New Haven and Yale University have never had better relations, Mayor John DeStefano told students and faculty during a visit to the medical school March 5. “The University and the city understand their need to grow together,” he said at a Medical School Council lunch in the Beaumont Room. “I feel better about understanding each other and supporting each other than I have in my lifetime.”

Noting that the largest taxpayers and employers in two neighboring communities are a pharmaceutical company and a medical research company, he cited the importance of the medical school to the region's and the city's economy. “I think that finding a way to grow the medical school towards the central campus of Yale is a good idea.”

Mr. DeStefano said he has plans for developing downtown New Haven and Long Wharf. “I think you're going to see the growth south of Howard Avenue towards Church Street South and the train station,” he said. He is also trying to improve transportation by promoting ferry service to Long Island, a fast rail link to New York City and an expanded runway at Tweed-New Haven Airport.

A lack of space, an unwarranted image as crime-ridden, and a disproportionate share of social ills such as poverty have hobbled development in New Haven, he said. Since the 1950s the city has lost residents and businesses to the suburbs. Restrictive zoning laws and the lack of affordable housing in the suburbs and a higher proportion of multi-family dwellings in the city lead to a larger concentration of poor people in the city, he said. Median income, which in 1950 was about the same in the city and its suburbs, has shifted. For every dollar of income in neighboring towns, New Haven has 67 cents. “The fact of housing segregation and the racial and economic isolation that flows out of that is a real challenge,” he said.

On top of its economic woes, the city is unfairly portrayed as a place of crime and that keeps people away, he said. He said that in 1994, Bridgeport had 54 murders, nine of which made the front page of the newspapers. Hartford had 61 murders, with seven making the front page. All but one of New Haven's 34 murders that year were front-page news. “New Haven is the murder capital of the state not because we had the most murders,” Mr. DeStefano said, “but because we did the best job of publicizing them.”

Since 1990 crime has dropped by nearly 40 percent, Mayor DeStefano said, noting that in early 1998 the city's murder rate was the lowest in generations. “Real growth will occur when we move past perceptions and ignorance,” he said.