Fair Haven development projects that meet Ward 8’s diversity of needs, increased job access for New Haven residents, and a strong civilian review board are among the objectives Alderman Aaron Greenberg has set his sights on as he seeks a second term.
Greenberg, a Yale University doctoral student from Los Angeles, beat out Independent Andy Ross to take the Ward 8 Board of Alder seat in 2013.
“I came in at a point of transition,” Greenberg said. “A new alderman for the first time in 10 years, and a new mayor.”
And regular meetings with residents-which cover every end of the socioeconomic spectrum-has helped in reading Ward 8’s pulse, Greenberg says.
“It’s hugely diverse,” he said. “It’s really a slice of New Haven-you have people who are struggling and people who are thriving.”
Access to jobs-and good ones-is a key step to bringing the former closer to the latter, Greenberg says.
But only 19,000 of New Haven’s 83,000 jobs go to a city resident, according to the organization New Haven Rising, which has been working on the issue. Meanwhile, the city’s unemployment rate sits at 8.1 percent, according to the Connecticut Department of Labor.
And the problem isn’t job training, Greenberg says. He pointed to an event held recently by the New Haven Black and Hispanic Caucus. Five hundred resumes-of unemployed New Haven residents-were presented during the meeting.
“Five hundred residents who are qualified to work,” Greenberg said. “They’re out there.”
One of the things Greenberg stresses is constituent engagement, but that starts with providing residents with jobs that pay livable wages, he said.
“If you don’t have a good job, you don’t have time to go to meetings,” Greenberg said.
Many of the meetings held around Ward 8 have centered around development projects such as the renovation of the Farnam Courts housing complex.
“It’s a lot of the reason I wanted to run again,” Greenberg said. “I want to make sure it’s done well and really advocate for my neighborhood.”
That project, he says, will set the tone for future development in the area.
“The broader vision is for Farnam Courts to be an anchor for development of the area,” Greenberg said. “I’d like to see Grand Avenue transform into a more pedestrian-friendly area-make it feel more like downtown.”
Last summer, The New Haven Independent reported that the $40 million renovation project-which will involve the gutting of 120 of the complex’s 244 units-will be a precursor to the exit of the Immanuel Baptist Homeless Shelter, which the Housing Authority reportedly plans to purchase in order to construct additional housing. A new location for the shelter would have to be found for that phase to proceed, according to The Independent.
Farnam Courts residents would be temporarily relocated and have the right of first return.
Greenberg, who sits on the Board of Alders Public Safety Committee, has been part of discussions regarding the restructuring of the city’s civilian review board-the product of a 2001 executive order by then-Mayor John DeStefano, Jr. Prompted by a 2013 referendum, the Committee went back to the drawing board last year, soliciting public input from residents that have called for a review board that holds independent investigative and subpoena powers, among other things.
While Greenberg said that he supports community policing as a way for law enforcement to maintain a dialogue with residents, he believes that a strong review board is essential for accountability.
“Having a civilian review board with as much teeth as we can give it legally is the key to keeping that balance,” Greenberg said. “I think we have to see how that plays out in the next Committee hearing, and I’m excited to continue working with my colleagues on it.”
This is a corrected version of the story. We originally reported that Greenberg defeated Peter Webster in the 2013 Election. That was incorrect-he defeated Webster in the Democratic Primary and then went on to run against Andy Ross for an open seat left by current City Clerk Michael Smart. We regret, and apologize for, that error.