How Seven Years Has Changed My Perceptions of Neighborhoods

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New Haven from above

Seven years ago, I moved to East Rock. And thus began my New Haven journey. I didn’t know then how much my life would change in the coming years. What began as an attempt to save money on rent by living with roommates turned into a love for a city and eventually, purchasing a home in that city.

But as time has passed, so have my perceptions. What I once viewed as dangerous neighborhoods where I couldn’t imagine anybody living, I now view as, well… home.

Run down shack
Aw, home sweet home.

So, too, has my view of my old neighborhoods changed.

I thought it would be fun to revisit how I first viewed various New Haven neighborhoods, and how those perceptions have evolved over time.

East Rock

Before

Oh my gosh, this neighborhood is so cute! Look at all these adorable little markets. And people out walking with their precious babies, and people jogging around the neighborhood! I love it here!

P&M Market
Look at all those people! Just enjoying the world! In a city!

To just sit outside, and enjoy the sunshine and a cold beer on Orange Street, waving at your friendly neighbors.

Plus, it’s so safe! None of the dangerous crime people associated with New Haven here!

After

Ah, the first wave if gentrification: make sure housing is unaffordable for non-white people!

Whenever I’m in East Rock, I can pretty much count on one hand the number of black New Haven residents I see. And I pretty much already know them.

Snuggie gif
I don’t know why I think I’m the exception to the rule.

It’s hipster central, with its bike lanes and coffee shops and wine bars and $750,000 houses nobody can afford. Except predatory landlords who are happy to overcharge Yale postdocs for run-down “loft” apartments.

Plus, since nobody owns and everybody rents, good luck getting these people to shovel their sidewalks. Last winter, I’d say something like 40% of all the sidewalks were just left totally covered in snow.

Well done, folks.

Wooster Square

Before

Little Italy, home to two of the most famous pizzerias in the world, plus Libby’s bakery with its lovely Italian ice.

Pepe's Pizza
Good things come to those that wait.

Plus, the lovely park and of course, one of New Haven’s loveliest streets, Court Street, with its tree-covered canopy and pedestrian walkway.

After

Wooster Square is also pretty aggressively white, and I’m pretty sure Wooster Square Park has turned into some sort of quasi-meat market for people with dogs.

Dog lying in park
“Okay, Scuffy, now we wait for cuties!”

Because Wooster Square is a gateway to other neighborhoods, it does have more crime than some other neighborhoods, and boy are they furious about it.

Plus, they’re special. So special their bike share doesn’t have to have ads. Cause history.

Still, Pepe’s and Sally’s are dope. It’s hard to hate.

(Though I’m doing my best.)

Wooster Square Park
The park is pretty nice, though.

Fair Haven

Before

A mysterious, colorful neighborhood full of restaurants and stores I haven’t set foot in. And also the folks at C-Town who laughed at me when I tried to buy a shovel after a snowstorm.

Fair Haven restaurants
Whoa whoa whoa, who uses COLORS for their storefronts?!

After

Pretty much the same, actually. I have done an extremely poor job of exploring Fair Haven. Despite having nearly bought two houses there. The waterfront is gorgeous, and the newish Quinnipic River housing projects are lovely.

However, I will say that if you are ever here at night, I find the community to be thriving, even at night, perhaps even later than downtown.

Westville

Before

Oh my god why is Westville so impossibly far away. And sooooo boring.

Except for Delaney’s, which has the most glorious beer selection and sweet potato fries in the whole world. Plus their whole disjointed college bar/fine dining establishment vibe is hilarious.

Delaney's Tap Room
Ugh. It still hurts.
Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/brostad/4502963332

Brunch Central, too, with two of the best options in Bella’s (impossible to get into) to Lena’s (slightly more impossible). Manjaras is an underrated spot, too.

After

Oh, you know what, it’s not that far, suddenly. Plus, all my friends apparently decided to live here cause who can afford a house in East Rock? Rich people, that’s who.

Unfortunately, after Delaney’s burned to the ground, there’s basically nothing to do. Except the weekly open mic at Lyric Hall hosted by my good friend Kendra Dawsey every Thursday at 7pm.

Lyric Hall flyer
No, I’m not just promoting this cause I’ll be there, that would be ridiculous.

Aside from that, boringsiville. Just like the rendering of the new Delaney’s building.

New development in Westville
Well, that’s certainly… a thing…
Image courtesey New Haven Independent

However, word on the street is we’re getting a new rooftop restaurant from the genius that brought us Shell and Bones. C’monnnnnn.

Downtown

Before

This is where the magic happens! The restaurants, the bars, the Green! This is the place to be!

You can walk anywhere and see a million people you know, it’s great! It makes you feel so connected to the city. You see the new places opening (or closing), you get to try everything before everyone else.

Pokelicious
Now that the Great Froyo Wars have ended… let The Great Poke Wars commence.

Sure, being asked for money 22 times a day feels like a lot, but you get used to it, and still try to be polite and humanizing.

After

Downtown is full of transient Yale-types who are only here to get their medical residencies done and flee to a “real” city as quickly as possible.

There are very few stakeholders here, which is why they are combined with the Wooster Square Community Meetings — basically nobody here cares about the long-term health of the city.

They’re here to work, party, and gtfo.

But hey, at least you can watch a weekly fight break out at Brother Jimmy’s every Saturday night. Hooray unchecked testosterone I guess.

Oh, and of course, incredibly over/underdressed people waiting in line for terrible bars. That’s fun, right?

Downtown Line
Okay not everything is worth the wait actually.

Newhallville

Before

This is one of those scary New Haven neighborhoods people talk about. People get jumped on their bikes on the Canal Trail all the time.

Farmington Canal Trail
Follow this trail… TO YOUR DOOM!

All of the gang violence in New Haven basically happens here. The consolation is that you’re not in a gang. Just cause of the very strict admission procedures. What can I say, I don’t look good in red.

After

Yeah, there’s crime here. But there’s crime everywhere. And most of the people committing crimes are just stupid teenagers. And it’s petty crime. You need a new phone anyway.

Newhalville is a lot like every other neighborhood in New Haven. Regular folks trying to make their lives better, looking out for each other.

Winchester Lofts
The Winchester Lofts are a little incongruent with the rest of the neighborhood

Plus, the residents here are often actually neighborly, talking to their community, having block parties and shit. We could learn from that.

Edgewood

Before

What kind of moron would choose to live in a place like this? Look at all the trash everywhere. Dollar Haven? Seriously? Someone actually shops at a place called Dollar Haven next to a wing place?

They both look terrifying.

Plus, this neighborhood is boring as hell. There’s legit nothing to do here.

Edgewood Park is kinda nice, though. But far.

After

The greatest neighborhood in the history of the world.

Okay, maybe I’m biased cause I bought a house there. But it’s a cool place. And it has a mix of everyone. It has white people, black people, Hispanic people. Okay, mostly white and black people.

But you get the full demographics, really. Yale professors, young professionals, retired folks, families, young and middle age working class, people struggling to get by, public housing, everything.

Diversity
It’s exactly like this, except nobody holds hands or even talks to each other.

It’s sort of the forefront of gentrification I guess. Do I have to open a gluten free muffin shop or will someone else do it?

We are getting a new skate park so that’s pretty rad.

I do wish there are something else to do besides go to Edgewood Park, but hey, the folks hanging outside Liquor World seem to be having a pretty good time, so who am I to judge.

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Listen, folks. This is done mostly in jest. Please don’t write me angry emails about how great East Rock is and how you know a black person there. I know. It was a joke. Calm down.

There’s nothing wrong with being white or having very white neighborhoods, but certainly, we have to admit, New Haven is a pretty segregated town. And it’s not something I thought about a lot before I moved into a much more mixed neighborhood. So this is a reflection of that.

If you have your own thoughts, why not hit me up at josh@betweentworocks.com and write something yourself, eh?

Thanks for reading as always, you beautiful people.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. The Wooster Square bike rental doesn’t have ads because that overly-large sidewalk is technically a “park”, and the deal with McDonalds doesn’t allow for advertising in parks. That’s why some of the rental spots have multiple ads. Which is a more annoyingly-wonkish form of gentrification I guess.

  2. Love it!

    I hope these special New Haven neighborhoods don’t experience gentrification that pushes and pushes out. Glad to know Fair Haven is still busy as the lights go down, and here is to hoping that it doesn’t get too discovered by the realtors…

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