October 19, 2007

C.U. to Invest $20 Million in Ithaca

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On Oct. 6, President David J. Skorton announced at a meeting with community leaders that Cornell will invest $20 million in the Ithaca and Tompkins County communities over the next ten years.
The money, which doubles the amount Cornell currently contributes locally, will be used to help create more affordable housing and alternative modes of transportation.
According to Stephen Golding, executive vice president of finance and administration, a study conducted last winter identified a need for more affordable faculty, staff and student housing closer to campus as well as alternative means of transportation to reduce the number of single occupancy vehicles coming to and from campus.
“It is a pro-active program, which demonstrates Cornell’s commitment to work with the community to deal with identified problems with regard to housing and transportation,” Golding said. “Programs that provide housing opportunities would also be beneficial and essential to recruiting faculty, staff and students to Cornell.”
In all, six main areas of investment opportunities were identified by the study: elementary, middle and high school educational services, healthcare, the environment, economic development, housing and basic infrastructure.
“By working with local community leaders over time, we will be able to ensure Tompkins County has a sustainable economy with a strong cultural social life such that it’s a great place for our faculty staff and students to live and raise families,” Golding said.
The investment is in addition to the $2 million a year Cornell typically provides to the community. According to Golding, the money comes from operating revenues generated from non-academic sources that do not support teaching and research.
“Cornell has historically provided funds to offset the cost of the K through 12 education, the fire department and other community based activities. The investment is part of a more focused look at those strategic areas where Cornell and the community can work effectively together to ensure the ability of the region and Cornell to recruit the next generation of students and staff,” Golding said.
The investment specifically targets housing and infrastructure, but according to officials, there may be secondary outcomes as well. By creating job opportunities, for example, officials hope it will positively affect the economy.
Furthermore, in light of recent race-related controversies in the Ithaca community, Town Supervisor Cathy Valentino said that she believes the investment can help with diversity issues.
“All issues are not totally separate — they are connected to make a better community. It is important to make children feel worthy and having decent affordable housing is a main key. Having a warm, comfortable home that you can bring friends to and feel secure at improves feelings of self worth,” she said.
Those facing high housing costs certainly welcome the idea of more affordable housing.
“I think that Ithaca is overpriced to begin with, and a lot of the housing is poorly kept and overpriced. I have a lot of friends who want to move out to Ithaca, but it is so expensive. This is a step in the right direction,” said Sam Sprague, who works in the Carol Tatkon Center.