Letters to the Editor

Our readers respond

New Haven, then and now

It was heartening to read your May/June cover story, "Then and Now: How a City Came Back from the Brink." This article was particularly painful yet uplifting to me (and my family), as Christian Prince is my brother. While we have felt the pain of having lost Christian in such a senseless way, every day for the past 18 years, knowing that Christian's death was a catalyst for Yale and New Haven to do much more than co-exist is a tribute to Christian's legacy, not only in life but, sadly, in death too.

Of all the remarkable stories that were shared with us around his death, the one that stands out was that of a local New Haven homeless man who found my father at Christian's memorial service to share a story about Christian buying him breakfast a few weeks before -- Christian's parting words to this homeless man were to "keep on marching" -- a tale not only of my brother's kindness and generosity but also a vivid picture of the relationship between Yale and New Haven.

Our family has been intimately tied into that relationship, as my grandmother and great-grandfather were both from New Haven. In Christian's death and, I am sure, for many other reasons, Yale realized it had to invest in and nurture its relationship with New Haven, and now, 18 years later, that investment (despite David Swensen's amazing endowment returns) seems to be the best one of all.

As a family with a long tradition at Yale, my father, sister, and I now often return to New Haven despite the tragedy we lived through there. We know that over time Yale and New Haven keep marching to a better place -- a small but meaningful tribute to a happy-go-lucky sophomore who loved both Yale and New Haven.

Edward Prince Jr. ’88
Edward Prince Sr. ’59
Jackie Prince Roberts ’84, ’89MES, ’89MBA
Chevy Chase, MD


"Then and Now" is a thoughtful reminder for alumni who fled after graduation and are unaware of how much has changed in New Haven. As recent visits have taught me, while the developments in and around Yale have made their mark, there's a different style of impact just minutes from the campus. Anyone seeking a jolt of beauty should visit Wooster Square in April. The park there is inviting. Neighbors are out and about. The homes around the square are elegant and obviously loved. The eye-popping vision is the beauty of the cherry blossoms. Here stands New Haven's own Tidal Basin of splendor.

Don Kornblet ’66
St. Louis, MO


I would like to applaud your articles regarding New Haven's rebirth. Certainly both the city and Yale deserve praise for what has been accomplished. However, you seem to gloss over the finer points when discussing the price paid for revitalization.

During the years I attended Yale, the Broadway corridor, as you mention, was extensively renovated. However, I cannot say it was much improved. Family businesses, such as Quality Wine, were lost in the process. They were replaced by generic corporate retailers. You do state that for most of the city's lower-income residents the boom has simply passed them by. But how can citizens benefit when their own businesses are being shut down? In more recent history the plight of the Yankee Doodle comes to mind as yet another pointless loss.

No one wishes for New Haven to return to the city it was two decades ago, but I fail to see how replacing local entrepreneurs with an Urban Outfitters or J. Crew contributes much to "urban vitality." It does, however, contribute to Yale's bottom line. As alumni we have a duty to be honest with ourselves about the university we love and support, even if the truth isn't always pretty.

Maro Sciacchitano ’03
Washington, DC


Your cover story is not a bad PR piece for Yale and New Haven, but as in most older American cities, the tens of millions of dollars that have been spent on physical improvements have produced virtually no net benefit for the large underclass. The same can be said of Baltimore where I live.

First, physical improvements pushed by elected officials are not designed to raise the living standards of the poor, whether it be large urban renewal projects like New Haven saw, or the new stadiums or arenas or the large infrastructure programs the Obama administration is pouring billions of dollars into. There is absolutely no evidence that these massive public works projects reduce poverty.

Second, it is self-evident that a decent education is the ticket to opportunity for anybody, not public works projects. One can easily trace the failure of urban public education over the last 40 or 50 years to focusing on the feel-good things rather than the nuts and bolts of education which have been true for hundreds of years -- hard work, high expectations, and insistence on learning basic skills without exception. An excessive emphasis on artificial school integration was done at the expense of improving the quality of education for everyone. (Contrived school integration was an absolute failure in our urban public school systems, as proven by the fact that they are far more segregated today than they were 50 years ago, and public education in these systems is far worse.) Urban teachers unions, supported by elected officials, have focused on protecting the interests of teachers at the expense of producing quality education, through short tenure (three years), the difficulty of terminating ineffective teachers, and a seniority system that protects the lazy and incompetent. Unless mayors and local school boards are held accountable for education results, there will be no improvement in the lives of the underclass in New Haven or any other American city.

David F. Tufaro ’69
Baltimore, MD


Regarding the May/June cover photo, I found your side-by-side use of photographs from two distinctly different areas of downtown New Haven to be quite deceiving. I was born and raised in New Haven and still live in the greater New Haven area, and as such am quite familiar with both the areas pictured. Unfortunately, the area shown in the dank black-and-white photograph from the late 1980s has not improved all that much. Where's the before picture of Broadway? Was it not rundown enough for a dramatic comparison? Why weren't before-and-after photos taken of the areas that have seen significant improvement, such as College Street? New Haven is a great city that has made significant improvements in the last two decades; don't your readers deserve an accurate depiction of that fact?

Barbara Borger
Guilford, CT

We too would have preferred a before-and-after pair of the same site, and we spent many staff hours looking for one. But high-quality photos of past New Haven street scenes are rare. In the end, we chose the Chapel/Broadway pair as a reasonable depiction of the city's general shift (particularly as a luxury high-rise is going up a block from the Chapel site) and identified the two sites fully in the article caption. -- Eds.


When I was an undergraduate, a newspaper clipping framed under glass hung on the wall outside Alexander Witherspoon's English department office. Yellow with age, the clipping enumerated a multitude of cultural benefits New Haven offered to members of the Yale community.

New Haven was once the largest, most thriving city in the state -- a city of elms and industry. During the war years, arms factories were everywhere. I learned the extent of the industry in New Haven from a rare perspective. About the time I first burned the roof of my mouth on one of Pepe's tomato pies, I went to work in Fremont Dickerman's fuel yard: coal, oil, cordwood. Occasionally we picked up a load of coke from the plant down by the harbor. We delivered kindling wood to brass foundries as far away as Waterbury. I dreaded deliveries to those places. The fumes burned my lungs. I'd take a deep breath before entering the shop, run across the floor with the bag on my back, hurl it into the bin, and try to make it out to fresh air before having to take another breath. We lugged 125-pound bags of stove coal up three and four flights in the tenements where working families lived. It was only the working people, many of whom spoke to each other in Italian, who ever gave us a tip or offered a cup of coffee or something even warmer on a frigid day.

By the time I moved away in 1966, the last carload of coal had coasted down the old canal line tracks. My grandmother (who delighted in reminding me that her grandmother had forbidden her to ever pass through the swinging doors to Mory's bar on Temple Street) died that year, lamenting the demise of the city she knew.

If the revitalization of New Haven proves real and lasting, it will be a sign that there is hope the rest of the industrial United States can follow suit. It is urgent that a new global economy be invented. The myth of continual growth based on ever greater exploitation of natural resources has been revealed as a destructive fantasy. The philosophy of perpetual growth to which that myth gave rise will be discarded, or we are all extinct.

Edward B. Anderson ’59, ’66BD
Nantucket, MA


I appreciated so much the thorough collection of articles on the new life in New Haven and Yale's commitment to the city. I believe it is genuine. I and my family lived in the Hill for six years; my heart is in the city and at Yale. One thing I found missing in the articles, and it has been missing from previous attempts at redevelopment and revitalization, is a true partnership between the lives and stories of people at Yale and in the neighborhoods of New Haven. I read such wonderful accounts of Yale "helping," but I longed to read stories of people in New Haven helping Yale.

Throughout the articles the people of the city, ordinary folks like ourselves, were referred to as "the poor," or I read phrases such as "the boundaries of civilization" or "danger" and "violence." Surely when we lived there and now there are issues of violence, the need for improved educational opportunities, and more. But, whether globally or locally, when the "Yale" in me views the "Hill" in me as only "other," someone to help, true partnership will be elusive. One picture (page 53) epitomized the issue. We read the names of the Yale students "dishing out" "surplus food": AJ, Matthew, Kenny, and Hayley. But I don't know the name of the recipient. I see him only from the back, but his words hauntingly speak to us all: "A few of them even try to understand where you're coming from."

Until we learn to really see and know and understand each other in community, there is no community. We then repeat the cycle of redevelopment of the 1970s: the "risk of the development that's been going on downtown is that low-income people of color are forced out" (page 43). True community means no one is forced out and all learn from one another. That is what a Yale education in the city should be all about. Are we on our way?

Norma Cook Everist ’76MDiv
Dubuque, IA

We try to identify everyone in our photos when possible, but the soup kitchen photo was difficult because soup kitchen clients don't always want to be identified. Our writer spoke with several clients who preferred we not use their names. We picked the photo on page 53 because no clients' faces are visible. The client we quoted (who is not the client in the photo) also preferred to be anonymous. -- Eds.



Bullets and beer

I was surprised at the uncertainty concerning the expression "the whole nine yards" (You Can Quote Them, May/June). My initial thought was, "Everybody knows that."

As boys growing up during World War II, my friends and I devoured as many of the minutiae of military matters as we could get. The expression "the whole nine yards" was used by pilots of the P-51 pursuit fighter, introduced to the European Theater of Operations in 1944. The ammunition belts of its .50 caliber guns were 27 feet in length. When on occasion a pilot returned to base with fuel in his tanks and was asked why he had landed, he usually had as his reason "I've shot the whole nine yards" -- and was thus out of ammo. He couldn't continue to sortie until he had landed and reloaded.

As boys, we picked up the expression and applied it whenever we wished to express that one had given everything he had, in a given endeavor.

James P. Andrews ’60
Port Royal, SC


None of the explanations that Fred Shapiro presented for the origins of the phrase "the whole nine yards" accords with what I learned about it. My understanding is that a "yard" was a large measure of alcohol. If a person drank the whole nine yards, that was considered quite an achievement. A restaurant that I used to frequent in Bloomington, Indiana, actually had what they claimed to be the glassware that measured out an entire yard of beer. From what I could see, drinking nine of those glasses would occasion a call to the undertaker rather than a pat on the back.

Craig G. Ortsey ’95MS
Fort Wayne, IN


Cars and Keynes

In "Once an Economist, Always an Economist" (Q&A: Rick Levin, May/June), Yale's president states, "I think the optimum number of U.S. auto companies is one. Maybe two, but certainly not three." I wonder what Levin thinks is the optimum number of U.S. universities?

Mary Cerrone ’90MArch
Pittsburgh, PA


In his May/June interview, President Levin says that "modern macroeconomists have forgotten much of the wisdom contained in [the] General Theory" of John Maynard Keynes. With all due respect to the president, this is like saying that modern physicists have "forgotten the wisdom" contained in Newton's Principia or modern psychologists that of Freud's Interpretation of Dreams.

Like all other natural and social sciences, economics progresses by developing theories which explain how things happened in the past, and then testing them by using them to predict what will happen in the future. The theories which make better predictions survive, only to be refined and challenged by further theorizing and empirical testing.

For example, there are now competing predictions about how much the fiscal stimulus package will contribute to economic growth -- the so-called multiplier effect. Senior Obama administration economists, using "old Keynesian" models, concluded that for every $1.00 of extra government spending they would get about an extra $1.60 of real output. Other economists, including Stanford's John Taylor, used a leading "new Keynesian" model and arrived at a much lower figure. Time will tell which prediction is more accurate, but both sides in the debate acknowledge their debt to Keynes without taking his words as dogma.

Newton famously said, "If I have seen farther, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." Modern macroeconomists honor Keynes as a giant of the profession, while standing on his shoulders to see farther than he himself ever could have done.

David Hoffman ’80
Jerusalem, Israel



Who owns the art?

First we had Peru's lawsuit to reclaim artifacts removed from Machu Picchu, and now "Yale sues to protect Van Gogh painting" (Light & Verity, May/June) from the great-grandson of the painting's former owner. So just how many pieces of art and/or artifacts are being held by Yale while claimed by someone else?

From the information provided in the articles about the Machu Picchu artifacts and the Van Gogh, it seems to me these assets belong to Peru and to Mr. Marazov's great-grandson, respectively. Yes, it would be hard to let them go, especially if they are later kept from the public, but Yale should not be seeking legal justifications to justify unethical behaviors. (We had a bit too much of that in this country's recent history, by the way.)

And in the case of the Van Gogh, Yale's contention that "it was accepted at the time, as it is now, that the sales by the Soviet government were valid, as were later acquisitions of the paintings," is plain shameful.

Pablo Velosa ’04MBA
Miami, FL



Very old Yale clubs

I have great respect for Judith Ann Schiff, but I feel, as a former president of the Yale Club of San Francisco, that her records need augmentation.

The May/June Old Yale article speaks of the Yale Club of Cincinnati's founding in 1864 and then notes that "within a few years alumni associations were organized in Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York."

I have no argument with that recitation of fact but it is somewhat insular. The Yale Club of the West Coast, the predecessor of Y.C. of S.F., was organized in 1877.

I know that this may come as a surprise to those who think that the Bay Area was then populated only by Spaniards and Indians but, as I remember, there were at least a half-dozen organizers in attendance.

Harvey Black ’55
Portland, OR



Political climate


I am disappointed to see that Yale has engaged Rajendra Pachauri, who chairs the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), to lead climate change studies (Light & Verity, May/June). It would seem to indicate that Yale has adopted the political dogma re: climate change, which is shameful because it represents efforts that are severely lacking in scientific integrity, and more broadly, intellectual integrity. The IPCC has been racked with scandal almost from the beginning due to lack of integrity. The scientists at Yale are surely aware that the causes of climate change and man's role are very uncertain at this point and that an ever-growing contingent of scientists question the dogma. I fear that the quest for grants has compromised many in the science community. I hope I am wrong. Please do not let Yale fall prey to criticisms of this type.

Henry R. Savage ’66DEng
Steamboat Springs, CO


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