Friday, May 11, 2012

At zoning hearing, Downtown Crossing developer and New Haveners talk jobs

By Angi Carter, Community Engagement Editor
Facebook: Angi Carter, Community Media Lab

(Update: The aldermanic Joint Finance/Legislation Committee on June 14 approved Downtown Crossing's proposed zoning map and text changes and the project's development agreement. The plan now goes to the full Board of Aldermen later this summer.)

There was only light discussion Thursday about developer Carter Winstanley's request for a zone change to create a bioscience hub at 100 College St. or the particulars of the  development agreement language.

The prospect of creating jobs dominated people's testimony during two public hearings on the proposed  $100 million "Downtown Crossing" project, to be built if approved by New Haven's Board of Aldermen, which doubles as the city's Zoning Commission.

The aldermanic chamber at City Hall was packed with New Haven residents and students, business leaders, city officials, labor organizers, environmental activists, historic preservationists and professionals who help the unemployed and underemployed.

New Haveners are hopeful that the development could bring new jobs, but they have reservations about whether they would fill them or be eclipsed by suburbanites who would commute into the city and possibly compound traffic patterns. Highway exit modifications off of Interstate 91 into downtown were not city planning officials.

"We're here talking about the zoning, but let's get real, we're here to talk about giving somebody a chance," said George Cunningham, a general contractor who owns a painting company.

Jobs and the state of the economy have also been the top issues identified by voters for the 2012 election, since the Register and its sister Connecticut papers, The Register Citizen, Middletown Press and Litchfield County Times started polling in December. As part of our new Citizens' Agenda project, we are assigning reporters to cover the priority topics chosen by voters in the 5th Congressional District and U.S. Senate races for open seats.

Winstanley, who has commuted to New Haven for 13 years from Massachusetts, where his commercial development company Winstanley Enterprises LLC and his family are based, told the Register Thursday there would be three "buckets" of jobs: construction, full-time positions created by tenant companies at the building and "follow-on"  or "multiplier" jobs such as HVAC technicians, security officers or sandwich shops, for example.

"It's all of the people employed around indistries like this," Winstanley said of the multiplier positions. "These are hard to quantify. They could be the police force. They could be almost anything."

Winstanley described the project's hiring goals and challenges during a recent meeting of the Dixwell Corridor Community Partners organization:

Winstanley Enterprises is partnering with colleges and universities such as Gateway Community College and job assistance and training programs such as Workforce Alliance and the city Commission on Equal Opportunites to identify contractors and workers who are "qualified" or "capable" and might need more training or assistance with matters such as bonding, insurance or lines of credit.

"This is about jobs for the future," said James Rawlings, a pharmacist and president of the Greater New Haven branch of the NAACP. "It's up to us as a community to prepare our young people for these careers."

James Rawlings (left at podium) and Maurice Williams of the NAACP address New Haven aldermen.
Industry in New Haven and around New England is strong in biotechnology, medicine and public health, Rawlings said, and students must be given the foundation to compete in those fields.

The Occupy movement and the labor community around the world held actions on May Day to bring attention the needs of workers and the unemployed seeking jobs. In New Haven, that was followed up last Sunday by gathering at The People's Center to discuss solidarity, New Haven's Jobs Pipeline and the 2012 Elections.

Recent panel discussion among (from left to right) Steve Thornton, a labor organizer at Waterbury Hospital; David Roy and Nollysha Canteen of the Jobs Pipeline coordinating committee; and moderator Sherman Malone.
Paula Panzarella, a resident of New Haven's West River neighborhood who is active in socio-economic and environmental advocacy, testified about her concerns over traffic management and pollution and asked the aldermen not to focus on matters of air quality and public health in their efforts to boost the city's workforce.

Business and nonprofit leaders including builder and property manager Lynn Fusco, William Placke, president of Start Community Bank, George Clark, head of the Greater New Haven Business and Professional Association, and William Ginsberg, executive director of the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, said the project would bring new tax revenue and contribute to long-term economic growth.

The public hearings were continued to clarify a matter related to noticing, but members of the New Haven Urban Design League said they would return when the hearings are rescheduled to present concerns around parking requirements, active uses and safe walkability, buffer zones and open space.

Contact Angela Carter at 203-789-5752 or

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