November 25, 2003

West Campus Parking Woes

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Protesting the University’s plans for a parking lot in the University Hill neighborhood, where Redbud Woods currently stands, the Redbud Woods Working Group held a press conference and enthusiastic rally last Friday morning.

Backed by a banner saying, “Don’t pave, SAVE Redbud Woods,” Elizabeth Millhollen ’04 opened the press conference in the Straight Art Gallery. Millhollen spent nine hours in a tree in the woods to protest the parking lot on Nov. 14.

After Millhollen’s introduction, Calvin Croll ’04 explained the history of the controversy. After the City of Ithaca Planning Board denied a permit for the University to build a parking lot on the site in February, the University sued the city. On Oct. 29, a New York Supreme Court ruled in favor of the University and the Planning Board accepted the plan.

However, in July, the Ithaca Common Council ruled Redbud Woods a historic area, another hurdle that the University must overcome before they can finalize plans.

Croll said he believes that the University’s actions directly contradict President Jeffrey S. Lehman’s ’77 promise to improve Cornell-Ithaca relations. In particular, he said the group opposes a clause in the Memorandum of Understanding between the city and the school that allows Cornell to withdraw financial support from the city. They said they are afraid that Cornell will cancel or decrease the contributions if the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission rejects the plans.

“We feel that this puts any planning decision or any city decision at the will of Cornell,” he said.

Daniel Pearlstein ’05, Sun columnist, presented the Redbud Wood’s Working Group’s five main demands of the administration.

The group is calling for the administration to cancel the parking lot plans, write a formal response to the criticisms of the parking lot by Dec. 5 and consider all alternative transportation plans. Proposed alternatives include building a parking garage where there is already a parking lot, underground parking and decreasing parking permits for freshmen.

The group also wants the University to design an environmentally sound transportation plan and agree not to withdraw financial support to Ithaca.

From the press conference, about 50 students and some community members assembled outside and marched to Day Hall from the Straight, carrying signs, yelling and pounding drums.

In front of Day Hall, Millhollen led several chants, including, “This is what we’ve been told, Cornell only thinks of gold, Ithaca can’t be bought and sold!” The crowd responded heartily, loudly repeating the slogans.

Stephanie Juice ’04, a protestor at the rally, said she hoped the event would prompt a response from the administration and raise awareness of the issue.

“It’s an issue that needs to be told to students, so they know what their University is doing,” she said.

Students passing by the rally seemed to have mixed feelings on the issue, with some strongly in favor of the proposed parking lot.

“I really think that they should build those parking lots. Two football fields isn’t that much,” said Matt Herndon ’04. “I think that the fact that they call it a forest is a travesty and that the paving should go.”

“I think we could really use some parking lots. I’m not going to lie,” said Benjamin Krotman ’06.

Other students had a slightly more positive opinion of the rally.

“It’s hard at a university that’s growing so much to save green space,” said Rachel Ruggirello ’04. “If there’s an alternative, the alternative should be taken.”

Archived article by Shannon Brescher