April 8, 2010

Ithaca Mayor Addresses City’s Role in Building of Bridge Fences

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Mayor Carolyn Peterson attended the Student Assembly meeting on Thursday, addressing the recent deaths on campus and the University’s decision to place fences on the bridges. Peterson, who spoke to the S.A. in order to bolster support for the 2010 census and request that the S.A. assist her in promoting participation among the student body, said that fences on city-owned bridges will be taken down on June 4 when Peterson and the Common Council will determine what action to take to address the situation in the long-term.

Peterson said that “the tragedy of suicides affects everyone,” noting that few people on campus know that Matthew Zika ’11 had worked for departments in the city of Ithaca’s municipality where he was well-liked and known as a hard-worker. She added that members of City Hall had created a memorial fund at his high school to honor him.

When questioned about her thoughts on the fences that had been constructed on campus bridges, the mayor stated that at first she was “overwhelmed” when the University first approached her with the idea. She was fearful that the fences would only serve to create even greater mental health issues that would be exacerbated by the fences’ constant presence on the bridges. She also did not want to obstruct any views of the gorges and the surrounding area that she felt many Ithacans found important. Yet what ultimately convinced her to agree to their installation was the “thought of suicides as suicide contagions” –– a concept which she could not ignore. She added that the University agreed to pay for the bridges construction as a temporary measure until June 4, when a better and more long-term solution could be decided upon.

Peterson also briefed the S.A. with an update on the 2010 census. She said that the latest census numbers were “a little bit lower” than she had expected, acknowledging that she knew it would be “tough for thousands of students” to fill out and return the census amidst a busy schedule. She said, however, that the census was important for the city to obtain additional revenue from state and federal grants that would come with higher population figures, adding that it was all the more essential in a city like Ithaca where 60 to 70 percent of properties were tax-exempt, making it especially difficult to raise taxes.

Peterson left time to respond to S.A. criticism about several of the city’s current policies. Engineering representative Mike Delucia ’12 questioned the city’s noise ordinance policy, which police have used in the past as a legal basis to disrupt parties. According to Delucia, the noise ordinance policy was deemed unconstitutional twice and imposes minimum $500 fines for first time offenses on all house residents.

The mayor acknowledged his criticism, but said that she had not heard a complaint about the noise ordinance policy for several years, offering Delucia the chance to work with her on crafting a better policy that could be more acceptable to college students that “wanted to have fun.”

Delucia later admitted that he “wasn’t very satisfied with the way she just pushed off the criticism,” and said that in the future he would like to see a policy that “is more concrete, where students know there rights and know what cops can and can’t do legally.”

S.A. President Rammy Salem also addressed another contentious on campus issue. He asked whether the mayor had considered simplifying the parking policy, which he said has led to much confusion among the student body and several parking tickets that students feel were unfair.

Peterson explained that even residents in Ithaca downtown do not understand the parking policy, which has been the source for much frustration over the years. She said that she has been working to craft a better parking policy, even establishing an ad-hoc committee that strictly addressed parking policy in Ithaca.

“We don’t have an overarching parking policy in the city of Ithaca … that is all that anyone talks about everywhere in the city,” Peterson said.

She added, “We’re always looking for student involvement.”

Original Author: Ben Gitlin