October 20, 2005

Council Sets Positive Neighborhood Agenda

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The first organizational meeting of the newly-formed University Neighborhoods Council (UNC) took place Tuesday night from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Africana Studies and Research Center on Triphammer Road. The Council consists of a combination of neighborhood representatives and Cornell representatives, both faculty and students, and was formed as part of the agreement concerning the West Campus Residential Initiative replacement parking lot on the former Redbud Woods site.

“The UNC will provide a forum to discuss issues necessary to deal with between the campus community and the surrounding neighborhoods,” said Gary Stuart of Cornell Community Relations, and co-chair of the Council. “Some community members felt that they did not get enough information on the parking lot situation of last year, and this council will provide a network of communication between the University and the surrounding communities to prevent these feelings in the future,” he continued.

The Council is modeled after the Collegetown Neighborhood Council, and is scheduled to meet six times a year. It will provide reports to the Cornell administration, which will then share the reports with the Community Communications Committee of the Board of Trustees.

The neighborhood representatives of the Council include Joanne Trutko ’75 of the Collegetown Neighborhood Council, Michael Decatur of Cornell Heights Neighborhood Association, Christine Becraft ’85 of the Ellis Hollow Community Association, Jon Miller ’01 of the Forest Home Improvement Association, Leslie Chatterton of the Ithaca Neighborhoods Association, Prof. Joanna Luks and John Schroeder ’74 of the University Hill Neighborhood Association and Prof. Emeritus Art Berkey and John Tottey of the Varna Community Association.

The Cornell representatives of the UNC include David Lieb ’89 and Bill Wendt from Transportation, John Kiefer ’73 from Planning, Design & Construction, Dean of Students Kent Hubbell ’67, Jean Reese, Susan Riley and Steve Romaniello from Campus Life, John Gutenberger and Gary Stuart from Community Relations, Jonathan Feldman ’08 from Greek Life, representatives from the Interfraternity Council/Panhellenic Council and Student Assembly.

“Although the UNC is a group formed based on a controversy, I believe we will be a positive group with a continual good dialogue,” said John Gutenberger, co-chair. In years past, there was a Neighborhood Advisory Council which, according to Gutenberger, dwindled to nothing because the shift to electronic communication hurt the unity and effectiveness of the group. “This is the re-birth of something that will continue to work towards a goal of effective communication,” he said. The meeting was set for organizational purposes, and it provided an opportunity for the Council to brainstorm the goals and expectations that the members hope to accomplish in the future.

Christine Becraft volunteered to be the third co-chair of the Council. Joanna Luks proposed a website be made so people at Cornell and the surrounding communities have the opportunity to access the agendas and the minutes from the meetings.

In discussing the future of the group, Jon Miller said: “Once we determine some of the issues we want to address, we can better structure our purpose.”

Joanne Trutko added that the UNC “addresses not only the physical impact on neighboring communities, but the social impact. The feelings of the academic community are certainly felt in the neighborhoods.”

Gutenberger said that “people in the community could come meet with the Council when they feel an issue needs to be addressed. There is a two-way communication model that will take place.” The Council is going to be involved in a study slated for the coming months done through the town of Ithaca. The Generic Environmental Impact Statement (t-G.E.I.S.) will research the University’s potential growth for the coming decade, and how this growth will impact transportation in terms of traffic flow and parking.

“It’s great that we are going to be involved at the early stages of these large University projects,” said Miller, although he did question whether the group would be more effective if it focused on small-scale, more specific issues. The t-G.E.I.S. will be addressed at the Council’s next meeting in November.

The meeting concluded with some members highlighting aspects of their communities that they feel need to be addressed. Joanna Luks identified a stone wall that is in need of maintenance on University Avenue. Jon Miller identified the increasing traffic flow through the Forest Home Improvement Association to be damaging to the community’s typically peaceful feel. He also proposed the idea of having a bike path.

Joanne Trutko brought up the issue of Cornell students’ impact on these communities surrounding campus. “Students don’t get a sense of how their behavior affects their surrounding neighborhoods. Collegetown porch parties and speeding while driving are issues that the members of the community notice and should be addressed,” she said.

John Tottey closed the meeting by questioning, “how is Cornell going to be a better neighbor?” The group is optimistic that their decisions will positively impact life around the Ithaca area.

The meetings of the University Neighborhoods Council are open to the public, and student attendance as well as community attendance is encouraged. The next meeting will take place on Nov. 15 at the Africana Studies and Research Center at 7 p.m.

Archived article by Sarah Signer
Sun Staff Writer