September 13, 2002

Neighborhood Group Tackles C-Town Issues

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Orientation week block parties on College Avenue and parking problems in Collegetown topped the Collegetown Neighborhood Council’s (CNC) agenda yesterday afternoon.


The meeting, held at the St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, brought together members of Campus Life, the Cornell Housing Office, Ithaca residents and landlords, and the Panhellenic Council and Inter-Fraternity Council (IFC).

“I think [the College Avenue parties] are something everybody is concerned about,” said Tim Logue of the City’s planning and development department.

Ithaca residents say parties held along College Ave. and the surrounding streets of Linden, Catherine, Cook and Eddy from Aug. 22 to 26, led to fights, minor property damage and disruption of traffic flow, among other things. Police arrested at least three students.

“This is the first year they’ve taken over a whole street,” said Susan Blumenthal, (D-3rd Ward).

“There were some major public safety issues on that street,” she added, referring to the congestion on College Avenue during the parties.

Many at the meeting identified a lack of planning — specifically police planning — to accommodate so many people as part of the problem.

“This was a total shock especially since [the spring parties] were so mild,” said Pam Zinder of the Cornell Housing Office.

Because the spring parties in Collegetown were smaller than usual, the police may not have realized so many students would attend, some attendees suggested.

The situation got worse when the police showed up, some at the meeting said.

“When [the police] were forcing people off the street they were forcing them onto our property,” said Kyle Couchman, an Ithaca resident.

The CNC initially considered diverting traffic from College Ave. as a solution. It rejected that idea, however, because many said they believe that by working around parties instead of making them follow Collegetown guidelines, the CNC would give the impression that it condones the parties in the first place.

“I don’t think landlords are completely responsible. I think students should be responsible,” Zinder said.

As of this afternoon, the CNC had two other potential solutions in mind.

Landlords could fine their tenants for excessively large parties, the CFC suggested. Members plan to present this idea to the Landlords’ Association but they face questions including how to enforce the measure and what should be considered an excessively large party.

As another suggested solution, the CNC could speak with student leaders involved with the Student Assembly, the Panhellenic Council, the IFC and other groups that might be able to reach Collegetown student residents more effectively.

In addition to addressing the issue of parties in the area, the CNC also tackled the issue of parking in Collegetown.

“For the last twenty years [that] I’ve been here there’s never enough parking in Collegetown,” said Bill Wendt, director of transportation services for Cornell.

One of the first solutions attempted was a special parking permit for residents. That didn’t alleviate the problem, though.

Since 1988, Cornell has planned to build a 300-car parking garage behind Anabel Taylor and Myron Taylor halls but it remains uncertain when construction will begin. The lot will be a “small, box-like shape that we think would fit into the site a lot more appropriately,” said Laurene Gilbert, a landscape architect for Cornell.

Wendt agreed with Gilbert’s assessment.

“Back in ’88 we thought this was a good location for parking. We still think so,” he said.

The parking plan also includes a proposal for free parking for students and the community in the evenings when finding parking becomes severely difficult.

“It’s a very dense, urban, old neighborhood. We hope this really eases some traffic congestion here,” Wendt said.

Some expressed concerns about the proposed garage, however. Paul El-Meouchy, IFC representative at the meeting, worried about the effects on fraternities although the new parking garage would be farther from the fraternities than the existing lot.

CNC members reassured El-Meouchy with promises that the new lot would be made out of “nice stone” and be surrounded by trees.

“Just going up and down the stairs to the garage is a viewing experience,” Gilbert said.

Some of the other issues discussed at the meeting included the announcement of the Collegetown Clean-up — which will occur this Sunday between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. — and trash in Collegetown, though the discussion did not bring any conclusion on the subject.

Archived article by Elizabeth Donald