Bullish Builder Signs On For Coliseum Site

Newman ArchitectsPaul Bass PhotoOne of the city’s busiest developers has signed on as a partner to restart the stalled plan to build a new urbanist mini-city on the gravesite of the old New Haven Coliseum.

The developer, South Norwalk-based Spinnaker Real Estate, has agreed to partner with the project’s struggling original builder, Montreal-based LiveWorkLearn Play (LWLP).

“We think New Haven continues to be a rising community. We want to be part of it. That’s the essence of our commitment. We’re there for the long term,” Spinnaker CEO Clay Fowler said in an interview Monday.

“The Coliseum seemed to be a progression of that. It is obviously a keynote site in town. We’re really excited to be involved in it.”

As Spinnaker and other developers have been on a tear building new housing in town the past five years, the Coliseum project has been mired in bureaucratic quicksand. The city signed a deal with LWLP in 2013 to build a $400 million mix of apartments, open spaces, stores, offices, and a hotel on the 5.5-acre block, bordered by MLK Boulevard and Orange, State, and George Streets. But LWLP never got started. The site’s still a surface parking lot. LWLP blamed the city for delays; the city blamed it for failing to secure the financing. A stalemate ensued; the Harp administration gave LWLP a deadline to find a new buyer or partner with bucks and expertise.

Meanwhile, developers began building hundreds upon hundreds of new apartments within blocks of the site in three directions. Spinnaker was one of those developers. It is fast building a new complex called Audubon Square at Grove, Orange, State, and Audubon streets; and has secured the approvals to get started at an apartment complex at the old Comcast site at Chapel and Orange and to build a boutique hotel at the old Webster Bank property at Orange and Elm. CEO Fowler estimates his company has committed to building a quarter-billion dollars worth of projects so far.

Now add the biggest project to date— if it gets built.

Fowler declined to detail the terms of Spinnaker’s partnership with LWLP. It’s unclear if LWLP will eventually get paid to walk away or whether it will play a continuing role.

“We are going to be very very active in the partnership. We will use LiveWorkLearnPlay’s talents as appropriate,” Fowler said. “We are reconfiguring the partnership. We will all be players in that.”

LWLP principal Max Reim did not respond Monday afternoon to requests for comment.

Fowler also said his team is revisiting the details of the plan itself and is unsure at this point of the final pricetag.

It will stick to basic outlines of the development and land disposition agreement (DLDA) signed with the city, Fowler said. (Click here to read the document.) But it may get tweaked.

Spinnaker is committed to keeping the promise of including a public area in the plan, Fowler said.

No-Tell: Hotel?

Paul Bass PhotoMayor Toni Harp said one potential sticking point is the plan for a four-and-a-half-star hotel on the site.

The state (which is funding public improvements) and the city have insisted from the start that a hotel anchor the project. Harp said the new development team has broached the suggestion of omitting the hotel now.

That may prove a sticking point.


Harp noted that originally the LWLP team had supposedly found a hotel but couldn’t find the money to complete the project. Now the team found a partner but is “questioning the need for a hotel,” Harp said in response to a listener’s question during her latest appearance on WNHH FM’s “Mayor Monday” program. The argument is that since the Coliseum deal was signed in 2013, numerous boutique hotel projects (including Spinnaker’s) have begun or are in the works around town.

Removing the hotel portion of the plan would ease the path for the Coliseum project. That’s because members of the Board of Alders majority backed by the UNITE HERE union — which represents both Yale workers and hotel workers — have sought to block new hotel projects that don’t include neutrality agreements paving the way for labor representation. The word has gone out to the industry that new hotels in New Haven need to include union representation; that drives up the potential cost and can dissuade potential builders.

“If there’s going to be a hotel [on the Coliseum site], it’s going to be a union hotel,” Harp said Monday. On the previous week’s “Mayor Monday” program, she argued that such an expectation ensures that new jobs that come into New Haven pay enough for workers to live on; she suggested exploring tax phase-ins similar to those offered for new construction projects to help hotel builders afford to pay union wages.

Harp said she still leans toward including a hotel in the Coliseum site plan. New Haven is in need of more conference and banquet facilities found in larger hotels, she said.

Spinnaker’s Fowler said the boutique hotel his company is building at the Webster site will include some conference space. But he agreed that that doesn’t add up to the level the city is seeking. “A conference-capable hotel is a different ball of wax,” Fowler said. “It’s one thing to have a few thousand square feet. It’s another to have 20,000 square feet.” He said his company “is still evaluating the hotel possibilities” in the Coliseum site plan.  “We’re absolutely committed to studying the hotel and understanding its feasibility.”

Harp said also under discussion is whether the new Coliseum development team would switch architects. Herb Newman’s firm is the current architect.


Click on the above video for the full episode of WNHH FM’s “Mayor Monday,” which also included discussion of Tweed-New Haven Airport’s future, affordable housing proposals, state campaigns politics, and the Newhallville safe-neighborhood “Byrne” grant.

This episode of “Mayor Monday” was made possible with the support of Gateway Community College and Berchem Moses P.C.

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posted by: Esbey on November 26, 2018  5:31pm

The hotel plan has to be dropped, because a unionized hotel facing so much non-union competition will lose money. But the unions won’t allow a non-union hotel. And no hotel owner is going to volunteer to lose money.

The only solution would be a massive state subsidy to the hotel. But the state has no money.

Time to move on and let the site develop in some natural way. We can demand some open space. Let’s get going before the next recession hits the lot stays empty for another decade.

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on November 26, 2018  6:28pm

I think the changes to the Development and Land Disposition Agreement will go beyond “tweaks” - the housing market has changed substantially since it was signed. As the article notes, hundreds of apartments have been built since then, hundreds are under construction, and hundreds more are in the pipeline. (Spinnaker is developing hundreds of units in the latter two categories.) 

The hotel market has also seen changes. The Duncan will re-open as a boutique hotel long before anything gets built at the Coliseum site. And while a hotel in the Pirelli building is not a done deal, I would not be surprised if a 3- or 4-star hotel goes in there.

Esbey, if a hotel goes into the Pirelli Building, I doubt the BOA has much leverage as to whether it is unionized. Hotels are allowed as of right there, and I doubt the hotel would be seeking money from the city.

posted by: robn on November 26, 2018  6:42pm

This shows again how out of touch Harp and the BOA are. Taxpayers who just saw a one year 11% increase (after multiple double digit reveal increases) are in no mood to foot the bill to line the pockets of local unions.
Shamefully corrupt they are.

posted by: WMACHQ on November 26, 2018  8:27pm

Having built 6 hotels of 300 rooms plus and affordable housing over the years, I can say that New Haven needs a hotel that can supply viable function space to attract contract meetings/conferences to the City.
The Omni does well with its facilities, however, a flexible venue on the Coliseum site would go far in bringing an “Entry” feature to the downtown area. Although apolitical with regard to unions, it is realistic to expect a unionized staff for a facility as large as what should be there. Other cities of equal or greater size all have unionized hotels that are not burdened by give backs and tax breaks, the hotel is only one facet of what the total site development will (and should), be. Retail, housing and public outdoor spaces are the balance, and their synergy will add the necessary interest and need to make for a really nice urban development. it’s almost better that the site has been undeveloped to allow the present developments to support and define the needed demand generators to allow for a good proposal scheme to be developed.
W. MacMullen

posted by: Dennis Serf on November 26, 2018  8:39pm

This is the ‘money’ quote, so to speak, literally and figuratively. “If there’s going to be a hotel [on the Coliseum site], it’s going to be a union hotel,” Harp said Monday. Why? Because it’s the union that funds her campaign and keeps the band playing. I mean, to heck with making the hotel hire New Haven residents at a fair wage, and still be able to pay city taxes. Instead, let’s demand a new hotel hire union workers so the Mayor and BOA have more foot soldiers from the suburbs come election time. And who cares if the City needs to subsidize a 4-star hotel with tax breaks; the Mayor and BOA will just yell louder for more PILOT money from our bankrupt state government. And who cares if the state shrugs its shoulders as it always does, we’ll just raise taxes by double digits on the shrinking base of homeowners - again. Yep, nothing to see here.

Dennis Serfilippi

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on November 26, 2018  10:15pm

Dennis, another interpretation of the “money” quote is that it is not at all certain that there will be a hotel on this site. The mayor’s insistence that any hotel there be unionized actually goes beyond the union’s demand for a neutrality agreement. I think you and I agree that her position reduces the odds that a hotel would be built there.

posted by: Noteworthy on November 26, 2018  10:56pm

Mayor Harp’a demand for a hotel and only a union hotel is short sighted and harsh - and worse. The unions are wrecking this city, the city government and our future. If the market doesn’t need a hotel, why force a business to build one, put at risk $100 million or more,? It’s stupid. Be grateful. Be helpful.

Under no circumstances do you repeat the utterly stupid decisions in the last four months giving away tens of millions of dollars in tax breaks while the freaking city goes bankrupt.

posted by: robn on November 27, 2018  7:12am


The mayor was clearly bolstering a union hotel subsidized by tax phase ins.

“...she argued that such an expectation ensures that new jobs that come into New Haven pay enough for workers to live on; she suggested exploring tax phase-ins…”

posted by: Anderson Scooper on November 27, 2018  7:54am

Whoa, whoa, whoa!

How much money is Teddy Reim set to make from effectively land-banking the Coliseum site, before flipping it to an actual developer? (This new partnership is likely more of a sale than a true partnership!)

That land was given to him for free, in exchange for a set of promises on which Reim failed to deliver. He should not be allowed to profit from a re-sale to a third party, and the money he will reap from the land rights should be ours.

posted by: __quinnchionn__ on November 27, 2018  9:02am

How about a 4-star luxury hotel with a new Convention Center? I think something like that would be a “win-win” situation for the city. There probably would still be a good amount of space for there to be public park and maybe some more apartments with retail space included.

posted by: LookOut on November 27, 2018  9:19am

Paul - Thank you for highlighting this clear example of our Mayor and the BOA being under union domination.  It is mindboggling that they would force this hotel to be union (and thus less competitive) which will drive up the cost of the project thus requiring tax abatements that are paid for by…..here we go again….higher taxes on the residents and businesses of the city. 

Hotel employees are no better off (after adjusting for union fees).  The hotel struggles because of higher operating costs.  The city has higher taxes.  A lose-lose-lose agreement.  The only people happy are suburban union bosses and the city government that they control. 

And as a sidebar, how is it even legal to force employees of a business that does not even exist yet to be under union control?  Isn’t the process the workers unite and form a union?  This seems backwards, controlling, and corrupt.

posted by: LookOut on November 27, 2018  9:21am

and I love the term “neutrality agreement”.  I think they took naming lessons from East Germany.
Those agreements are about as neutral as the German Democratic Republic was democratic.

posted by: ebw1957 on November 27, 2018  9:22am

Most of us know that unions = democrat party ATM so of course she wants this, with union only construction to I am sure.

In 2018 the private sector can deliver all the employment benefits of any union without the dues, IF they want to get great employees. Any hotel with plans to cater to the Yale crowd wants great employees. 2+2=4.

I’ve done conference business with union and non union hotels around the US and there is zero difference in service.

posted by: Anderson Scooper on November 27, 2018  10:33am

EBW1957 states that there is no difference in service. What about differences in wages?!! Have you ever tried to live off of $25,000/year? That extra $10,000/year that the unions “extract/extort” for their members is huge to their ability to get by. And the system can bloody welll afford to pay it!

Lookout is cooked in his or her economics. Union dues are nominal, and unionized hotels have no problem making it in the marketplace. (How many years has the Omni been in operation?)

And yes, if the City is giving land away for this development, the jobs that result better be higher paying than $400-$500/week. The Mayor is 100% right on this, and without the concession, the deal would make little sense.

Finally, please, pleade draw a bright line between the municipal unions that are gaming the system, and the unions (Yale, hotels, etc.) that are just trying to get good living wages for their members.

posted by: Atwater on November 27, 2018  10:39am

Unions are good for workers!!! Why is there so much anti-labor sentiment? Maybe the Mayor actually thinks that union labor is the best way to ensure fair wages, health insurance, sick leave, etc. for the workers who would labor in the hotel. See, labor is a verb too. People actually spend hours, days, weeks, months of their life working, they/we deserve fair representation, good wages, and other benefits. Unions are the only way to successfully negotiate with management. If not for labor any enterprise in this area will fail. Treat workers with respect and stop attacking unions.

posted by: robn on November 27, 2018  10:51am


UNITE and Yale unions have forcefully taken a joyride with our municipality for the past 7 years. That’s pretty much the ultimate gaming of the system

posted by: robn on November 27, 2018  11:03am


When suburban union Boss Bob Proto and Laurie Kensington’s self serving puppets step down from the BOA, maybe the public can regain some respect for local unions.

posted by: Henry J. Fernandez on November 27, 2018  11:10am

Let’s be clear.  The Omni has a unionized workforce—the result of a neutrality agreement when it was redeveloped.

It is a great hotel with great service that helps energize the downtown.  The hotel and its workers have helped build the growing downtown.  Would the rest of the growth over the last 15-20 years that’s happened downtown have occurred without the Omni, the Shubert and Gateway Community College?  Probably not and all three have unionized workforces.

Hotel workers, like all workers, deserve a living wage, decent benefits, full time work and the ability to retire with dignity.

posted by: robn on November 27, 2018  12:02pm

Lets be clear about this. Taxpayers deserve to not be overtaxed by a BOA union majority that’s always looking out for its own narrow self interests.

posted by: HewNaven on November 27, 2018  1:04pm

The word has gone out to the industry: NO BOOTLICKERS IN NEW HAVEN

posted by: opin1 on November 27, 2018  1:23pm

I appreciate both sides of the argument. It would be nice to ensure that if a hotel were to be built, the workers would receive a livable wage. Should they be unionized? I would look to other hotels in the region and in other cities.. if most of the competition (other hotels in the region) are unionized then I have no problem with this hotel being unionized. However I don’t think tax payers should be on the hook for subsidizing it so it can be unionized.  In other words, try to encourage the developer to agree to unionized hotel workers. In the big picture (whether the developers move forward or not) this is only one variable among many; perhaps they will agree to a unionized hotel if their overall project looks profitable.

However, please don’t trade tax subsidies in exchange for an agreement about having a unionized hotel. There are other bargaining chips besides property tax breaks. 

We want a livable wage for hotel workers; but what is the trade off? If the trade off is a concession by the developer (a slightly lower profit) that’s a great thing. But if the trade off is property tax abatement that puts the burden on already struggling residents/taxpayers that is not a good thing.

My gripe is that Mayor Harp and the union back alders give away the property taxes too often and too easily to developers. Its fine to fight for things like livable wages but don’t give away the farm in doing so. No more 10+ year tax abatements!

posted by: LookOut on November 27, 2018  1:31pm

Signs that someone is not dealing or will not deal with reality;

“The Omni has succeeded because of a unionized workforce” -  Yes, businesses do succeed with unionized work forces but it is always ‘in spite of’ rather than ‘because of’ (at least in the past 40 years).  The excess costs result either A) less hiring B) weaker service or C) higher prices for the end user.  All are bad results.

“Union dues are nominal” - Prove that with real data. In every case I’ve seen, they say its only $50 a week but don’t realize that is $2600 a year.  A family could make a car payment with that money.

“Unions are good for workers”  - Then why do 90% of workers, when given the choice, avoid union membership?  The reality is that unions are good for union bosses and provide protection for bad workers.  Workers who are average and above average hate the idea that bad workers get the same wage as everyone else and are kept around (causing other to have to pick up the slack)

“Unions are the only way for workers to get a higher wage”  - Well, this may have been true in 1890, but today, the best workers (and even those in the middle) can learn the proper wage for their job and demand it of their employer.  If you are a hotel worker in New Haven and the demand doesn’t work, there are a large number of other hotel jobs in town that you can go to.  People do this all the time.  There is no reason to pay a union person to negotiate for you.

posted by: TheMadcap on November 27, 2018  1:45pm

” Then why do 90% of workers, when given the choice, avoid union membership?”

Yeah, that’s nonsense. Even red Missouri couldn’t pass a right-to-work law when it was held in a public referendum. Also I pay $11.70 a week for my union dues. I’m sure others pay more, but they are also probably in higher income fields

posted by: Anderson Scooper on November 27, 2018  2:04pm

@ Lookout — Someone accusing you of having your “facts” wrong, should lead you to look in the mirror and do a little-fact checking.

Instead you more than double-down, with a series of mis-truths, and wishful arguing. Union dues for hotel workers of $50/month or $2500/year? LMAO.

Service jobs aren’t basically take-it-or-leave-it when it comes to pay, but instead an individual worker can go to Management and demand better pay, (getting fired!)?

Reality is out there, if you ever want to reckon with it. At least we agree the Omni has succeeded with a unionized workforce. Maybe the new hotel will also be so lucky!

posted by: Atwater on November 27, 2018  2:09pm

The concept of collective bargaining eludes some commenters here. Those who think all of the normal and beneficial labor laws that we enjoy today just fell from the sky, or were gifted to us by the benevolent capitalist overlords. Those who scoff at paying a bit more for a luxury, whether it is an iPad or a hotel room, if it means a worker might make a little more money, or get health insurance or paid sick leave. There is a reason why certain people oppose collective bargaining and unions. They do so because they know the strength of labor is in their unity and to break that is to ensure they control labor. But this is all known and learned already. Read a book or two. Certain unions have been corrupted by bad leadership, but the union itself remains the only way workers can gain parity with management.

Stop thinking that the actions of one or two politicians, with whom you disagree, seem to excuse an attitude of utter disregard for the rights and necessity of labor to unionze.

We need more labor unions, not less. White collar, blue collar, all workers…well, you know the rest. Workers of the work unite.

posted by: robn on November 27, 2018  2:36pm

The issue taken here isn’t the possible existence of a union. The issue is one of public officials repeatedly abusing their authority in favor of a small niche (which in the case of some alders, happens to be their employer) usually at the expense of all other taxpayers.

posted by: cellardoor on November 27, 2018  5:18pm

It is not “anti-union sentiment” to recognize a problem with conflicts of interest on the New Haven Board of Alders.  There inevitably are times when the best interests of all New Haven residents are in conflict with the interests of Unite Here!, but those union members who have strategically larded the BOA do not recuse themselves from voting when that is the case, and they thereby betray their obligation to New Haven voters.

posted by: opin1 on November 27, 2018  5:51pm

Atwater - I agree with everything you wrote about the need for collective bargaining power. Unions are needed to represent workers in negotiating with large corporations. However, how far is it worth going to push the agenda of unions?  For ex/ should unions use their collective power to win government positions so that they can use that power to push the agendas of the unions? If a union-backed elected official is in office to push a union agenda (rather than making decisions in the best interest of their constituents), is that ok?

I agree with you that it makes sense to charge a little more for an iphone or a 4 star hotel room to ensure that the factory worker or hotel worker makes a livable wage. That burden (slightly more expensive iphone/hotel room) is borne by the person buying the iphone or staying in the hotel; and possibly also by the hotel owner who might have a few less customers due to higher prices. 

However THIS is the problem:
“Harp suggested exploring tax phase-ins similar to those offered for new construction projects to help hotel builders afford to pay union wages”.
- Now the burden of higher wages isn’t on the hotel customer or hotel owner, its on New Haven residents -  most of whom won’t be staying at the hotel and some of whom may be worse off than the hotel workers.

Robn’s last comment (2:36pm) was spot on.

posted by: Atticus Shrugged on November 27, 2018  5:59pm

After reading certain comments, I think there is a bit of disingenuous-ness going around.  Yes, if the hotel is built, it will be a union hotel.  That’s not the Mayor’s doing.  The tax payers of the City voted to amend the city’s charter, giving more rights to the board of alders.  Any plan would need to get through zoning, which the board of alders could hold up indefinitely while the developer is on the hook for any accruing interest on any moneys borrowed.  To state the most logical conclusion doesn’t make the Mayor in the union’s pocket, it makes her a political realist.

To say that she is out of touch with the needs of the city is to dismiss the behavior of the voting citizens who continue to back union alders.  Moreover, I’m not certain anyone on the Independent should speak for all of New Haven, rather than their own opinion.  As for taxes going up 11%, the taxes are more or less back where they were before the board of alders gave an ill-advised refund rather than paying down debt and keeping the mill rate where it was.

posted by: Atwater on November 27, 2018  8:05pm

robn and cellardoor: I think you’re conflating the two issues. The one at discussion here is whether a new hotel development should be contingent upon the use of union labor. I agree with the Mayor in that the hotel should be a union shop. Sentiments expressed here have been anti-union. It is anti-union sentiment when one cannot, or will not, strain to understand that the unions that would operate in the hotel development would not be the same unions that are at issue with the BOA alleged conflicts. It is anti-worker sentiment when one blocks any effort to strengthen and defend unionized workers because of alleged wrong-doings of certain members of the BOA or alleged wrong doings of Union leaders. Should all members of the Teamsters be labeled corrupt because of Jimmy Hoffa? Of course not. Nor should worker-members of Unite Here or any other “local” union be treated with automatic disdain because of their leadership. Unions, like most organizations are susceptible to bad leadership and to malevolent leadership. But, the fundamental importance of unions remains unchanged. Labor unions are vital to a dynamic and equitable economy.

posted by: LookOut on November 27, 2018  11:28pm

Atticus - I wholeheartedly agree with you that the democratic process in theory allow voters to choose who will represent them and, in the process, remove those that poorly represent them.  Unfortunately, in New Haven, the majority of alder elections involve a Dem running unopposed.  So, the key to getting elected is getting nominated and the key to getting nominated is support of he Democratic Town Committee.  (Wanna guess who controls that committee?)

The result is that the voter is essentially voting yes or no on a union rep and has no way to make another selection.  It would be nice if there were a two party (or even three party) system around here but the likelihood of it happening in the near future is not great.  In these posts, for instance, we see some folks understanding the problem but there are still many who cling to the ‘unions save the world’ myth.

posted by: robn on November 28, 2018  8:42am

LOOKOUT is absolutely correct. Seven years ago UNITE and the Locals quietly and quickly stacked the ward committees with allies because it gave them control of the Democratic party’s alder nominee process. Bob Proto, Gwen Mills, and Jessica Holmes were at the center of it.

posted by: ebw1957 on November 28, 2018  8:43am

Interesting avoidance of my “union = democrat party ATM” comment in the posts below. Were this city to actually have a viable republican party and the union gave them all the cash- this topic would be over for 99% of those posting.

posted by: Atwater on November 28, 2018  10:29am

Who cares if the Unions back political candidates or work to win elections/nominations. Corporations do the same thing all the time. Workers have a right to unionize and the Unions have a right to aide political candidates who help workers.  That’s the system. Again, corporations do the exact same thing.

Unions do give money to Democratic candidates, so what. Corporations give money to Republicans and Centrist Democrats.

There’s nothing illegal happening, it’s politics. If you think the Unions are too strong in New Haven then run anti-union candidates, get donations from anti-union corporations (i.e. Amazon or Apple).

The tax abatement issue and the over-spending by both the Destefano admin and the Harp admin and BOA have nothing to do with union influence. They are desperate measures to save a dying city. Unions aren’t lobbying for higher property taxes or for more spending on school construction. They aren’t trying to raise the cost of living. Look for a new scapegoat. Or, better yet, get involved. Run for office, stage protests, lobby your Aldermen and Alderwomen. If you don’t like the system then fight to change it. That’s what Unions have done, or tried to do.

posted by: opin1 on November 28, 2018  10:45am

@Paul Bass - The poll should have the options:

Yes, at any cost.
Yes, but we should not offer tax abatements in order to get a union deal.

I don’t think I’m the only person who would support a unionized hotel so long as we’re not paying for it with tax abatements. That’s the key point of this argument. The mayor gives away tax abatements for anything that she sees as a good idea.

She needs to use her negotiating skills to get the developer to make a concession (agree to unionization). But don’t bribe the developer with tax dollars. There are other bargaining chips. The developer will make money whether or not the hotel workers are in a union.  If the developer can’t make it work then that’s probably evidence that we don’t need another hotel.

Every dollar given in tax abatement is a dollar lost from the budget that could go to schools, police, pension funds, reducing debt, etc.

posted by: robn on November 28, 2018  10:47am


I care and so do many others because of the essentially corrupt nature of it, these being a few glaring examples:

1) Suburbanites manipulating our elections : The involved unions have an extremely high percentage of membership and by extension, election “volunteers” coming in from the suburbs.

2) Conflict of interest : One of the first thing this union aligned BOA did was sell a coveted city street to Yale and then soon after, their affiliated unions magically got an embarrassingly generous contract renewal.


posted by: Atwater on November 28, 2018  2:17pm


1. Union members who live in the suburbs that come to New Haven to help with elections is not “election manipulation”, it’s just union members volunteering to help campaign. There’s no law against that.

2. What you described is not a conflict of interest, it’s a quid pro quo. Again, not illegal, in fact very common in American politics. However, your allegation of a quid pro quo is baseless as no evidence has ever been put forward that shows any thing other than an indirect correlation. And as we all know, correlation is not causation.

posted by: Anderson Scooper on November 28, 2018  3:15pm

@ Atwater — Let’s suppose someone is a neighborhood activist, who wants to serve on the Board of Alders.

Instead of vying against a neighbor in what should be a local, neighborhood contest, instead you have to fight against the Yale Unions money and organizational muscle? There is something ugly and unfair about that.

Then add in the fact the Unions chief way to fight against you is to use an army of “volunteers”, (usually paid), going door-to-door vilifying you with half-truths?

You make an argument that this is democracy in action. In reality it is anything but! The current hegemony is as bad or worse than the DeStefano gang that they spent $200,000 unseating.

This City is in dire need of a strong debate on the issues. The Unions are playing the “step out of line, you get whacked” bullshit game, and all we are left with is a single-party line that is not in our best interests.

Also, Robn is correct when she points to numerous instances of the Yale Unions putting their limited self-interests before New Haven citizens’ interests on the whole. Repeatedly they have crossed the line, and what they are doing is just plain wrong.

She and I disagree on the hotel at the center of this article. But what she states is true and commonly agreed upon. Fwiw.

posted by: Atwater on November 28, 2018  10:02pm

Anderson: Your comment illustrates my point. Nowhere in this article was it mentioned that Yale Unions have anything to do with this hotel development. The article simply stated that the Mayor expects any hotel to include union labor. You and robn are conflating two separate issues. Whatever alleged wrongdoings you suspect the “Yale Unions” of doing, it has nothing to do with a hotel workers’ union and thus has nothing to do with the hotel development. Yet, many used this as an opportunity to once again dump on labor unions. It seems to me that labor unions are a convenient scapegoat for all of New Haven’s troubles. Honestly I think blaming any unions for the economic climate is a bit ridiculous. Union members might back certain Aldermen/Alderwomen and even the Mayor. But, they do not set policy at any level. Also, Yale University might put its interest before New Haven’s, but the labor unions within Yale do very little in regards to compounding New Haven’s problems. Besides rhetorical generalizations I have seen very little evidence that Yale’s labor unions are benefiting at the cost of other New Haven taxpayers.

The scenario you described is American democracy in action, for better or worse. The Unions have a right to campaign, to fund/donate to candidates and to use their power as as they see fit (within the law). Corporations and other special interests groups do the exact same thing. Is it fair? Maybe not, but again, that is American democracy. Grassroots activism does work, as long as the message appeals to voters. Luckily in New Haven, the anti-union sentiment is not as strong as in some other parts of the nation. Does New Haven need a debate on the issues? Maybe, but I do not think any unions are preventing this from happening.

posted by: LookOut on November 29, 2018  8:02am

I really thought I was done commenting on this article but it would be wrong to let the misleading statements by Atwater stand without correction. 

If you talk honesty to any alder (I have) it would be clear that the unions are doing more than just backing a few alders or the Mayor.  The unions control the Democratic Town Committee, therefor you are not even allowed to run without the blessing of the union.  And between elections, the union leaders routinely call the alders to ‘suggest’ how they should vote on upcoming issues.  And for those alders who somehow vote the wrong way, the next call will remind them that an election is coming up and the Democratic Town Committee might be thinking about posting another candidate in their ward.  This has happened routinely to the point where there are now 21 out of 30 alders who are union supported candidates (and behave properly when receiving those calls) as well as a few alders who actually work for the union.  The result has been a huge increase in city money funneled to unions and union causes at the expense of taxpayers (how have we all enjoyed those 20% to 30% increases?) with much of the big money going into the pockets of the union bosses living in the suburbs.  So, the analogy of the city being an ATM for the union is a strong one.  While there may not be anything illegal in this process (of course there may be) it is not right.  The alders should be in service of the city not of the union.  If the current process does not allow for that to be corrected, than we should correct the process.  Sadly, in our one party town, the current election process does not allow for that correction.

posted by: Atwater on November 29, 2018  10:26am

Please cite at least one instance where the city has funneled money to a union, for no other reason then to provide, what you describe, as a kickback. The city doesn’t pay Yale unions, they don’t negotiate their contracts.

Please cite the direct relation, with dates and dollar amounts between the recent tax hike and certain unions support of BOA members or the Mayor.

The unions might be guilty of supporting inept public servants, that’s all. They’re not the cabal that is described as ruining New Haven.

posted by: robn on November 29, 2018  10:49am


LOOKOUT has stated the corruption very clearly and i have also cited an explicit example of union alders trading a city street to Yale for their own favorable contract. You could add to that their constant meddling in hotel projects to try to pad their union membership.

Enough already, stop trying to hide the fact that the BOA is corrupt and its ringleaders are members of the local unions.

posted by: Atwater on November 29, 2018  12:27pm

Robn: What you described is not corruption, it is an unfounded allegation of quid pro quo. There’s nothing wrong with that, not legally anyway and I see nothing wrong with labor using the power they have to get what they deserve. What lookout described isn’t corruption either, it’s just American politics.

This is the second time that I have seen that an allegation of corruption or wrongdoing has been made against a public servant or assembly, without anything more than conjecture, hyperbole and misinformation. There is no proof of BOA and Union corruption of the city government. NONE. If there was it would be a major news story and also the target of a DOJ investigation. Connecticut is rife with political corruption. But, New Haven isn’t Bridgeport or Hartford, thankfully. Stop looking for boogeyman where there aren’t any. If you don’t like living in a union friendly city then move somewhere else. I hear the Midwest is nice this time of year.

posted by: robn on November 29, 2018  12:59pm


Except that i’m among the 93% of citizens not in the union which is ripping us off. And yes we got ripped off when they trade a city street for their own financial gain.