Power struggle in Connecticut

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — The New Haven Board of Aldermen held a fiery hearing on July 25 regarding a proposal for a special hospital zone which will include a $430 million Cancer Center at Yale New Haven Hospital.

Residents testified that they oppose the zone because it would enable the hospital to expand without community input. “CORD is in favor of the cancer center,” said Tawana Galbraith, a Community Organized for Responsible Development vice-chair, “but the residents must be a part of the negotiating process. We must have a seat at the table.”

Yale New Haven Hospital is in the heart of the Hill neighborhood, which is largely African American and Latino. While the hospital states, “we make great neighbors,” Galbraith challenged the proposal for a large new parking garage. “Our neighborhood is a residential area. Would you want smog and traffic problems in your neighborhood?” she asked.

Tawana Marks, who works at the hospital, suggested the hospital provide free bus passes instead of building a garage. Using one of the hospital parking lots costs her $55 a month. “That’s 2 percent of my salary,” she said.

“The fumes from the garage might cause more health problems,” said Verelda Wilson, who spoke as part of a seven-person delegation of tenants of Trade Union Plaza, which faces the site of the proposed garage. Wilson said that New Haven has the highest asthma hospitalization rate in Connecticut.

“We are not against the Cancer Center,” she explained. “But we oppose the zone. Traffic is bad enough now,” she said, describing how seniors have a hard time crossing the streets and school buses have problems picking up children.

Cortez Stewart, a member of Unite Here Local 34 at Yale who lives a few blocks from the hospital, asked, “How would you like to smell fumes in your neighborhoods? The hospital has no respect for us.”

Al Marder, representing the New Haven People’s Center, led a large delegation to the microphone. “The People’s Center and the hospital have been neighbors since 1937,” he said. “The hospital has chosen a path of confrontation and a policy to divide the community when it would be much easier, certainly much wiser, to respect the feelings of their neighbors and benefit from their suggestions.”

The Rev. Abraham Hernandez from the Hill spoke against a special zoning permit for the hospital because “this would allow them to expand and take ownership in our city.”