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Levin vows Yale's return to troubled neighborhood

Just weeks after canceling an affordable-housing project where an elderly professor was assaulted, Yale president Rick Levin ’74PhD promised yesterday that the university is not abandoning New Haven's troubled Newhallville neighborhood.

"We'll be back," Levin told the New Haven Independent.

He held a press conference with Mayor John DeStefano on Lilac Street, about 1.5 miles north of the central campus, where students and faculty from the School of Architecture were building their annual student-designed house for first-time homebuyers. Levin scrapped the project last month after 83-year-old Professor Paul Brouard, on site to do excavation work, was assaulted, robbed, and hospitalized.

Brouard has recovered, and police—acting on a tip from a neighbor—charged two teenage boys with the mugging. Meanwhile, Yale worked with city officials to find another vacant lot, in another neighborhood, where students can build the house.

But what about Newhallville—a neighborhood so riled by violence that Habitat for Humanity has also stopped working there, saying no one wants to buy their houses?

At yesterday's press conference, Levin and DeStefano announced that another nonprofit builder, Neighborhood Housing Services, will finish the Lilac Street house. At DeStefano's suggestion, Yale and the city will “go halves” on the $125,000 cost. "We didn’t hesitate,” Levin said.

But a neighbor, Brandi Marshall—owner of another Neighborhood Housing Services home—told the Yale president that she wants the architecture students to come back, too. She was among those who threw a party to welcome the students in April.

“I love your money,” she told Levin. But “I’d rather have your bodies.”

In response, Levin told the Independent that the attack on Brouard was “a pretty traumatic blow. Some of the students were very concerned” about the professor's safety, and their own. So they chose another location for this spring's project.

But “of course it’s a very positive thing when our students get a chance to interact with neighborhood residents," Levin said. “It’s not just the neighborhood residents that benefit. It’s our students.” Although he steps down as president at the end of this month, he predicted: “We’ll be back.”

Filed under school of architecture, Rick Levin, Newhallville
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