For the last two months, I’ve lived in the East Rock neighborhood of New Haven. It’s a leafy area filled with one and two family houses that looks like a blend of a stereotypical college town and Park Slope in the early aughts. Lots of turn of the century homes, quirky coffee shops, artisanal ice stands, and earnest young people having the kind of earnest conversations that only young people can have.
East Rock has a reputation for being a Yale neighborhood. You can find people from the extended Yale community everywhere in New Haven, but some Yalies are slightly more conspicuous in East Rock. There are slightly more grad students working on their papers at coffee shops or blowing off steam with a beer on their front porch, more bleary eyed residents stumbling home from overnight shifts.
Other members of the community are slightly less present. Students may be Yale’s key (and most visible) stakeholder group, but the University also employs thousands of New Haven residents as faculty, administrators, technicians, custodians, health care providers, cooks and in a wide range of other academic and support roles. When I lived in Wooster Square (a historic middle income area in New Haven), I became accustomed to seeing my colleagues from all levels of the university walking to and from school and work. I was as likely to run into a custodian or accountant walking home as I would a law student or young assistant professor.
I haven’t had that experience in East Rock, but I have encountered people with a wide range of backgrounds from all walks of life. There is some truth to the neighborhood’s reputation as a community dominated by Yale (it’s the residential neighborhood best served by Yale’s shuttle system), but there are plenty of non-Yale folk here who’ve lived in the area for generations.
The best thing about East Rock is that it’s a neighborhood of runners. I don’t think that I’ve ever walked a block in East Rock without passing a person jogging, running, or engaged in some purposeful brisk walking. Some look like they’re training for a race, while others are just having some fun exercise with a loved one or a dog.
The second best thing about East Rock is the East Rock itself, a trap rock ridge at the far end of the neighborhood (and about five blocks from my house). It’s about 1.4 miles long and 366 feet high and a nice occasional addition to my jogging route. It’s surrounded by a 425 acre park filled with trails and playgrounds and partially bounded by a local river.
The relaxed vibe of the area is contagious. I find myself taking aimless relaxing walks through East Rock to clear my head at the end of a hard day, listening to a worrying podcast about politics or the playlist linked below. Sometimes I take those walks in the morning to prepare myself for a challenging day ahead. I’m probably not going to live in East Rock forever, but for now it feels like home. It’s a nice feeling.