October 2, 2008

City Disregards Noise Ordinance Plea

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Student Assembly President Ryan Lavin ’09 addressed the Ithaca Common Council last night in an effort to reduce tension between Collegetown residents and law enforcement officials — a tense relationship that has escalated recently with the increase of noise ordinance violation citations.
“We need address the relationship between student residents in Collegetown, city officials, and law enforcement agencies,” Lavin said. “It’s not one of particular cooperation or collaboration right now. In fact, I say its been one of animosity, and it I think it will continue only to get worse unless we address it.”
Lavin spoke to Ithaca Mayor Carolyn Peterson and other board members during the open petition segment of the meeting, though the discussion was not included in the original agenda for the meeting.
The Common Council also voted 8-2 to extend the temporary moratorium on building in Collegetown by six months. “A lot of work needs to be done,” said Mary Tomlan ’71 (D-3rd Ward). In June 2007, the Common Council endorsed the Collegetown Vision Statement, which through planning and infrastructure developments, hopes to improve Collegetown by altering zoning regulations, establishing urban design guidelines as well as diversifying the neighborhood while preserving adjacent residential neighborhoods.
The Common Council originally adopted the noise ordinance in 1989 and amended it in 2006. The code outlines specific violations, which include making any type of noise — created either by music or human-made activity — that is audible 25 feet away.
Lavin pleaded with the council to take action soon in Collegetown — pointing out that the recent increase in violations is intensifying hostility between residents and police.
“I’m afraid it’s going to get to the point where there is an emergency in Collegetown and students will not go to the police given their current environment. The police do not deserve the disrespect that they are receiving and the students do not deserve the excessive citations,” Lavin said.
Although Lavin left the meeting after speaking, the Common Council did respond to the request.
The petition did not get a positive response. Robin Holtham Korherr (D-5th Ward) and Mary Tomlan ’71 (D-3rd Ward) both remarked that the motion would have to be postponed.
“We are going to put that into parenthesis right now, but perhaps we can engage in preventative conversation in the future,” Korherr said. “We [have already] had an extensive discussion to try to evaluate its success or failure.”
Tomlin pointed to the lack of student representation at a Collegetown Neighborhood Council meeting on Sept. 11. The meeting drew Ithaca and Cornell police, property managers and Common Council members to address this very issue.
“Other than [student] representatives and some newspaper reporters, we had almost no students attending,” Tomlin said.
Lavin invited Peterson and other council members to attend the next S.A. meeting at Cornell. Peterson turned down the offer citing conflict with another council meeting, but promised to consider attending future S.A. meetings.
Lavin called for the original legislation to be re-examined with hopes to open up the dialogue with city officials.
“I want to see the environment in Collegetown change in regards to the relationship between the residents and the police to become a collaborative environment,” Lavin said.
The College Vision Implementation Committee expects a final draft of the proposed urban plan and design guides to be prepared by mid-October. “We are looking forward to public involvement as we go through these next months,” Tomlan said.