Proprietors OK CitySeed “Experiment” On Green

Harvey Koizim PhotoDon’t look now, but money will soon start changing hands on the New Haven Green—legally.

Starting in June, a weekly downtown farmers market run by the not-for-profit CitySeed organization will move from its sidewalk location in front of City Hall to an open space on the lower Green.

That will mark the first time in three centuries that commerce will be permitted on New Haven’s central two-block park.

Thomas MacMillan PhotoThe Committee of the Proprietors of Common and Undivided Lands at New Haven—a little-known, self-perpetuating private quintet that controls the park—has decided to allow CitySeed to set up shop from June through November as a trial, according to Proprietor Drew Days, a Yale professor and former U.S. solicitor general.

“There will be a CitySeed Farmers’ Market on the Lower Green from June to November 2013,” Days wrote in an email message to the Independent. “It will be on a one-time, experimental basis. Further details will be forthcoming in the next several weeks.”

The decision follows public discussions about how to imagine the Green’s future. The Proprietors and the city convened the discussions with the help of a group called The Project For Public Spaces as a run-up to New Haven’s 375th anniversary. The goal is to turn the historic and civic landmark into more of a true destination for the whole range of New Haveners. Participants in break-out sessions suggested allowing some commerce on the Green—for instance, food carts like those outside Yale-New Haven Hospital. Click here to read all about that.

“This is exciting,” said CitySeed Executive Director Nicole Berube. She said the move from the sidewalk will allow the farmers market to grow beyond the eight to ten stalls it has been able to accommodate. Also, she said, the lower Green will offer enough room for more school and summer camp trips. The new location also brings the market and its farmers closer to downtown restaurants.

“This opens the door for a lot of people to experience the farmers market,” she said.

While the Proprietors and CitySeed (as well as the city parks department, which manages the Green for the Proprietors) have agreed to the 2013 trial run in principle, details remain to be worked out, according to Berube.

Mayor John DeStefano called the plan “beneficial for both the Green and people to patronize the market.” He said it introduces an appropriate, healthy and good use of the Green.”

The Proprietors, who meet out of the public eye, have officially owned the Green and chosen their own successors since the early 17th century. The group began with the original settlers of New Haven Colony. The state legislature affirmed their descendants’ legal right to control the Green in 1683, then again in 1723. (Read more about that history here.) And to some extent control has stayed in the family: One of today’s five proprietors, Anne Tyler Calabresi, descends from the original proprietor Theophilus Eaton, who founded the colony along with John Davenport. (Click here to read a story about her favorite, rebellious ancestor from that period: Theophilus’s wife Anne.)

Melissa Bailey contributed reporting to this story.

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posted by: mariatup on February 22, 2013  6:06pm

Congratulations to CitySeed!!

posted by: wendy1 on February 22, 2013  6:45pm

Congrats to City Seed.  What a boon to the city.  What an education.  I remember when City Seed was just an idea coming out of a young pretty girl.  I’m glad the city listened.  No Farms. No food.  Read Eaarth by Bill McKibben.  Now the only big money I give is to farmers and small farm defenders.

posted by: Dean Moriarty on February 22, 2013  11:51pm

Wonderful idea and a great way to utilize a central part of New Haven which we all share.  A stark contrast to the recent hostage takeover of the Green.  Actually something that can benefit all.

posted by: Stephen Harris on February 23, 2013  10:20am

Well, it’s about time. The Green is supposed to be a place of vitality and activity, not a place of “quiet repose”.

posted by: HewNaven on February 23, 2013  11:49am

Hooray for common sense!

posted by: streever on February 24, 2013  1:00am

Congratulations Nicole & City Seed!

I’m glad to see the proprietors budge. Commercial activity doesn’t have to be the meaningless exchange of baubles for baubles: rather, it can be something exciting like local farmers earning a living selling food to residents.

This type of activity is what the Green desperately needs.

posted by: AMDC on February 24, 2013  7:18am

HMMMM…. what happens if they damage the grass and tree roots?  Will they be arrested and removed by the police?
Also,  there is NO PARKING around the Green.  Why can it not be in a location where there is parking and room to move.  BTW, move Wooster Square to either HSC or Conte School parking areas. That is a tight, inconvenient spot, convenient only to the elite and Yalies who live and play around there.  Not fair.

posted by: Stylo on February 24, 2013  12:32pm

ADMC: it’s not hard to find parking. Either street or garage. You may have to walk a few blocks. Big deal. It’s a city, not the suburbs.

posted by: SteveOnAnderson on February 24, 2013  12:38pm

This is exciting news. As someone who used to frequent the incredible farmer’s market around the capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin, I think a downtown market could really bring a lot of the city together on a more frequent basis in a very festive way. While “a little-known, self-perpetuating private quintet” is not the ideal body to have making decisions about the Green, it’s good to know that they got this right. Should be a fun summer!

posted by: TheMadcap on February 24, 2013  2:07pm

So is the city going to need to get the approval from the Proprietors for every little change put forward in the plan the other month to redo the green?

posted by: DingDong on February 24, 2013  4:02pm

AMDC—Every time I go the Green, I’m struck by how many of “the elite” are there getting on and off buses. It’s just like Davos in Connecticut. For $1.30 you can join us.

I’m sure there is a nice farmer’s market in North Haven with plenty of parking.

posted by: streever on February 24, 2013  4:54pm

No one is under any obligation to help you drive your car places. Please, feel free to join the rest of us on foot, bicycle, or bus.

posted by: AMDC on February 24, 2013  6:05pm

My (and your)  taxes pay for the roads i drive on and for the State ofn Ct buses you ride on.  I think it is our choice how to travel. You may walk as you are a youngster. Wait a few years and see how you feel.

posted by: Gretchen Pritchard on February 24, 2013  7:00pm

Doesn’t buying food at a food stall on Temple Street during Arts & Ideas, or some other concert on the Green, count as commerce?  Or is the sidewalk on Temple Street not officially part of the Green?

I’ve lived in New Haven since 1972 and I had NO idea it was illegal to buy or sell on the Green.  So many weird things about this town!

posted by: streever on February 24, 2013  9:43pm

Our tax dollars do not pay for parking, which costs hundreds of millions per year in lost opportunities.

posted by: Nathan on February 25, 2013  8:35pm

As we found out many years ago when organizing a small concert on the Green, Temple Street and the sidewalks are not considered a part of the ban on vending, which was why the larger shows that close the street can have food but smaller shows effectively could not.  This new experiment is a good idea as a pilot program, which should be observed carefully to determine if it should continue in the future.

posted by: AMDC on February 27, 2013  6:43am

@ DING DONG:  So, if you disagree with any scheme in NH, you must be rebuked and told you should leave go to the suburbs?  What about democracy and the free exchange of ideas?
Be careful what you wish for—- many folks are doing exactly as you say as NH becomes more and more an “unliveable and unaffordable city”.

posted by: TheMadcap on February 27, 2013  2:47pm

Except New Haven is becoming more unaffordable because people are moving back into the city and its mostly people from the suburbs who are well off enough to gentrify neighborhoods that were formerly for poor people. So that theory is out the window.

posted by: streever on February 27, 2013  3:24pm


Can you cite a study on that?

“There Goes the ’Hood”, published by Lance Freeman in 2003, is a book exploring what happened to Harlem and Clinton Hill post gentrification.

He found no causal relationship between dispersement (the process by which low-income individuals move) and gentrification, and in fact, found that more low-income families stayed than left in these two gentrified neighborhoods when compared to neighborhoods that did not get gentrified.

On average, low income families have much higher moving rates than the rest of the population, so when you just look at rates of moving in gentrified neighborhoods, it looks as if there is a displacement occuring.

However, when you look at the rates of moving in poor neighborhoods without gentrification, they are higher.

What we lose sight of too often in discussing gentrification is that we are talking about blighted neighborhoods that people routinely leave, either because they are doing better financially and can afford better, or because they do worse and move to save money or get a new job.

What we should focus on is helping all people meet their economic needs and enjoy a higher standard of living. Gentrification per se is not the problem: rather, systemic poverty and an inability to escape the cycle of debt and poverty that captures so many people is the problem.

Poverty is the enemy, and we need to help everyone get out of it.

posted by: anonymous on February 27, 2013  4:00pm

Madcap, neighborhoods inevitably change over time. If you have a city where neighborhoods are not changing in some way, then that almost always signals that the area is in rapid decline.

Suburbs are a good example. Many of them are pretty much the same as they were 40 years ago, and they are all now seeing triple digit increases in poverty.

The best way to address this problem is to provide affordable housing, located near transportation and other services. Affordable housing can be planned to respond to the changes taking place. For example, if an area is building housing towers, then one half of the new units should be set aside for the lowest income one half of the population. 

This was the plan for the Winchester/Science Park project - originally a mix of “affordable” housing for low income, and “workforce” housing for middle income, plus units for everyone else.  But due to the failure of our State and City policymakers, the “affordable” piece was mostly taken out.  If we had done things the right way, the redevelopment of this empty factory would have been even more of a blessing to the neighborhood and to society at large.

posted by: streever on February 27, 2013  5:06pm

Your positions are not consistent: on one hand you deplore the subsidization of Tweed because you do not use it, on the other, you demand subsidization of your personal and private parking so that you can enjoy events.

One of the largest uncounted costs to the City of New Haven is parking. Every foot of parking is a space that could be developed into a profit generating space, resulting in a tax benefit to the city.

Instead it is dead, empty space for metal machines.

If the city had a serious pedestrian and transit grid, this would not even be an issue, and the returns over time would be incredible.

posted by: AMDC on February 27, 2013  6:51pm

@Streever,  this citizen is already paying dearly for parking spaces and will not be traveling downtown without the metal machine.

And be careful how you use the word “dead” space and “metal machines”.  My purchase and care of, taxes, and maintenance the metal machine generates a lot more revenue and jobs than your subsidized buses and moribund Tweed International.
While I applaud the dreams of a pedestrian, European -style, communal style of existence, it is not a feasible reality in our spread out areas at the moment. And I LOVE farmer’s markets and supporting local enterprises. Maybe someday when we hit bottom and are forced to really reevaluate our entire lifestyle…  I do deplore Tweed because it is for the convenience of the elites to bop in and out of Yale. It is not for all the people. I don’t see it as a contradiction not to support an airport that serves a teeny group of people while supporting ways for many folks to travel to and enjoy downtown NH.
At least you didn’t tell me to go to North HAven for a market!!!

posted by: anonymous on February 27, 2013  7:11pm

“My purchase and care of, taxes, and maintenance the metal machine generates a lot more revenue and jobs than your subsidized buses and Tweed.”

I disagree:

1) Your car is much more heavily subsidized than the bus system, especially when land use is considered.

2) The money that Streever is not spending on a car does not just disappear into thin air. It can be spent to support local restaurants, small businesses, or housing costs (property tax).

3) In reality, the vast majority of money that people spend on their cars leaves the economy for good (much of it goes to Saudi Arabia).  The fact is that if even a tiny percentage of Connecticut residents got rid of their cars, and instead spent that money on local things like food and housing, the State would create thousands of local jobs.

posted by: streever on February 27, 2013  8:46pm

You could not be more wrong: the facts absolutely deny your assertion.

If you spend a few hours doing research on this, you’ll see—very quickly—just how much subsidized parking costs our society, and how poorly you are able to pay for it.

The resources are out there. Forgive me for not providing references and citations, but I’m not eager to spend 3 hours doing work for an anonymous conversation.

posted by: jim1 on February 28, 2013  11:24am

The road on the left side from elm st. to chaple st is part of the green land.  That is why on Sundays the cops cant ticket those cares. they are not on a city st. Have city seed set up on that side of the park.  just my 2 cents. I will walk to where they are set up because the food that is sold is from Ct. small farmers.  When the price of diesel gets to $6.00 per gal. no more produce from Calif. Unless you want to pay $5.00 for a red pepper.