November 14, 2003

Student Activist Protests From Tree Perch

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Beginning at 8 a.m. yesterday, Elizabeth Anne Millhollen ’05 resided in a 50-foot tree behind 660 Stewart Ave. to protest the planned parking lot on West Campus.

Cornell students and Ithaca residents rallied in support of Millhollen and to urge the University and the Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Commission to “park it somewhere else.”

“I think this is just amazing,” Millhollen shouted from the tree. “If my presence inspires 10 more people to attend this rally, then it’s worth it.”

Millhollen is pursuing studies in natural resources in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

The parking lot is part of the $100 million West Campus Residential Initiative. The proposed site is Redbud Woods, which is located between Stewart and University Avenues behind the 660 Cooperative residence. Construction would eliminate the woods and replace them with a 175-car lot in the University Hill neighborhood.

During the summer, the Ithaca Common Council declared University Hill a historic district, which requires a Certificate of Appropriateness before construction. As a final step, Cornell must receive this approval from the landmarks commission.

Cornell University Police Department officers arrived at 11 a.m. and marked off the area with caution tape. Dropping temperatures and 60-mph winds were causes for concern: “The tree is in danger of falling,” a police officer announced.

Millhollen was ordered to leave the tree and given a five-minute warning. She ignored the orders and was charged with five criminal counts: reckless endangerment, resisting arrest, obstructing governmental administration, disorderly contact and criminal nuisance, according to Officer Stanley W. Slovik of the CUPD.

But students continued to support Millhollen’s decision to remain in the tree.

“I’m just here giving my support to Liz, who is my hero right now,” said Ryan Weggler ’04.

Students and residents are in outrage over the Oct. 29 New York Supreme Court ruling which ordered the Ithaca Planning and Development Board to approve the lot. The board had declined the Cornell plans last spring.

“I’m angry because of Cornell’s unwillingness to cooperate with the city, and instead of using their six-month term to come up with a better solution, [Cornell] decided to sue the city and have a judge overturn it,” said Calvin Croll ’04, a resident of 660 Stewart Ave.

Millhollen remained on her wooden platform in the tree until 4:30 p.m. After eight and a half hours, she finally came down and was arrested.

Archived article by Anne Ceccarini