September 11, 2013

Ithaca Officials, Residents Criticize Excess Partying in Collegetown

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With the beginning of Cornell’s fall semester, Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick ’09 lamented the arrival of “students … in the hospital with alcohol poisoning, broken bones and all the things that come with having too much fun” at a Collegetown Neighborhood Council meeting Tuesday.

Speaking to city officials, Ithaca residents and University students, Myrick said many freshmen are getting into trouble with the Ithaca Police Department because they are unaware of laws about alcohol.

“We’re seeing a lot of people getting tickets for public drunkenness and having open containers. We’ve had dozens of arrests so far,” Myrick said.

Collegetown resident Prof. Joanie Mackowski, English, said part of the problem may stem from the University’s lack of jurisdiction over off-campus areas where students may be partying.

“Fraternities are now opening annexes because parties are closed to freshmen. It’s like Vegas,” Mackowski said.

Saying the University’s changes in policies regarding Greek life, although meant to improve student safety, have contributed to problems in Collegetown, Myrick said that city officials and residents alike want Cornell to “do more.”

“We also recognize that the new policies towards fraternities and sororities are creating more problems than they solve,” he said.

Mackowski said students should behave cautiously and follow rules that they would be expected to abide by on campus rules even though the University does not necessarily monitor happenings at Collegetown properties.

“We need to encourage students to understand that there are rules to abide by,” she said.

Collegetown is not completely free of University regulation, according to Cornell University Police Chief Kathy Zoner. The Judicial Administrator’s office investigates serious off-campus offenses, Zoner added.

“If a student participates in a behavior off-campus that compromises the health and safety of another student, we would see to that,” Jody Kunk-Czaplicki, associate Judicial Administrator, said.

City residents also expressed concerns about the lack of cleanliness in Collegetown. Recalling his recent experience picking up trash in the neighborhood with local residents, Myrick said that, in addition to promoting responsible behaviors off-campus, keeping Collegetown clean would be another way to maintain a healthy space for students.

“We collected more than 30 bags of trash,” he said. “If Collegetown is going to be a healthy place for the students, it’s going to take a more proactive, organized neighborhood.”

The meeting concluded with a discussion of the city’s new leasing ordinances. Assistant City Attorney Aaron Lavine ’01 J.D. ’04 said the new 60-day waiting period — which requires landlords to give advance notice to tenants before showing off houses for the next rental period — gives renters time to think about whether they want to renew their leases.

“The idea is to get rid of the mad rush that some landlords and tenants experience in Collegetown,” Lavine said.

Collegetown landlord Jesse Hill said he has witnessed the rush among students to sign leases with every fall.

“People are calling us every day even though we’re not advertising to rent right now. It’s a cultural force, and you can’t slow it down,” he said.

Julie Paige, assistant dean of students in the Office of Fraternities, Sororities and Independent Living, said many freshmen are already signing leases for the upcoming year, even though on-campus housing is guaranteed for all sophomores.

“We’re trying to get the word out that all sophomores are guaranteed housing. Students think that that they won’t get a lease in the central part of Collegetown if they don’t sign it now,” she said.

Paige said students­ who sign leases early preemptively limit their options for the upcoming school year and are often unable to live in Greek housing or become Residential Advisors.

Zoner offered some parting words for creating a safe Collegetown environment for both student and local residents.

“Get to know your neighbors. A safe neighborhood starts with respecting the rights of both yourself and others and knowing what the consequences are for violating laws,” she said.