December 5, 2002

Council Discusses Cayuga Lake Work

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Members of the City of Ithaca’s Common Council met yesterday in City Hall for their council meeting at which the most discussed topics in the meeting were the issue of Inlet Island promenade construction and its effects on the greater Ithaca community.

The debated construction plans include a wall and concrete bulkhead along one bank of the Cayuga Inlet which is currently used by the rowing teams of Cornell University and Ithaca College along with a number of other community rowing groups.

Herb Gottfried, chair of campus planning and resident of Ithaca, cited both a concern for inlet safety and the wall construction saying that the “only public access for residents [with this project is] to tie their boats to the wall.”

Gottfried went on to note that the wall provides access to an offshore restaurant which caters to a “privileged group.”

Alumni, coaches and members of the Cornell and Ithaca College crew teams also spoke out against the planned construction.

Heavyweight coxswain Mark Harrison ’05 said that the current facilities are the “most convenient, rowing friendly venue I’ve ever seen,” and that the proposed wall could “significantly increase the chances of accidents.”

Sarah Picky, a coxswain on Ithaca College’s women’s crew agreed, noting that in an normal year on the already narrow inlet she estimates “hundreds of close calls.”

Cornell women’s rowing head coach Melanie Onufrieff stated that the existing inlet is already “the smallest place she’s ever seen rowed through” and that they “cannot afford a little bit less.”

After the comments from the public, Peter Mack ’03 (D-4th Ward) said that “in light of the heritage and tradition of the inlet” he would attempt everything he could to help the rowers.

City of Ithaca Mayor Alan Cohen ’81 attempted to answer the issues brought up concerning the project.

“The main reason for the construction is to gain real estate on the island,” not lose it as many had suggested, he said.

Cohen went on to say that because boats “don’t come right up to the sloping shore,” the wall would actually push back the existing area in which boats can maneuver.

“In essence it is improving the situation, not reducing lane width,” he said.

Cohen cited a number of compromises the city had made in respect to the construction “moving the promenade back a total of seven feet.”

He also pointed out that the inlet had only been in existence for 30 years and is in itself an example of change even in a program such as Cornell crew.

In response to concerns over problems due to waves bouncing around as if they were in a “bath tub,” as one Ithaca resident phrased it, Cohen said that the wall was designed to “carry extra weight” so they can be retrofitted with buffers to prevent such activity.

Cohen also noted that the various programs using the inlet can take it upon themselves to sponsor such a program if they so chose.

The meeting also involved the Fifth Annual Pride of Ownership Award sponsored by the Ithaca Rotary Club and the City of Ithaca. The award recognizes “property owners enhancing the quality of life in their neighborhood.”

Among the recipients, the Crossroads Lifetime Carriage House Project was recognized. It is an effort to turn the carriagehouse property on 305 Stewart Avenue into a cafe for international culture.

Archived article by Brian Kaviar