The Community Development Committee of the Board of Alders voted to promote open space and urban farming and explored how to reduce construction noise at a meeting Wednesday evening in City Hall.
The committee voted to approve a five-year ground lease for the New Haven Land Trust and New Haven Farms and requested increased transparency from the city’s economic development office regarding construction projects taking place near residential neighborhoods.
New Haven Land Trust currently has 15 community gardens under lease from the city, including gardens on Ann Street, Arthur Street, Shelton Avenue, Starr Street and Truman Street. New Haven Farms has six farms, on Ferry Street, Liberty Street, James Street, Shelter Street and Ward Street.
The current lease expires on June 30 for New Haven Land Trust; the lease for New Haven Farms expires a year later. In both contracts, the Livable City Initiative from the Department of Neighborhood Beautification is identified as the lessor.
Frank D’Amore of the Livable City Initiative, the city agency that owns the land; Jacqueline Maisonpierre of New Haven Farms and Justin Elicker and Bradley Fleming from New Haven Land Trust presented the benefits of having community gardens and farms in a city.
“So often we discuss problematic things here, but so far what you all have told use is great,” Downtown Alder Abby Roth said. “Everything seems like a win-win situation and we appreciate all the good work that you are doing to the city.”
No one from the public provided testimony on New Haven Farms or New Haven Land Trust. Alders asked questions about the city’s investments and the profit New Haven Farms and New Haven Land Trust make. While both organizations receive money from the city, they provide “invaluable benefits” to the residents by distributing produce to families with chronic diet-related illnesses, running educational summer programs and selling produce through farm stands and shares, Maisonpierre said.
The alders unanimously voted to approve the request to extend the ground lease by five years. The entire Board of Alders will now vote on the leases before they’re authorized, Douglass said.
After voting on the ground lease, the alders held a workshop to discuss resident complaints about current and upcoming construction projects downtown.
Last January, Alders Hacibey Catalbasoglu, Dolores Colon and Roth submitted a letter to the board President Tyisha Walker-Myers reporting that “a significant number” of their constituents have complained about “the negative impact of construction projects on their quality of life.” The letter identified loud overnight and early morning work, “blocking streets with garage entrances and exits, disrupting traffic routes for residents and causing commuting delays” as practices that were disrupting the residents most.
With New Haven Economic Development Administrator Matthew Nemerson, Deputy Economic Development Administrator Michael Piscitelli, City Engineer Giovanni Zinn, and Director of Transportation Douglas Hausladen, the committee brainstormed potential ways to decrease the negative impacts of construction projects without forestalling development. Nemerson noted that construction noise is a national and global problem as urban commercial cores transform into residential neighborhoods.
“The reality is that it’s probably going to get worse before it gets better because we do have a lot of projects going on,” Nemerson said. “But, I think the city is recognizing its problem and a lot of the people are willing to talk about it. Construction is not perfect science and there are a lot of unexpected factors to it, but we will try to find a better solution together.”
Yale Associate Vice President for Facilities John Bollier introduced ways construction companies can decrease noise levels, such as equipping construction vehicles with white noise back-up alarms and using saws instead of jackhammers. While Yale has replaced old alarms with white noise alarms, the issue is more “difficult and complicated” because not all local utility companies have the latest noise-lessening devices, Bollier said.
Alders discussed the importance of notifying residents about upcoming and ongoing construction projects.
“Obviously, this is a complicated conversation because we have to choose between closing down streets and slowing down the traffic during the day or waking residents up at night,” Roth said. “But residents are way more satisfied when they are told earlier about upcoming construction projects. Currently, the alders are notified that there is going to be construction in general, but we are not told about the specifics, including what times it will be going on and how loud it is going to be.”
To Roth’s request, Piscitelli responded the city’s economic development team assigns a manager for every major construction project going on. Alders can reach out to the project manager or anyone in the economic development team for details about construction, Piscitelli said.
“We are trying to be more transparent, so residents can be knowledgeable about what kind of construction is going on and when it’s going to end,” Piscitelli added. “Give us a little bit of time, and we will identify what major projects are going on and make sure that the alders of that neighborhood have specific information on it.”
On top of requesting more information on the construction projects to be available for the residents, the alders agreed to continue discussing ways to reduce industrial noise in residential neighborhoods.