Transportation and Mail Services (TMS) of Cornell has proposed building a 400-space parking garage on South Avenue behind Myron Taylor Hall and Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE) fraternity. This proposal would help replace the 200 parking spaces that will be lost on West Campus as a result of the West Campus Initiative, in addition to a new surface level parking lot proposed near the intersections of University Avenue, Lake Street and Willard Way.
The garage was first proposed at a meeting of the City of Ithaca Planning and Development Board last April.
However, the proposal has met with widespread opposition by the southwest residential community that is comprised of various fraternities, sororities, cooperatives and the Jewish Living Center. The Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity has disapproved of the proposed construction.
Many DKE members are concerned about having a garage in the backyard of their house, since several members believe that it will have a negative effect on the “quality of life in our dwelling,” according to Don Weadon, ’67, alumni president of DKE.
Members of DKE are also concerned that the garage might decrease the quality of life for its residents and that potential fraternity brothers will be dissuaded from rushing the fraternity.
Many DKE members claim that TMS has been keeping the intentions of the garage construction a secret.
“The planning of the parking garage has been kept hidden,” said Matt Hyland, advisor of the Delta Kappa Epsilon Fraternity. “It’s like they understand that people that live there wouldn’t be too pleased to have it.”
TMS notified the DKE members on Oct. 26 that soil samples would be taken of the parking area behind the fraternity as a part of an Environmental Impact Statement that was being compiled for a feasibility study on the possible construction of the garage. In November, TMS notified residents in the area that they were looking to build a garage behind Myron Taylor Hall.
After residents of the southwest community requested designs of the garage, TMS officials told the residents that no plans were composed and information on the project was not concrete, according to Hyland.
“We now know that this was an absolute fallacy, as the design was discussed at the Oct 24th meeting with the City of Ithaca, and a drawing was present at that meeting,” Weadon said.
“The proposal is just that, a proposal,” said David Lieb ’89, community manager for TMS. “There’s no design, no blueprint. What we have is preliminary, it’s still going through review.”
The DKE house is listed in the National Registrar of Historic places along with Bailey, Caldwell and Comstalk Halls. According to New York State law, it is necessary to file an Environmental Impact Statement, which is part of the State Environmental Quality Review, for any proposed construction.
The statement must include details about the area of construction and the impacts it would have on the surrounding environment. However, TMS did not mention the historical significance of DKE in the original statement, alleged Weadon.
Futhermore, DKE members expressed thoughts of discontent at what they call a lag in communication by Cornell officials.
“No one is willing to discuss this with us. I wrote a letter to Hunter Rawlings and the Board of Trustees, but no one has gotten back to me,” Weadon said.
In addition, DKE claims that the situation goes against the goals of the West Campus Initiative.
“The reason to build the garage comes from the West Campus Initiative. But its hypocritical to say that you want to improve the quality of living in one area and then to destroy it in another area,” said Weadon, referring to “the noise, lights, [and] traffic around the clock,” that he believes would be created by the presence of the garage.
Weadon also commented on his belief that the garage will impose upon the “aesthetic beauty” of the fraternity house.
TMS claims it has considered the fraternity and the rest of the southwest community in planning the construction of the parking garage.
“We’ve been meeting with [DKE members and southwest community residents] since the earliest for discussion,” Lieb said. “Other options have been considered. Nothing else however, has approached the usefulness of the site. We have a limited set of options based on geography and approximity.”
Other sites have been considered as alternatives to the proposed parking garage behind Myron Taylor Hall, but were not chosen. These sites include area around Edgemore Lane, the tennis courts on West Campus, the Stuart- Williams Lot, and a surface lot on the corner of University Avenue.
“I look at this with remarkable disappointment,” Weadon said. “Cornell can clearly do better than this. They’re trying to fix a problem by creating another problem.”
“I understand their [members of DKE’s] prospective. We’re trying to precede with as much sensitivity as we can,” remarked Lieb.
Archived article by Sun Staff