Hey, did you hear there was something going on last weekend in New Haven?
Yeah, there was this totally cool bike race, the New Haven Grand Prix. Annnnnd the New Haven Apizza Feast (not to be confused with the New Haven Pizza Festival?). Annnnnnnd the Q Bridge Grand Opening Celebration.
Are you not entertained?!
Well, are you? Because New Haven desperately wants you to be entertained with their food truck festivals and bicycle races and bridge parties.
You like New Haven, don’t you? He’s your buddy. He’s got tons of cool events and stuff.
Oh, sure, he’s a murderous little fuck. He’s got a few blighted parts. And he has some spectacularly deranged friends who keep asking you for money and for some reason can’t seem to just get bus fare together even though it’s been like two years.
But he also knows this cool bar that’s opening up. And he knows about some really great restaurants that make these duck nachos that are to die for.
New Haven wants so badly for you to love it. It wants to be The Greatest Small City in America and even has a hashtag. #GSCIA!
… probably not.
But so what? Why does it have to be The Greatest? Can’t it just be a pretty awesome, if not flawed, place?
Yeah, New Haven has problems. Serious problems.
We’ve got some complex crime problems that aren’t going to be eradicated without long-term cultural shifts in parenting, youth intervention, etc. The kinds of problems you can’t solve by just having more cops walking around.
Church Street South (public housing project) is in the middle of one of the most ridiculous, drawn-out, ugly conflicts I’ve ever seen. Apartments condemned, families forced to relocate. I’m sure the city would love to just wipe it off the face of the Earth and build some shiny new apartment complex welcoming people to their visionary Hill-to-Downtown region (utopia?).
Maybe it’ll happen, maybe it won’t.
But say what you want about this city: It’s trying.
Heck, they’re even thinking about these sweet new public toilets.
It’s like the perfect metaphor for the city. We are attempting to create something for the public good which serves us all and provides a fair aesthetic. But there’s also a solid chance it’ll just be ruined by people who don’t give a shit.
But you have to try. You have to pour those blood, sweat, and tears into the city because it is what you make it. And New Haven is small enough that each and every contribution we make counts.
Like the prolific murals of Kwadwo Adae. Or the lovely photographs of I Love New Haven.
All around us the changes are palpable. New apartment buildings are seemingly going up overnight. New restaurants are opening all the time.
Hell, we’re even getting a Barcade. FINALLY.
(Which, btw, is pretty much where I’m going to live from now on.)
Listen, I love New Haven. I think it’s awesome. I love that I can walk to work. That I can bike to any bar or house party or Stop & Shop I want (even if that Stop & Shop comes with a lot of street cred).
But it’s a work in progress, and that’s good, too. We’re part of that transformation. As people gravitate towards cities for their culture and events and connectedness, New Haven is at the forefront of growing with that.
I don’t know where the future lies with New Haven. Will the downtown housing boom really work? Are there really enough working professionals to fill all these new apartment buildings?
Will every new restaurant succeed? (Hahhahaha… no.) Will we ever finally get the Canal Trail to go all the way to the beach? Please?
Hey, you never know.
Even the State Street Bridge eventually got fixed.
Lot of solid analysis in this piece – great juggling of optimism and cynicism. Well done!
Not to be an event-in-new-haven-that-happened-last-weekend-expert or anything, but you left out the East Rock Festival, the New Haven Block Party on the green, and the Edgewood Park old-timey something or other. For a city of this size, I’m in agreement that there’s a lot of stuff here, with lots of potential for improvement.
Fair points! It’s not easy to keep up with everything, especially on a busy weekend like that one. It’s not usually quite that happening, though.
I can tell you haven’t lived here very long, so you aren’t familiar with exactly why many harbor such a distaste for their hometown, so I’ll attempt to explain;
I’ve said recently to more than one person that just because things change, doesn’t mean they get better. That seems to be a contradiction, but there’s a great amount of truth to it. You see, long before the lumbersexuals sipping over priced “craft cocktails” with meaningless made up names at their local gastropub, the “freelance graphic designers” riding their penny farthings to the office, and the hip Apple iPhone carrying technophiles moved in, New Haven used to be a very salt of the Earth type of town. It wasn’t much, but at the very least there were things that you knew you could count on . You knew could go to the Coliseum to see a hockey game. You knew you could get a sandwich at Forbes Market, and you knew that you could go to the Anchor and wash down the day with a few beers. As they say time and tide wait for no man, yet the things that have replaced those institutions have made the residents that haven’t started their own blog feel alienated from the very place they attempted to call home. Especially over the last ten years that alienation has become more profound. You see a bike race, I see another event based around a niche sport that will never become popular in the U.S. as a desperate attempt to be “different” while Yale Field which used to be home to a minor league baseball team (which for a long time seemed like some city officials were actively trying to chase out of town) sits idle. You see food trucks, I see somebody selling food poisoning on a street corner. You see a mural depicting “art”, I see “what the hell is that supposed to be?”. You see a celebration opening the Q Bridge, I see eventually cursing being stuck in traffic. You see an “apartment boom”, I see long time residents being FORCED OUT, because they can no longer afford New York rents that are missing the thing that justifies them, and that’s New York.
To exacerbate this, city leaders have had a history of making one mistake after another, and doing things that don’t benefit the most citizens. The Coliseum was torn down with no plan to replace it. Gateway took a MAJOR chunk of prime real estate off the tax rolls FOREVER. And let’s not forget that streets don’t get plowed, and trash sits on the side of the road never being picked. And this is not even counting the “urban renewal” of the 60’s in which entire neighborhoods were torn down and they BUILT NOTHING. Highways to nowhere with rage inducing traffic, bridges to nowhere, all paid for with squandered tax dollars.
This may sound overly cynical, but it’s borne of experience. This town has consistently let many people down, and quite frankly there’s a lot citizens out there who honestly have no idea why we still live here. While you say “it takes time”, we’ve seen these same mistakes repeated over and over, and the electorate keeps voting the same way because many of us have just given up. At this point I’m wondering how long it will be before the city takes away the very last thing I like, comic book store, from me.
Robot hit the nail on the head. Ive lived here since i was 14, 34 now, and in that time i have seen the town change drastically. There are two social classes – the “townies
geez. walk the entire length of whalley some day for some street cred. stop at edge of the woods and take a breath in westville to collect yourself if necessary. see some kids riding bikes on the sidewalk not hurting a darn thing. new haven is a town, and at times a cool one. but the scene doesn’t own anyone. for me the parks, the people, the familiar spots are unique and inviting. its an easy place to call home. i don’t think it needs to be branded like a product, and i know not what wealthier entities live on or in the community “product” that is new haven, and don’t want them to feel they own the common people who outlive them in droves.
p.s. i don’t think lumbersexual should have ever been a word. it’s very limiting, i’m guessing it’s beards and flannels but all the people you mentioned are just different types of people like yourself. i also don’t get what is sexual about it. there is still a regular person vibe in new haven. almost everyone who lives here is, even those people. and almost everyone has a fancier phone than 10 years ago.
Tend to agree about lumbersexual. Dumb term.
Otherwise enjoy the feedback. You’re right that it doesn’t need to be a product, though city officials often want to sell it as one.