So, you’re moving to New Haven: where to live

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.

Downtown

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

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.

Wooster Square

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.

Car-dependent neighborhoods

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.

Westville

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.”

Hamden

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.

Other Resources:

Craigslist (is that obvious?) is the place to look for rentals. Yale also has rental housing listings, but CL seems to have mostly edged them into disuse.

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.

Some general commentary on New Haven

Upper State Street Neighborhood Association (serving part of East Rock)

Historic Wooster Square Association

Westville Village Renaissance Alliance

Hamden neighborhood associations

The City of New Haven has a bunch of cool maps of various things

Bike New Haven

17 Replies to “So, you’re moving to New Haven: where to live”

  1. I enjoyed your intro to New Haven! I’m moving next week, from East Rock to Nashville, and was doing my own re-cap of life in the Elm City. Great overview of the neighborhoods. Since moving to ATL, what do you miss the most?

  2. Great intro to New Haven! I’m moving this summer, from New Haven to Nashville, and was just writing my own re-cap of life in the Elm City. I enjoyed your overview of the neighborhoods. Since you’ve moved, what do you miss the most?

  3. Very helpful post. I’ll be moving to New Haven in a couple of months for a job at Yale, and I’ve found this information very useful. Thanks!

  4. Update: The Shaw’s that closed in downtown has been replaced by a nice, full-service Stop & Shop grocery store.

    The closure of that supermarket plaza was only temporary, as Shaw’s closed all of its stores throughout the State and they had to transition to new owners.

  5. Also, it should be noted: the Stop & Shop in Amity is the closest grocery store in Westville; the Stop & Shop on Whalley, which was formally Shaw’s, is also fairly close. Additionally, Westville has two great breakfast places: Lena’s & Bella Rosa, not to mention Delaney’s Tap Room with an array of decent beers on tap.

  6. Hi,
    Very interesting read.
    I am moving to CT for short term work in Shelton for 8 months or so. I was looking at towns to live which are bit urban and wouldn’t require me to use car to get basic things such as groceries. Also would like to have some pubs etc. on a walking or cycling distance Also one of my major concerns is safety. I was thinking about New Haven. Could you suggest any particular area. Thnx

  7. Great post! I just moved to new Haven from Florida and this post was an extremely helpful resource. Thanks for compiling all of the great links!

  8. “Wooster Square is across the freeway from downtown”??!! Did you ever visit New Haven? Please correct your erroneous description of Wooster Square’s proximity to downtown and Yale.

  9. Thank you for this so great post! I’m moving to New Heaven in March and still haven’t found the right place for me. My plans were to live with my roommate from college, but last week she called me to announce, she’s going to live with her boyfriend in the place that we were preparing for ourselves.

  10. To us, the ideal place to live is NOT need to drive. ie., No need to worry about finding a parking. So, our goals is to find a house on Yale shuttle route. The closer to the Yale shuttle route, the better. We were looking a house to buy. We looked everywhere, and every nearby town. Finally, we settled at West Haven. This town is much cheaper than the neighboring towns. Most people overlooked this town and location. The IDEAL location in the West Haven is around the VA hospital. VA has Yale shuttle (VA line) runs every 20 minutes on the dot between VA and Yale Medical School. Rain, snow or shine, it runs every 20 minutes on the dot. And, the ride was only about 12 minutes, only few stops in between. If you drive yourself, it took less than 10 minutes “local route”. This route NEVER had traffic jam. This area is closed to everything. 2 supermarkets in 1 mile. West Haven Train Station is also in 1 mile. Any store that you could name is within few miles distance. We bought a house next to VA. Few steps to VA. Now, my son graduated. We are moving away. We are selling our house. You could find it on the craigslist. If interested, please email me. Thank you.

  11. What a lovely post! I will also add that some parts of Edgewood have the same feel as Westville, particularly West Park Avenue.

  12. Wooster square is only across the highway from Downtown, if you’re talking about downtown East Haven. (Which, by the way is about 5 miles east of New Haven). Wooster Square is about four blocks east of the downtown New Haven “9 Square” neighborhood, which is the center of downtown New Haven. How could you live in New Haven and not know that? Wooster is home to many fine Italian restaurants. The best known are Sally’s and Pepe’s pizza places, mainly because they’ve competed for close to a century, not because they have the best pizza in the city(which they don’t). New Haven is known worldwide for Yale and the best pizza anywhere. I’ve read it has something to do with the water in the area, that’s used in the sauce and the dough, that makes the area pizza so great. Anyway, the on ramp to the highway that you say the Wooster neighborhood is on the other side of, is at the east end of Wooster street. Check a map next time you visit the area. Also, the closest shopping to the Westville neighborhood would be either the S&S on Whalley Avenue (which replaced the Shaws store, after Shaws pulled out of Connecticut) or the other Stop & Shop located in the Amity shopping center, which is essentially a few miles out on Whalley Ave. on Amity Rd or Route 63. (A car is probably necessary if you live in Westville). If you chose your apartment during the light of day, and visit the area again, at night, prior to signing a lease you should be able to pick a safer neighborhood to live in. There is some major gang activity in New Haven to be aware of, but like most smaller cities, if you are aware of your surroundings and not flashing cash or, electronics on the streets, you should be fairly safe in the area. I’ve been in the area for 35+ years now, and I’ve only been robbed twice, one of which was a violent mugging. If you have a car I would recommend moving North along I95 or I91. You can find lower rents in safer neighborhoods in towns like Hamden, North Haven, or East Haven, and still be within 15 minutes of everything New Haven has to offer. Having lived in an apartment on Chapel Street, and another on Humphrey Street I would say that the East Rock neighborhood is so much nicer, with lots of great stores, bars, and eateries within walking distance, without all the constant sirens from police, fire, and ambulances that keep you awake almost every night in the downtown New Haven area, which pretty much includes anywhere from State street to Ella Grasso Boulevard and from Canner st in the East Rock neighborhood all the way to say Columbus Street in the Hill neighborhood. With the two hospitals that have now become one, the downtown area is a constant noisy neighbor. Good luck in your search.

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