April 29, 2005

Coalition Educates Collegetown Residents on Ordinances

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Next week informational door hangers will once again be seen throughout Collegetown, as the Campus-Community Coalition of Tompkins County launches their biannual campaign to educate students about Ithaca ordinances.

The door hangers, titled “Partying Without the Police (and being a good neighbor),” explain the City of Ithaca’s noise ordinance, open container law, state laws relevant for those hosting parties, and other safety tips. The possible penalties for violating any of these laws are also included.

The goal of the door hangers “is to provide information to students as to how they can enjoy their parties and prevent complaints from neighbors and visits from law enforcement officials,” said Tim Marchell ’82, director of mental health initiatives at Cornell, a member of the coalition.

“The basic thing is just information sharing,” said Gary Stewart, assistant director of government and community relations, who heads up the coalition. “Worst case scenario is a student getting arrested and wishing that they would have known” what the laws are.

The coalition, which was formed in September 2002, is an informal group made up of students, staff and faculty from Cornell, Ithaca College and Tompkins-Cortland Community College, as well as members of the local community, such as local officials and business owners. Their goal is to deal with quality of life issues for both students, and other people who share neighborhoods with students, Marchell said. They have “a sense of shared responsibility for addressing the needs of students and the permanent community residents.”

Stewart said that the coalition is an attempt to “create greater awareness about shared issues,” with all of the varied representatives. Some such issues deal with rental housing, addressing problems after the Collegetown creeper incidents, alcohol and drug-related problems and Ithaca’s new noise ordinance.

The door hanger project “originally started when there were concerns about parties that go on during senior week,” Stewart said. And “in the fall of 2002, there was a period of enormous tension between students and the police department and the City of Ithaca,” said Alderperson Michael Taylor ’05 (D-4th Ward).

Taylor got involved with the project in 2003 when he was on the Interfraternity Council, and explained that “there were many assaults every night” during that time, and “the mayor announced a zero-tolerance policy.” For several weeks there were no parties occurring because of increased police enforcement, Taylor said.

“In the spring we decided that there had to be a happy medium,” Taylor continued.

The coalition was “looking for ways to be proactive,” Marchell said, so they adapted the door hanger approach from a group in Albany, where it “seemed to be an effective way to get information into the hands of students. It’s a challenge to communicate with students that live off campus, and door hangers are one creative way to reach those students.” Students and the police helped to assemble a “list of problems which might arise as a result of a party,” Marchell said, and this information was summarized on the door hanger.

Marchell said that “by and large Cornell students are very responsible students who care about the respect of others.” But often they don’t realize that “not everybody in Collegetown on a Friday night is a Cornell student,” Stewart said. Another reason for a lack of knowledge among students is that for many it is the first time they have lived in their own apartment, and have had to deal with ordinances.

The hangers themselves are distributed by student volunteers through the Public Service Center, and students working off community service hours assigned to them by the J.A., Stewart said, and he hopes to have them out in the community by May 5.

This will be the fifth time that the door hangers are distributed, occurring every spring and fall beginning in the spring of 2003, in hopes of preventing problems before and after the year’s classes, which is when most parties occur according to Stewart.

They will be made available before Slope Day also in an attempt to remind students that “it’s very important not to leave someone alone if they’ve passed out,” Marchell said.

“Because they’re not real preachy, the response has been positive,” Stewart said. “The police think that they’ve really been effective in helping to reduce arrests.”

“In the fall of 2003, spring of 2004, and fall of 2004, we’ve really been blessed in Collegetown with having relatively little problems relative to the fall of 2002,” said Taylor. “People have been able to have fun and have parties.”

Taylor continues, “I hope that the project continues because each year there is a new group of students in Collegetown and a continuing need for education.”

Archived article by Megan Blanchard
Sun Contributor