September 10, 2004

C-Town Issues Discussed

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The Collegetown Neighborhood Council (CNC) met yesterday afternoon in the basement of St. Luke’s Lutheran Church to address the recent arrest of landlord David A. Church, community-wide concern about the “Collegetown Creeper,” and students’ calls for easier access to property-owners’ records.

The CNC, which gathers on the second Thursday of every month, acts as a public forum for members of the Cornell, Collegetown and Ithaca communities. Gary Stewart, assistant director of government and community relations at Cornell, chaired yesterday’s meeting, which included realtors, residents, business owners, administrative personnel from Cornell’s office of student life, and members of Ithaca’s Common Council.

After a brief discussion of how local law enforcement handled orientation-week parties, Stewart turned the group’s attention to the scandal surrounding Church. The landlord, accused of secretly videotaping his female tenants, pled not guilty to 10 charges of unlawful surveillance last week. Church owned properties on University Avenue and East Yates Street which were rented out by both Cornell and Ithaca College students.

Since Church was taken into custody, a number of students, including Gayraud Townsend ’05 (D-4th ward) and Michael Taylor ’05 (D-4th ward), have reemphasized the need for an online database that would make landlords’ compliance, property, and upkeep records more readily available to student renters.

Several Collegetown landlords, including Chris Anagnost ’65 and Kyle Couchman, were present at the CNC meeting. Anagnost noted that more prospective tenants are requesting certificates of compliance, and suggested that the documents be posted. Later, he condemned Church.

“[Church] gives landlords a bad name,” Anagnost said. “He casts an aspersion on the profession.”

Anagnost has had several tenants who have encountered the “Collegetown Creeper,” a peeping tom who has frightened more than 15 female students since September 2003 and remains at large. Yesterday morning, one of his tenants witnessed a prowler outside her window, and contacted him rather than the police.

“It’s important that the issue is dealt with,” Anagnost said. “And that it is brought to people’s attention.”

Tom Graziani, deputy chief of the Ithaca Police Department, encouraged students who see the Collegetown Creeper to call the police.

“We would consider a call about a peeping tom to be a high-priority call,” Graziani said. Couchman, who is employed by Poe Family Realty, is working with local law enforcement to place a high-resolution camera atop 401 College Avenue. If installed, the device could monitor the 200 block of College Avenue, and store recorded images for up to 30 days.

At the close of the meeting, Townsend, who serves on Ithaca’s Common Council with Taylor, communicated their shared optimism.

“Mike [Taylor] and I feel like we’re in a good position to strengthen ties between Cornell and the city,” Townsend said.

The two aldermen are working to secure funding for student positions at the Ithaca town hall. With adequate financial support, students could be hired to help scan and upload landlords’ records onto a website.

“Getting the word out is half the battle,” Townsend said. “Over the next couple of months, we hope to get the word out there.”

The next CNC meeting will be held on Thursday, October 14.

Archived article by David Gura
Sun Staff Writer