November 11, 2005

Neighborhood Council Discusses Crime, Noise, Snow

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Yesterday evening two dozen Ithacans, running the gamut from Common Council members to businesspeople to police officers, gathered for a monthly Collegetown Neighborhood Council meeting at St. Luke Lutheran Church on Oak Street. Attendees discussed pertinent Collegetown issues like crime, noise ordinances, snow removal and pedestrian safety.

What Collegetown residents need to know: according to Christine Barksdale of the Ithaca Police Department (IPD), December and January are prime months for burglars and squatters to take advantage of a cleared-out Collegetown. Barksdale voiced concern that few students know about, much less make use of, Request for Security Check forms that can be turned into IPD before they go out of town. These forms tell police officers if a house should be empty during a certain period and how to contact the owner or tenant if they discover the house is not.

“This would really help our job,” Barksdale said, lamenting that students rarely interact with IPD. “Students need to take responsibility for this, not just landlords.”

Gary Stewart, assistant director of community relations at Cornell and council co-chair, suggested the possibility of establishing campus locations where students could conveniently drop off the forms.

Another point of interest for Collegetown residents is that the community police board will try to keep custodial versus non-custodial arrests for noise violations consistent between the fall and the spring semesters, according to Common Council member Michael Taylor ’05 (D-4th Ward). In other words, the number of students handcuffed and taken to court to post bail for noise violations will no longer spike during the spring semester, when Taylor said city officials fear students may graduate before showing up in court.

“Having people detained for noise violations is not an efficient use of resources,” Taylor said, acknowledging the police chief’s goal of keeping the percentage of custodial arrests consistently low year-round.

Taylor also said numbers showed that only one percent of students did not show up in court on the appointed date and that the idea of students escaping financial and judicial penalties by graduating was a myth.

Conversation moved to snow removal, which continues to pose a serious problem during winter months. Common Council member Joel Zumoff MS ’70 (D-3rd ward) noted that this was a real concern among areas with high concentrations of student renters.

“There’s always the question of who’s responsible for shoveling,” Zumoff said, explaining that landlords sometime expect students to shovel, and students often expect landlords to take care of it.

Kyle Couchman, who is manager of Po Family Realty and owns numerous properties on College Ave., expressed frustration with the fact that residents complain the snow isn’t removed quickly enough. “Sometimes we finish shoveling and salting, and then the snow plows come in and bury the sidewalks in slush,” he said.

Taylor announced that Common Council will hold a meeting on Dec. 7 that allows for public comment on the problem of finding immediate solutions to icy, snowy sidewalks. These sidewalks pose problems for certain Ithacans, especially those who are disabled.

Meeting attendees also touched on the parking shortage, the possibility of a new crosswalk and better traffic signal at the College Avenue and Dryden Road intersection, and the slew of unaddressed copies of The Wall Street Journal that Couchman said “pile up like crazy” at the doorstep of Collegetown residences.

Betsy Po, owner of Po Family Realty and a 20-year Collegetown resident, spoke on a number of problem areas: broken meters, poor traffic lights, and general neglect of Collegetown over Ithaca’s downtown area.

According to her, Collegetown should not be an eyesore. “It’s what the parents first see,” Po said.

Archived article by Maya Rao
Sun Staff Writer