She doesn’t see Yale retreating from New Haven. But Mayor Toni Harp does question the effect that the university’s latest top-level shuffle will mean for town-gown relations.
The university announced that shuffle on Friday: Bruce Alexander will retire next month as Yale’s vice-president for New Haven and state affairs.
Yale created that job for Alexander 20 years ago when it embarked on a newly engaged relationship with the city, from rebuilding commercial corridors to helping workers buy homes in the city. Alexander has served as a top-level contact and decision-maker on New Haven matters for civic players throughout New Haven.
In announcing Alexander’s pending retirement, university President Peter Salovey stated that rather than hire a replacement, Yale will divide Alexander’s duties among six other existing next-rung officials. (Read the details of that plan here.)
Now, Harp said during her latest appearance on WNHH FM’s “Mayor Monday” program, “One thing we have to struggle with is: Who do we talk to for what?
“I know that Lauren [Zucker, associate vice-president for New Haven affairs and University Properties] is going to be taking over a lot of the role he plays with government. We have a good relationship with her. But the whole development piece that he did, that was kind of done very subtly, I don’t know who will be doing that.”
Harp said she has met “five or six times” a year in person with Alexander, on top of occasional phone calls.
“My sense is they’re not retreating from New Haven. Peter Salovey is the president. He lives in New Haven and is committed to New Haven. I think they’re just trying a different method,” Harp said. But, without a single top person with Alexander’s portfolio and authority, “it won’t be focused, that’s for sure. ... I worry that we will all be wishing that we had something that was a little more focused, someone a little more like Bruce.”
Harp noted that Alexander played a leading role in not just city and state matters, but internal operations, including dealings with Yale’s unions. His job evolved over the decades, she noted; maybe not the job is reverting in some form to where it began.
Click on or download the above audio file or the Facebook Live video below to hear the full episode of WNHH FM’s “Mayor Monday.” The discussion about Bruce Alexander begins in the video at the 26:45 mark.
This episode of “Mayor Monday” was made possible with the support of Gateway Community College and Berchem Moses P.C.