April 19, 2007

Common Council Reviews Plan to Improve C-Town

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Last night in the Council Chambers in Ithaca City Hall, the Planning and Economic Development Committee discussed the Collegetown Vision Statement. The Vision Statement was unanimously endorsed by the committee and is now scheduled to be discussed and brought to a vote before the full City of Ithaca Common Council on May 2.
The Collegetown Vision Statement is an 18-page document composed by Alderman David Gelinas ’07 (D-4th Ward), Leslie Chatterton, historic preservation and neighborhood planner, as well as the rest of the Collegetown Vision Task Force. The endorsement specifies that the Common Council “acknowledges receipt of the report, thanks its author for it, and formally concurs in its findings and/or recommendations,” according to the Common Council Rules of Procedures. Endorsement is distinguished from the acceptance and adoption of a report.
Gelinas is the chair of the Collegetown Vision Task Force and the first student to have chaired a task force.
There were a number of comments made before the statement was endorsed.
Simma Reingold ’08 addressed the parking situation in Ithaca. She said that many students drive from their hometowns but do not use their cars frequently while on campus, or when traveling from one part of Collegetown to another.
It was noted in the discussion that the recruitment of more businesses and offices to Collegetown, as the report recommends, may intensify the parking problem.
The Vision Statement recommends the formation of a “Collegetown Nexus Ideas Competition,” which would, according to the statement, “engage artists and designers across the county in a much-needed dialogue about how to revitalize … Collegetown.”
Alderperson Maria Coles (D-1st Ward) expressed concerns about the cost of this program.
A member of the Council said at the meeting, “We may have high hopes for ourselves,” in regards to the Ideas Competition. This member questioned the likelihood of the competition attracting national entries.
Mary Tomlan ’71 (D-3rd Ward) discussed that two members of the Planning and Development Board have yet to comment on the Vision Statement.
Tomlan noted her intention to “take seriously” the comments of the Planning Board.
The Vision Statement, under the section “Housing and Residential Neighborhoods,” says that “Collegetown should include a variety of housing choices targeted for household types in addition to single undergraduate students, such as graduate student families, Cornell workforce, young professionals and senior residents.”
Debbie Vishnevsky ’08 did not believe that older people would want to move to Collegetown.
A statement prepared by Frances Weissman and Edward Weissman, residents of Collegetown, argues that “what emerged [from the Collegetown Vision Statement] is not a vision for a neighborhood but a business plan [and that] the report pays lip service to the needs of long term residents, saying not that it will improve their lot, but only try to protect them.”
“It [the Vision Statement] says nothing about improving the quality of undergraduate student life,” the statement continues. The Weissmans contend, in the statement, “a successful neighborhood … must meet the needs of its residents.”
After the meeting, Frances Weissman said that she “feels that all ills prevalent in Collegetown come from the fact that students are treated like persona non gratas,” in that they accept run-down housing, “dirt and degradation,” and the standard of living.
In February 2006, the City of Ithaca Common Council adopted a resolution authorizing the preparation of the Vision Statement for Collegetown as well as the establishment of a task force. Over a period of 11 months, the members of the Task Force evaluated the strengths and weakness of Collegetown by conducting community meetings at St. Luke Lutheran Church on Oak Street and holding meetings with Collegetown merchants, landlord and residents. This work came to fruition with the presentation of the statement in February 2007.