Garrett: Hamden-Quinnipiac ‘lean on each other for what we need’

Chatwan Mongkol, News Editor

With local economic development as one of her priorities, Hamden Democratic mayoral candidate Lauren Garrett said she supports Quinnipiac University’s 10-year master facilities plan as it would add a college vibe to the town. She plans to show up to the university’s important events and be there to enhance the relationship.

The Chronicle interviewed Garrett on July 28, about her race and her plans for Hamden-Quinnipiac relations if she wins the mayoral office. Her responses below were condensed and edited for clarity and grammatical purposes.

Photo contributed by Lauren Garrett

How would you describe the relationships between the town and the university?

Well, I know that it started off kind of rough, and it has been rough for several years now. I think that Quinnipiac is taking some really important steps because they’re requiring students to live on campus. 

I, personally, have a Quinnipiac house two doors down from me, and I haven’t had a bad experience, really. So, it hasn’t been much of an issue for me, but I do know that there are residents who complain about living near Quinnipiac students. I think that we should do more to embrace the university and the students that are here. 

I graduated from the University of Michigan, and the university is very immersed in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It’s like the quintessential college town. Both the students and the residents of Ann Arbor absolutely loved it. There’s so much more culture and entertainment that you end up with through having a college town.

I see Quinnipiac and Hamden as intrinsically linked. I think it’s really important that we have a great relationship and lean on each other for what we need.

As a mayor, how do you plan to transform Hamden into a college town?

Well, I think that it would be kind of challenging for us to go from not being a college town to being a college town. But I think that Quinnipiac and the surrounding area of Quinnipiac should certainly have more of a college feel. I think that can largely be accomplished by the plans that Quinnipiac has to develop on Whitney Avenue. We can assist in that because we need to make sure that we’re putting in some sewers north of Mount Carmel. 

I want to make sure that when Quinnipiac goes through the Hamden government — Planning and Zoning or through the Building Department — Quinnipiac isn’t getting any kind of pushback on this planning.

What would you do differently from previous administrations to enhance the town’s relationship with the university?

I think it’s about showing up. Right now, the current mayor didn’t even show up to President Judy Olian’s inauguration. That’s just terrible. I think that Hamden, in general, needs a mayor who’s going to show up, and I think that it would be beneficial for the relationship between Hamden and Quinnipiac if we just had more interaction, more building bridges and working together so that we can develop a good relationship. 

I see us as being partners. Quinnipiac holds a lot of jobs for Hamden residents. It’s an important institution, and it’s important for Hamden’s success.

Many residents are not happy about Quinnipiac’s 10-year master facilities plan. How do you think the university’s expansion would affect the town?

I think that what people need to understand is that Quinnipiac is, like I said before, requiring students to live on campus. So the main concern that I hear from a lot of Hamden residents is that they don’t really like how Quinnipiac students live in the neighborhoods. A part of this 10-year master plan includes students not living in neighborhoods and living on campus.

I think that it would be good for economic development for Hamden for the 10-year plan to move forward, but I also think that residents of Hamden, particularly in northern Hamden, will come to appreciate the development because it’s going to grow the grand list, it can slow down traffic on Whitney Avenue, which can be dangerous and problematic. This is a plan that grows Hamden and brings a kind of new life to Hamden. This is always a good thing.

Are you planning to campaign on campus?

I would love to campaign on campus. I think I’d really like to have a student to work with, so that I can go into the dorms and introduce myself. I think that it’s really important for QU students to get involved and invoked. 

Municipal elections are so important. This is the election that the fewest number of people actually participate in. But these are the roads that you drive on, these are schools where kids go, this is the shopping, retails and restaurants in the area. This is where your everyday life exists. You’re touched by the municipal government every single day.

Which of your policy ideas would affect Quinnipiac students the most?

I would say economic development and also infrastructure. We have $30 million that we’re going to be getting from the American Recovery Act. We’re going to be investing that into our infrastructure and economic development building a 21st-century Hamden. I think that is a large way in which Quinnipiac students would be affected. 

Right now, when I’m driving through Hamden, I’m hitting pothole after pothole. You can see the lack of investment in our infrastructure every single day, and so I know that I’ve talked to people who have had to have tires replaced just from hitting the mass of potholes. I’m sure that Quinnipiac students are hitting them too, swerving out of the way of them, and it becomes dangerous. I would say that it’s the infrastructure and economic development that you’ll notice right away.