November 15, 2011

New Common Council Members Address Collegetown Community

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Recently elected Common Council members Graham Kerslick (D-4th Ward) and Donna Fleming (D-3rd Ward) addressed the Collegetown Neighborhood Council Tuesday night about their desire to make Collegetown more vibrant.

Throughout the course of the meeting, Kerslick characterized Collegetown as lacking a sense of community.

“I truly think that we are wasting Collegetown. I think it could be so much better. Having been to other [campuses], they’re vibrant, lively college towns,” Kerslick said. “In our college town, there’s a lot of waste in terms of empty storefronts and rundown residences that could be enhanced through community involvement.”

Kerslick suggested the promotion of local business as a way to increase civic involvement in Collegetown.

“It’s important in some instances to have residences as well as businesses within the same community,” he said. “In this way, you cut down on traffic and also inspire a sense of community.”

The addition of a large grocery store is one of Kerslick’s main priorities for Collegetown, he said.

He cited the student-run farmers’ market, which convened weekly on Ho Plaza earlier this semester, as a positive example of community involvement.

“They’re a really good group interested in expanding food choices for residences,” he said.

To expand the presence of businesses in Collegetown, Kerslick said he wants to create a Collegetown website where business can advertise, much like the City of Ithaca’s website.

“I talked to some of the businesses, and I asked about having a Collegetown website to promote business, and it seemed that they responded positively,” he said. “In terms of resources to create the website, there are 6,000 students who live in Collegetown. There’s definitely a few who are good website developers.”

Fleming, the incoming Third Ward representative, weighed in on the issue of Collegetown unity. Although the Third Ward does not cover much of Collegetown, Fleming emphasized that her “ward butts up right against the edge of the Fourth Ward.”

Fleming primarily discussed the maintenance issues that her ward faces, especially sidewalk upkeep.

“I took a walk the other day, and I was appalled by the condition of the sidewalks in my ward. … I don’t think there’s any excuse at all for something so basic to be this bad,” she said. “It’s not right that residents are responsible for building and maintaining their own sidewalks — it’s a public good.”

Natalie Raps ’12, president of the Student Assembly, attended Tuesday’s meeting and spoke about issues of community involvement and living conditions in Collegetown.

Students go to Collegetown “to eat and sleep and there’s not much else,” Raps said.

Raps also lamented the poor living conditions and high prices of Collegetown houses.

“Rent here is ridiculous. I go to my friends’ places at other colleges, and their places are absolutely beautiful, and they pay a significant amount less. … I feel terrible for my fellow students who don’t have heating right now or whose landlords won’t respond to them,” she said.

Looking to the future, Kerslick said he hopes to improve communication with his constituents.

He said that he has already started receiving emails even though he does not officially assume the position until Jan. 1.

“I want to do a better job of actually reaching residents in the ward,” he said. “When I’ve talked to residents in the ward and with businesses, it seems that many of them don’t really know how the proper way to communicate their problems to [the Common Council.]”

Original Author: David Fischer