Construction-ridden College Avenue will open again this winter when water and sewage work will pause temporarily — even though later development projects might keep the road closed until the end of 2021 — officials representing the City of Ithaca announced at Collegetown’s first Neighborhood Council Meeting of the year.
The water and sewer work on College Ave started this summer, frustrating Cornellians returning at the start of this semester with the closure of the neighborhood’s main thoroughfare.
At the meeting Tim Logue, chief engineer for the City of Ithaca, and Thomas Knipe, deputy director for economic development for the city, announced that the sanitary sewer work has been completed for several weeks, with the primary water main work to be completed by the first week of November. The water and sewer work will resume in the summer 2020 construction season.
The later projects will close the road beyond the Dryden Road intersection until 2021, as New York State Electric and Gas Corporation will work to bury utility lines in 100-300 block of College Ave. Additionally, the city’s Streetscape project will work on curb realignment and sidewalk realignment and widening once NYSEG’s work is over.
Community members also expressed concern about another set of road closures on College Avenue from June 2020 to August 2021 — this time near the Oak and Collegetown Circle due to the scheduled redevelopment of the Chacona Block, which houses Collegetown Bagels and Rulloff’s.
The incumbent for the fourth ward, Stephen Smith, explained that even though it seems like Collegetown is “bearing the brunt” of the construction and the progress “may not be immediately tangible,” the construction will eventually have a positive impact on the neighborhood.
“College Avenue does look bad,” Smith said, but said the long-term payoff on College Ave would include shops, restaurants and high-quality housing.
The meeting also included updates from the Student Assembly’s City and Local Affairs Committee and speeches from candidates who are contesting for the third and fourth wards for the Common Council — including Ellie Pfeffer ’23 — a self-ascribed climate activist who is running as a write-in candidate for the third ward against incumbent Rob Gearhart.
Pfeffer hopes to push for “institutional change” and wants the City of Ithaca to hire at least two additional staff members to work on the Green New Deal, beyond the budget allocations and staffer position that the Common Council approved in June.
“It is the overwhelming impression of many many young people in this city that the Common Council is not taking the Green New Deal seriously,” Pfeffer said. “By only putting in the budget one staffer and $100,000 we are not creating the DNA, institutional change that is necessary to implement a Green New Deal.”
Mayor Svante Myrick ’09 was also at the meeting to garner support for his re-election campaign for his third term in office. During his speech, Myrick stressed his plan to continue the push for affordable housing initiatives in Ithaca.
An Ithaca resident who attended the meeting questioned Myrick’s plans in relation to landlords in Ithaca who hold real estate “hostage,” causing multiple empty storefronts across Ithaca — specifically Jason Fane ’70. Some of the notable properties Fane owns include Collegetown Center, Collegetown Plaza, Cityview Apartments, 112 the Commons, Country Gardens and six other properties in the Greater Ithaca area.
Myrick clarified that Fane has not built a new project in the eight years he has been mayor, with new development projects going to more “ethical” builders. He also discussed his contribution to stop a potential project of Fane’s that would have been next to the Ithaca Police Department.
Also present was Myrick’s mayoral challenger Adam Levine, who presented a list of goals and initiatives that he envisions for the City of Ithaca.
Drawing on his work as a cab driver for five years, Levine described his desire to limit the suffering in Ithaca from trickle down economics as well as make the city a place where people “live to work” instead of “work to live.” Levine also mentioned his plans to improve elder care facilities by offering caretakers more support and bringing back people who have been “pushed out” from the community.