Rendering courtesy of Atelier Cue.
Four painted crosswalks are officially coming to downtown New Haven next spring. With any luck—and some warmer weather—New Haveners will be able to help bring them to life.
Monday night, the city’s Board of Alders voted unanimously to approve the first phase of “Intersection to Connection,” a years-long process from Town Green Special Services District and Atelier Cue to unify downtown and Wooster Square through public art. Following Monday’s vote, Town Green plans to paint the four crosswalks at State and Chapel Streets in April or May of next year. A community-wide, COVID-19 safe painting day is also in the works.
The item came with favorable recommendation from the board's City Services and Environmental Policy Committee (CSEP). Monday’s approvals also included a new punitive fine system for dirt bike riders and citation honoring journalist Mary O’Leary, who retired from the New Haven Register last month after 50 years of reporting.
In current designs, “Intersection To Connection” is set to unfold in three phases, connecting downtown and Wooster Square through multimedia public art. In phase one, Town Green will be working with community members to paint the four crosswalks at the intersection of State and Chapel Streets. Each crosswalk will point walkers toward a different neighborhood: East Rock, Wooster Square, Long Wharf, the Hill, and downtown.
“The goal is to transform this area into a neighborhood connection point between all five city neighborhoods whose paths meet here,” said East Rock/Cedar Hill Alder and CSEP Chair Anna Festa. “I urge colleagues to vote favorably to support this order.”
In phases two and three, Town Green will be seeking approval from the Connecticut Department of Transportation to install light art, colorful screens, and vinyl designs on the above-rail bridge that connects downtown to Wooster Square. Town Green is also aiming for a landscaped plaza and information kiosk next to the State Street Train Station as the final leg of the project. Read more about the project here.
Monday, the item passed in under five minutes, with almost no discussion. East Rock/Downtown Alder Abby Roth praised Town Green for its work, adding that she hopes the crosswalk art will increase pedestrian safety. Eleven cyclists and pedestrians have been struck and killed by vehicles in the city this year, one of them on Elm and Temple Street downtown.
“I very much support this proposal,” Roth said. “Town Green put a lot of effort into engaging community stakeholders around the idea for this placemaking project, and it has broad support. The project will beautify an area, including at State Street and Chapel Street, which is shared by my ward and Ward 6. "
“It will help connect the five neighborhoods that the chair of CSEP [Festa] referred to, and it will hopefully also make crossing these streets safer by making them very visible and colorful,” she continued. “I hope this project spurs more creative placemaking citywide.”
Elizabeth Bickley, manager of public space planning and development at Town Green, said she is excited to finally get the crosswalks painted. At the beginning of this year, she hoped that the first phase might happen as early as April 2020. Then COVID-19 hit, delaying the project and putting its funding in limbo.
Now, the project is back on track to join four new murals in the Ninth Square (three from Town Green and one celebrating William Lanson from Site Projects New Haven), and a fifth from Black Lives Matter New Haven on Temple Street. Bickley said she is particularly inspired by the work that Cultural Affairs Director Adriane Jefferson has done to put public art in conversation with racial justice, community building, and Black joy.
“I’m thrilled,” she said in a phone call Monday evening. “I’m relieved. It’s been a project that we’ve been working on close to two years, so it’s a milestone that allows us to get closer to the finish line."