April 14, 2005

Students Protest Car Lot

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Lehman be a tree man,” cheered members of the Redbud Woods Working Group and other Cornellians in a protest yesterday afternoon. A crowd of about 100 students dressed in red, holding banners and banging empty buckets, organized against the proposed University Ave. Parking Lot on the site of Redbud Woods. The protest was held outside of Day Hall.

A court decision on March 17 gave Cornell permission to move forward with its plans to construct the parking lot. The New York State Supreme Court Appellate Division decided in favor of Cornell after the City of Ithaca appealed the Supreme Court’s June 2004 ruling that the Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Commission must issue a “certificate of appropriateness” to the University.

Both the Ithaca Planning Board and the Landmarks Commission denied Cornell’s application to build on the woods when the University first applied in 2003.

“It strikes me as an issue in which Cornell is strong-arming the community,” said protester Patrick Young ’06.

The parking lot would be part of the West Campus Residential Initiative and would create 176 parking spaces atop Redbud woods. The parking spots would replace 195 lost under the Alice Cook House.

“I understand that there is a dearth of parking all over campus, but I don’t think that cutting down a forest that was meant to be preserved for 100 years is the answer,” said protester Aaron Kornbluth grad.

Members of the Redbud Woods Working Group chanted, “Don’t pave paradise to put up a parking lot,” and waved signs saying “don’t pave.” Protesters took turns speaking in to a megaphone directed toward the windows of President Lehman’s office.

One member of the Redbud Woods Working Group shouted, “trees need to go to college, too,” in to the megaphone.

Protesters advocated several alternatives to the University Ave. lot, including parking beneath the new dorms, in preexisting parking lots, or in decks above old lots.

“Over 61 percent of Americans are classified as obese. Many of these people are young. Cornell University should make a commitment to relieving this health crisis by refusing to invest in parking lots. Help people get out and walk,” said Prof. Rob Young, city and regional planning.

Echoing this sentiment, Peter S. Cohl ’05 said, “There is a demand among students for covered, lit parking … students with nice cars would much rather park underground than walk down an icy slope at night.”

The Working Group also encouraged an enhanced public transportation demand management program to alleviate parking problems,” and sustainable public transportation with improved frequency and accesibility.

Cohl who chairs the Student Assembly’s Image Committee, also felt that the construction of the parking lot would be bad for Cornell’s image.

“The Woods would be detrimental to our image in two ways: one, if the University wants to make sustainability one of its missions, [this] makes the attempt ring hollow; two, the woods serve as a buffer between the community and the University, and it detracts from our image, visually, to put a parking lot there, ” Cohl said.

The protest was held in front of Cornell’s main administrative building, the launch point for Cornell Days tours.

“It’s wonderful for visiting parents and accepted students to see Cornell students at their best,” said Isaac Kramnick, vice provost for undergraduate education, in response to the protest.

Prospective parent and bystander to the protest, Marty Katz, agreed, saying “I think it’s very encouraging to see Cornell students politically active.”

Archived article by Erica Fink
Sun News Editor