The City of Ithaca Planning and Development Board met yesterday to discuss issues including approval of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the West Campus Residential Initiative and Cornell’s proposed new Life Science and Technology building.
At the meeting, many members of the Ithaca and Cornell community voiced their concerns about the placement of the proposed parking lot and water tank on the block below Stewart Avenue and above University Avenue.
The board also voted to become the lead agency in the project to build the new Life Science and Technology building on the current site of Alumni Fields, which will require moving the playing fields to a currently undetermined site in the town of Ithaca.
Many members of the community expressed concern with the proposed parking lot. Adam November ’03, president of 660 Stewart Ave. Cooperative expressed his fear about the impact on the neighborhood.
“We currently have to replace our roof and because of the historic nature of both our building and neighborhood, we must preserve the historic style during construction, leading to a much greater expense,” November said. “We feel that the environmental aesthetic and the security issues of the parking lot and water tower as well as the increased traffic make the current site unacceptable.”
Barbara Hubbard, a resident of 214 University Ave. echoed November’s sentiments.
“The double crushing blow of the water tank and the parking lot will destroy our neighborhood and a part of the city’s history,” Hubbard said.
Many residents worried that both the parking lot and the water tank would reduce the neighborhood’s historic and aesthetic qualities and increase pedestrian and automotive traffic, reducing property values and damaging the area’s “livability.”
“One only has to look at Collegetown and Cayuga Heights to see the impact that Cornell can have on surrounding areas,” said University Ave. resident Jeff Hanavan. “Our neighborhood, our homes, our safety and our lives are concerned.”
The water tank in question was actually proposed by the City of Ithaca Water and Sewer Department. Currently, the two possible sites are adjacent to the Delta Phi (Llenroc) fraternity or at the north end of the proposed Cornell West Campus parking lot near the intersection of University and Lake avenues.
“We are trying to do what’s best for the residents of this neighborhood,” said board member Jane Marcham. “A lot of people just don’t want to live across the street from a parking lot or a water tank.”
Board member Ellen McCollister expressed her worries about Cornell moving closer to the residential area.
“I am concerned about the migration into a residential neighborhood, with its impact on the desirability of the area as well as the impact on the historic Carriage Path,” she said.
Board member G. P. Zurenda Jr. was vocal about his concern for the safety of students walking up the Carriage Path to Stewart Avenue and West Campus. He asked that the University consider alternate sites, including the possibility of underground parking below the new dorms.
“I understand that the cost is higher for underground spots, but I personally would pay a lot more for a spot downstairs underground as opposed to walking uphill at night,” Zurenda said.
Kathryn Wolf, a partner of the firm Trowbridge & Wolf, the firm that is handling the design for the University, was able to address many of the board members’ concerns, but the issue of security remained a topic of debate.
“The CUPD agrees that safety is not an issue. We have the data from all of the other parking lots on campus for the past five years and there have been only four incidents,” Wolf said. “The lot is similar to others on campus and safety is really not a concern.”
Despite Wolf’s assurances, the board still decided to wait until its Dec. 5 meeting to vote on the FEIS in order to give the University time to present more information on the safety concerns. If the board considers the FEIS plan complete, it has a minimum of 10 days and a maximum of 30 to vote on the approval of the FEIS.
Archived article by Gautham Nagesh