funds NHS would spend to fill in the whole and pay for security. But don’t quit on Newhallville. New Haven don’t quit on Newhallville. Newhallville ... dont’ quit on Newhallville!!!

posted by: Gretchen Pritchard on May 22, 2013  10:17pm

OK, it’s very different to pull out because there are daily exchanges of gunfire than because a professor is mugged once.

Clearly, the original story was only the tip of the iceberg, and the Independent seems to have done the Architecture School, and maybe Yale as a whole, a disservice by the way it first reported the school’s decision; and/or Yale itself has changed its story to buttress what was originally an impulsive and timid decision.

Please keep covering this.

posted by: ISR on May 22, 2013  11:35pm


@NHI editors. If this incident occurred on May 9, why didn’t you (and the Register) not publish anything it until today? Did I miss something? Did it only become newsworthy after Yale decided to pack it in? Is it only a coincidence that the story appeared the day after commencement?

You wrote: “The university kept the incident, and its decision, out of the public limelight.”

Does that mean there was a public record, but nobody drew any attention to it—feeding my conspiratorial mind’s thinking that Yale did want to bury this story until after students, families, and many faculty have cleared out?

Were the NHPD and other city officials complicit in keeping it “out of the limelight”?

What happened to the legendary cub reporters who would go bleary eyed poring over police blotters looking for man bites dog?

[Editor: We wrote about the incident as soon we found out about it. It was kept quiet.]

posted by: Bill Saunders on May 23, 2013  3:25am

I still have more to say about this “housing development”, but the reality of New Haven Street Crime ironically rears it’s head.

I came home tonight to a big party of friends and neighbors on the sidewalk in front of my house. 

But it wasn’t a party at all.

As it turns out, two of my friends had been mugged walking home from the Criterion.

When my victimized friends showed up, my housemate called 911.

Surprisingly (because I live on the edge of the hood), it was the YPD that quickly responded.  They were very earnest and professional, especially when I think back to the last time I was mugged by the NHPD.

The police quickly found one potential suspect who my friends said wasn’t the perpetrator, although he matched the description.

YPD returned twenty minutes later, and my friends went to identify other potential suspects. 

These potential suspects were just kids who didn’t even remotely match the mugger’s description. 

My friends overheard, an assisting officer to the investigating officer, something to the effect of, “You can’t just detain anybody. They need to match the description.”

This conversation is bigger than this comment thread.

Or maybe everybody should brace for “The Summer Uptick”.

posted by: mohovs on May 23, 2013  8:55am

1) This mugging could of AND does happen everywhere in New Haven every day.

2) CHANGE doesn’t happen by the wealthy making handouts, it must come from those in the community to WANT change. If the people on Lilac street didn’t want the house then there was no reason to build it there.

3) What is the purpose of the Yale Architecture summer program? To improve poor communities OR to have students build a house. The answer to this question will help determine where it is best to build a home in the future.

posted by: HhE on May 23, 2013  8:55am

“I think alumni may stop donating if they hear about this.”  I rather doubt that.  I am not a Yale Alumni, but I know some people who are:  my Dad, his brother, my grand father, his brother, and his brother in law, three cousins, and some friends.  People donate to Yale because they believe in what Yale is doing, and not because Yale never takes a misstep. 

“Clearly the Yale Corporate Ocopus is all tangled up in it’s own legs.”  Hardly.  While Harvard and Princeton are centrally controlled, Yale is a very decentralised university. 

“Does that mean there was a public record, but nobody drew any attention to it—feeding my conspiratorial mind’s thinking that Yale did want to bury this story until after students, families, and many faculty have cleared out?”  Just look how bad Yale is getting beat up in these pages.  They are racist because they are pulling out of Newhallville.  They are responsible for Newhallville’s problems (I thought Olin/Winchester pulling out was the problem, but what do I know, I just live here.).  They cannot/will not protect their own.  The list goes on. 

Me thinks some people are way over thinking this. 

Yale’s School of Architecture thought they would put this year’s house on Lilac Street, which is not Shepard and Reed or The Taurus, but is probably the third hottest spot in ‘Ville.  Yale PD looked at their resources, commitments, and constraints, and said, we cannot secure this site.  At some point, Yale Corporation MIGHT have said, “we need to rethink this.”  Shifting a project like this is not something in the next five minutes.

posted by: Curious on May 23, 2013  10:26am

Rather than get drawn into the race-baiting that is going on, I’d just like to point out that Yale was doing charitable work in a section of New Haven that needs it.

Where is the Newhallville community on this?  One woman doesn’t even care that it happened because Yale didn’t give her friends jobs; another is glad to get her property enlarged. 

Why didn’t the community pull together and get residents to stand there and keep watch on the site? 

Why is the automatic solution that Yale should be doing MORE? 

Why always looking for a handout and not trying to lend a hand?

I guess that the spirit of Freddie Fixer is only good for throwing parades now, not improving the community.

posted by: Truth Avenger on May 23, 2013  11:05am

@Mohavs: You make a lot of erroneous assumptions.
1.) Crime of this nature does not happen everyday all over the city. Like any urban area, New Haven has its share of crime, but it is all too easy to mischaracterize and overstate the facts, adding to a climate of fear and apprehension with statements like that.
2.)Yale’s program is not in anyway a “Handout.” End users of the home have to secure a mortgage like everyone else. The program is a teaching opportunity for students, and also allows the community to see what is possible. 
3.)You also assume that people on Lilac Street didn’t want the home built based on one or two reported anecdotes. To my knowledge, No survey was taken and there were no protests or other forms of disgruntlement displayed.
The project can be a win-win for both the University goals and objectives as well as the community’s. Deciding the placement of homes should be easy when apprropriate parties are involveda and precautions taken.

posted by: mohovs on May 23, 2013  12:24pm

@Truth Advenger

1) Spend some time on this website and you will see how much crime happens all over the city… http://www.newhavencrimelog.org

2) True change come from when the community you are working in buys in to what you are wanting to provide. You can not simply go into a neighborhood or community anywhere and tell people what they need. You have to ask what they need and respond appropriately. Based on the article it doesn’t sound like the immediate neighbors were too excited about the project.

posted by: Bill Saunders on May 23, 2013  3:08pm


You are dead-on about community buy-in.

There have been attempts at outreach by NHS in the past:


This project was never finished because the artist received threats against his life.  The building was later demolished.

posted by: Webblog1 on May 23, 2013  3:24pm

Upon reading all of the comments posted here, none alters the basic fundamental facts surrounding this awful event.

The consideration that New Haven was once rated as the 18th most dangerous city in the nation, then in 2011 be elevated to the 4th most dangerous city as reported by the Wall Street journal here:

In addition, the NHI maintains a running crime log of crimes in the city.

Therefore, with these well known facts in hand, why would a 83 year old man visit a construction site alone and without notifying others, especially security.

And, why after the Yale police indicating that it would not recommend students to the site unless and until a security plan was developed, did it go on?

Yale quoted:

“Yale initially decided not to allow students to work on the site while a security plan was developed to keep them safe there. The Yale School of Architecture went ahead with excavation and installed a foundation last week.


“Then late on Wednesday evening, Hopfner got a call from Associate Dean John Jacobson, who told him that Chief Higgins had “essentially said he could not guarantee the safety of students on Lilac Street.”

While I am not blaming the victim, surely there is considerable blame to be placed in the laps of NHHS and especially Yale.

I conclude my observations with sincere happiness that Brouard was not seriously injured.


For Yale to abandon the needed housing site because of their fear of possible law suits, goes directly to their own culpability.

posted by: Bill Saunders on May 23, 2013  4:38pm


Whether Yale abandons the site or not, NHS is obligated to develop the lot, or be in default of the Land Disposition Agreement dated April 23, 2013.  That instrument also states that NHS received the property for $1000.

posted by: win win on May 23, 2013  9:52pm

This is a very sad situation. And gets at deeper issues of Yale’s relationship to the city, of the causes of crime and violence in the city and its concentration in particular neighborhoods and, hopefully, what is to be DONE about all this.

Community Policing - fully implemented in a meaningful way is a great start. But we need more than reactive strategies. More cops more prisons will not get rid of the root causes of violence. We need preventive approaches - economic and educational Opportunities, spaces for youth to go and productive, engaging things for them to do, reasons for residents in Newhallville and EVERY neighborhood to hope - to believe in and work for a better future. AND a fair and sustainable distribution of power and resources in the city and across our nation. We we have less and less of these “Gilded Age part 2” days.

Someone asked about how Yale could possibly be implicated in structural inequities in the city. HMMM since Yale predates the city it’s safe to say they must have SOME role, right?

Here’s an excellent article that explores some of those issues: “Land and labor in the post-industrial university town: remaking social geography” by Gordon Lafer
http://www1.geo.ntnu.edu.tw/~moise/Data/Books/Social/08 part of theory/land and labor in the post-industrial university town remaking social geography.pdf

posted by: HhE on May 23, 2013  10:27pm

WeR1nhv, that Yale predates the City of New Haven (but not the town of New Haven), it does not follow that Yale is culpable in New Haven’s problems.  Correlation is not causality. 

Also, your link does not work. 

Webblog1, as someone who lives on the Newhallville side of the DMZ, who has friends in the NHPD, and has ben active in the Newhallville and East Rock CMTs, I think I can shed some light.  There is an often held idea “that it will not happen to me,” which is often true.  But it only needs to be untrue once. 

As to “For Yale to abandon the needed housing site because of their fear of possible law suits, goes directly to their own culpability.”  Please do not confuse fear of a lawsuit with culpability.  Yale is the deep pockets of New Haven.  They have to make sensible choices about risks.  This is not just about liability.  This is about getting sued because they can get sued. 

I can tell you that many people in Newhallville are very suspicious of NHS and Yale, and any activity they may be engaged in.