Surprisingly, this is one of the most popular posts I’ve ever written. I wish you the very best of luck on your move, but I regret that I don’t have time to answer individual questions about your situation.
Andy and I are in the middle of orchestrating our big move to Atlanta, and all the excitement is reminding me of when Andy and I first moved out to New Haven. It was kind of hard to get a handle on where to live and what to do, even though Yale has some good resources. But here is part one in a multipart (i.e., until I get tired of doing it) series of some information I wish I’d had. (Update: here’s a second post, on what you should do once you get to The Have.)
This is assuming you’re not living in the grad student dorms, which, to be honest, I think is a little weird. Unless you’re coming from far away and can’t apartment-hunt. I guess it can be cheaper, too, depending on which dorm you choose.
Neighborhood boundaries (PDF warning!)
Grad students at Yale tend to cluster in two neighborhoods: downtown and East Rock.
Since Yale’s campus is mostly scattered around downtown (except the Med School, which is in the Hill, and the science-y stuff, which is in Science Park), living downtown is your best bet if you want to be really close to everything. It can be pretty pricey, but it’s not undo-able on a Yale stipend. A lot of grad students live in 88 Howe or 100 Howe, reasonably priced buildings with fairly nice apartments. You’ll be near all the coffee shops and restaurants your little heart could desire, though there will be no escaping the rampaging undergrads.
The problem with downtown is that ever since the Whalley Avenue Shaw’s closed (boo!), there’s nowhere to shop for groceries, besides the outlandishly expensive (but 24-hour) upscale convenience store Gourmet Heaven. Update as of May 9: As Design New Haven points out in the comments, there’s now a Stop ‘n’ Shop in the plaza where Shaw’s used to be. Great news!
Well, that’s not entirely true. There’s Edge of the Woods, a natural foods grocery store, and there’s a place called Minore’s Poultry & Foods, which no one I know has every been to, though I’m not sure why not. There’s also a downtown farmer’s market in the summer and fall. There’s been talk of a co-op opening up Elm City Market, a co-op, is slated to open in summer 2011 at 360 State St. (a new mixed-use development downtown), which would will be great. A lot of grad students who live downtown use Peapod by Stop ‘n’ Shop, or just eat out all the time. Or they take the bus to the Dixwell Avenue Stop ‘n’ Shop.
Update, 08/16/10: just got word that the Graduate and Professional Student Senate has organized Tuesday-evening shuttle runs to the Dixwell Avenue (Hamden) Stop ‘n’ Shop. Email GPSS.Shuttle@gmail.com for details.
East Rock is much leafier. That’s where I lived for three years. Residential buildings tend toward the decaying Victorian triplex, though there are a few modern apartment buildings (and some very fancy houses). East Rock gets its name from the big park at the northeastern end — terrific if you have a dog or like to run.
East Rock also has a number of establishments that have sprung up to serve the bourgie academics (yes, yes, like me) who live there: the specialty grocery stores Nica’s and Romeo’s, the more general-purpose P & M Orange St. Market (which I find charming), several bars, and a number of restaurants. There’s a new farmer’s market on State Street. Lulu’s coffee shop is an institution (though the newer, more modern Cafe Romeo is great, too), and your booze needs are easy to fill.
If you live toward the southern end of East Rock (near Grove Street), school is just a few blocks away. If you’re down near the park, it’s a pretty long walk — maybe 45 minutes? But the Yale shuttle serves East Rock, and you can totally live there without a car.
I’d avoid living on State St., personally, since it can get kind of noisy, and I’d also avoid the eastern ends of Willow St. and Trumbull St., just because people get off the highway there and drive really fast.
East Rock is a great place to wake up on a Sunday morning — very peaceful, with lots of kids and dogs. If, however, you are irritated by living chockablock with other grad students and postdocs, you may want to set your sights elsewhere.
To a lesser extent, grad students also live in Wooster Square. This is the part of town that’s across the freeway from downtown. Wooster Square, named after, uh, Wooster Square, is actually pretty close to everything, but the freeway, along with the neighborhood-y feel, make it seem farther away.
Wooster Square has a reputation for being home to lots of old New Haven Italian families, and it’s certainly home to the two legendary Warring Pizza Places of New Haven: Sally’s and Pepe’s. (I’m a Modern girl myself, but that’s over in East Rock.) Fuel is the local coffee place. You can get groceries at Ferraro’s, or, in the summer and fall, at the Wooster Square Farmer’s Market.
If you have a car and are willing to drive to school (this is not easy, because parking, as I’ll explain in a later post, is not for the faint of heart), your options expand a bit.
I live in Westville, which I like very much. It takes me about 15 minutes to drive into school, New Haven traffic considered. It’s a lot like East Rock in many ways: leafy, with lots of young families. Yale’s athletic fields are out here, which makes everything very green. But because fewer grad students live here, houses don’t turn over so quickly, and so there are a lot of people who’ve been here for decades.
There’s a nice park, Edgewood, and a farmer’s market every weekend in the summer and fall. Manjares is a terrific coffee shop with the friendliest proprietors you’ll ever meet, and there’s also Deja Brew (which I like to call Deja Bourgeois), which is okay, except that the owners’ taste in decor tends toward the doily. If you’re going to live in Westville, you pretty much have to have a car. The closest supermarket is in West Haven (a 10-minute drive), and there really aren’t even any convenience stores around.
The main reason Andy and I chose Westville is that it’s quite cheap compared to East Rock, downtown, and Wooster Square, and you can get more space and a yard for your money. But there’s a reason for that: the Yale shuttle doesn’t run out here, and even the stupid bus stops running at about 8:00 p.m. Andy likes to walk to downtown, but it’s definitely a serious walk: about 45 minutes. You could bike, but how would you get groceries? Also, a word of warning: if you live in Westville, your friends won’t come over, because most of them don’t have cars.
But if you do choose Westville, the Craigslist keywords to search for are “SCSU,” “Yale Bowl,” and “Westville Village.”
People also live in Hamden, which, like Westville, is a fairly pastoral residential suburb where you really have to have a car. It’s about a 10-minute to a half-hour drive away, depending on where you live.
The bus service is better, and there’s a strip of grocery and big-box stores at the northern end of Dixwell. There’s also a nice family-owned grocery store. Hamden has its own parks, West Rock and Sleeping Giant, and its own farmer’s market. I don’t know a ton about Hamden, but it does have the best video store in the world, a good music venue, several excellent thrift stores, an okay used bookstore, a good Irish bakery, and a natural food store that people seem to like.
Yes, yes, the crime
This is probably a good place to mention New Haven’s crime corridor. Sooo … that exists, and you should be aware of it. No neighborhood in New Haven is immune from crime, and crime waves regularly hit even sleepy East Rock, where burglars can be sure to find grad students’ laptops and poorly secured apartments. Crime in New Haven is not as outrageous as people sometimes think, but it certainly exists, and it’s something to think about when you choose a place to live.
So good luck, and happy househunting.
I’ve gotten really into PadMapper lately, which is one of those sites that combines Google maps with apartment listings. It’s my favorite because it’s the best designed and seems to be the most comprehensive.
I’ve also gotten into WalkScore, which tells you how close you are to the essentials — coffee, beer, books, groceries — and gives you a walkability score. Alas, my Westville address only has a walkscore of 49 (car-dependent).
The New Haven Independent is the best news site about New Haven. I’m a big fan. Read and search its archives for the real dirt on New Haven neighborhoods.
Upper State Street Neighborhood Association (serving part of East Rock)
The City of New Haven has a bunch of cool maps of various things