First, let me say: I love New Haven. I think it’s a very cool small city with a lot going for it. We’ve got pizza and culture and Yale and a beach and a carny Ferris wheel during Christmas.
But it could always be better. Being a small city, we sometimes lack certain infrastructures of larger cities. Whether it’s better, more reliable public transportation, or more niche establishments, it’s hard to match the charm and permanent urine smell of a place like New York City. But we can try, can’t we?
So here’s five ideas about how we can make New Haven a better city in the (very) near future.
1. Build a Bike Share Program
Supposedly, this is already in the works. Meanwhile, Yale already has one but everybody knows Yalies are afraid to leave the Ivory Quad and most of us aren’t Yalies, so that’s a non-starter.
A mysterious Google map document shows proposed locations of bike share stations, but City Director of Transporatation Doug Hausladen claims that map is bogus and not the direction they’re headed. Which is too bad, cause I think it’s not bad, though definitely needs more representation in Westville and Fair Haven at least.
Still, New Haven is a tremendously bikeable city. But not for out-of-town residents. They’re stuck using their legs like neanderthals.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could park somewhere, grab a bike, and really enjoy the city, exploring with some freedom and really enjoying the city with all of these glorious new bike lanes?
2. Open a Biergarten
(Note: That’s German for Beer Garden for you uncouth youngsters.)
How is this not already a thing? New Haven has like six craft beer bars, eight Irish pubs, 13 Italian restaurants, 72 pizza places, and zero biergartens?
It may be that downtown is simply a difficult place to pull it off. You truly need an outdoor experience in order to set the mood, but I absolutely think a place with craft beer (especially a few German beers) and German snacks like pretzels, bratwurst, etc. would kill in New Haven.
I mean, Stamford has two of them! We gonna let Stamford be better than us? Hell no we aren’t.
Or, you know, maybe we can open like five new pizza places and see how that goes.
3. Make Public Transportation More Convenient/Easier to Understand
The bus system is one of those New Haven entities which splits people along demographics almost entirely. For many working-class residents, the bus system is absolutely integral to getting to work, getting around the city, etc.
For the more affluent citizens, they’d never dream of taking the bus. Which is silly. Cause people in bigger cities, like smelly New York, take the bus all the time. They’re pretty convenient and super cheap.
But they’re also confusing. If you don’t know which bus goes where, it’s not at all obvious, standing at a bus stop, how to figure it out. You can really spend quite a bit of time working out the schedule on the little signs, and even then, you better know where you’re going ahead of time.
I’ve used the Transit App with some success in figuring this out, but not everybody knows about it, and I think some kind of local bus stop display would be excellent with this, so a casual passer-by could look and immediately know when and where a bus is going.
For me, at least, I know there are times I’d love to get up to East Rock easily, but the bus won’t be coming by for another 45 minutes. Of course, more buses = more money = higher taxes, and we all know how people feel about that.
A trolley/light rail would be even more amazing, but that may be pie in the sky.
4. Laundromats with beer!
I remember when I lived in New Britain (I know, I know), they opened a laundromat/bar called Spin Cycle in Newington. It seems utterly insane to me.
Then again, you know what sucks? Doing laundry. You know what makes things suck less? Alcohol. (Note: Your mileage may vary.)
These things do, in fact, exist outside of my imagination. In fact, a good friend of mine has talked about opening one. But I don’t think she’s gonna do it so I’m putting it out there: I think a laundromat/bar in East Rock could do pretty well.
Plenty of grad students around without washers and dryers. Plus, isn’t it romantic to meet your future life partner at a laundromat? And won’t it be easier to spark that romance with a nice glass of Cabernet?
5. Reduce the Panhandling/Homeless Problem
One of the biggest complaints from visitors of New Haven is one thing all Elm City residents understanding: the aggressive panhandling downtown.
On a recent Wednesday night, on the walk from Bar to my apartment near Cask Republic, I was asked for money four times. That’s… quite a lot.
This, of course, is an extremely difficult problem to tackle. I don’t know if most of the people asking for money are homeless. I don’t know if they have shelters available or if they’re overcrowded or what. I know they’re sure as hell not all telling the truth.
Hell, two weeks ago I gave a guy a buck and he asked for another 20, saying he hadn’t seen his kids in a year (a problem unlikely to be solved by 20 bucks) and then he berated me for not giving him more. Cool, man, glad we had this talk.
This population makes people feel unsafe and it makes the whole area feel less welcome. Which is not to say that we should ignore the underlying socioeconomic problems. But giving people money isn’t solving the problem, either.
I know one idea is parking meters for giving money to the homeless. But I have no idea if that’s the solution.
I wish I knew what the answer was. I really do. I do think New Haven does a pretty excellent job with our homeless population. But we have a long way to go to make our city more appealing, both to residents and to visitors.
If you have an idea, I’d love to hear it.
Spin Cycle! Good times there!
Beergardens.. Little “Did you know?” fact.. the building which used to house Gotham, currently vacant, standing at the corner of Crown and Church, used to be a world class German Beer Garden:
Uh and yeah, I need a German place in my life pretty badly in New Haven. There are tons of great spots in Fair Haven that would work, the aforementioned Crown and Church spot would work, or even the old Playwright / Russian Lady, which is cavernous and currently remains vacant.
And instead of the bus system, I’d still like to see New Haven at least acknowledge the existence of this once awesome idea which apparently got buried:
Wow I had no idea about the Beer Garden, that’s awesome.
I’d also love to see a street car, but there were a lot of New Haven neighborhoods (The Hill, Newhalville, Fair Haven, etc.) which felt they would not be served and instead the street car would serve only affluent neighborhoods like downtown, East Rock, Yale, etc. which is a fair criticism, I think.
A biergarten is not going to fly in New Haven. Liquor laws state that a to serve alcohol outdoors it has to be in a fenced in area around on the premises of a restaurant, which is why when you go to O’Tooles (or what ever it’s called these days) you’re quite literally penned in. And the cops would quite literally be staked out looking for people to arrest.
In Philadelphia, they needed to get around similar limitations. The city wound up granting “temporary catering permits” to establishments with existing liquor permits in order to set up beer gardens. Not sure if NH could do the same thing, but I’m sure with some creative thinking and a strong will to day drink outdoors, a solution could be found.