August 30, 2023

BEARD | Men at Work 

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Like many off campus Cornellians, I began my senior year with the ritual of moving: leaving my home of the previous academic year and relocating to greener pastures. Or at least, I thought they would be greener pastures. In truth, while I love my new house, what I’ve moved into is hardly a home in a neighborhood and more like a waystation on the frontlines of Collegetown’s incessant expansion. 

I live in what is essentially a construction site. I share parking with heavy machinery, wake up to the sounds of jack hammering and my neighbors wear hard hats and work vests everyday. I’m not typically one to complain; I get up early anyways and the workers are nice enough neighbors. I usually can even catch a stray “good morning” or two from them (which is more than I can say for some of my actual neighbors). If the minor inconvenience ended here, it would probably be the end of the conversation and I would be out of a topic for this week’s column. But it doesn’t. As I’ve settled in for the year, I’ve noticed the constant, nagging presence of construction all across Collegetown and campus as a whole.

Before you write off my bellyaching about progress, allow me to make a few points. I’ve grown to despise the construction for two reasons. Firstly, an inconsistency with regard to city noise ordinances that comes at the expense of students, and secondly, the general inconvenience that shutting down strategic points on campus has on students. 

In order to make these points, allow me to illustrate an example of a hypothetical day in the life of a Cook Street residence (not me per se, but you get the gist). Here we go: 

Imagine you and your roommates decide to have a little birthday party. No big deal, just some music and a few friends. Or so you thought. The clock inches toward 11 p.m. and immediately your gathering (in a residential area filled with college students, nonetheless) is shut down by Ithaca’s finest. One ticket and a 50 dollar fine later, you try to get some sleep. Alas, however, as your tumultuous night’s sleep is interrupted at 6 a.m. by the sound of cranes and jackhammers. After trying and failing to resume your slumber, you don your clothes and head toward campus for your 8 a.m. class. Per usual, you’re running a little late. No worries, though, your class is just in Rhodes, so it shouldn’t take too long to get there. Again, however, you’re foiled by construction. Not once! But two whole times. Firstly, the law school sidewalk is closed and you have to cross the street, then as you approach the engineering quad you find an even worse sight. The entire quad sidewalk is shut down for construction, forcing one more reroute. At last, you arrive at your class, late and thoroughly pissed at the world.

I bring up this fictional yet semi-anecdotal story to highlight two things. Firstly, the same zeal the city of Ithaca has for noise enforcement against college students does not seem to apply to their own public works pet projects. I have awoken to construction being done multiple times when the sun has yet to crest the horizon, in violation of their own ordinance which states that during nighttime hours it is “unlawful within a residential zone or within 500 feet of a residential zone to operate construction equipment.” Naturally it seems to only be a residential zone when a couple of students want to have fun.

Secondly, the University could’ve put a little bit more effort into planning out its own construction. To have so many public thoroughfares shut down for the first weeks of school seems like an inconvenience that could have been avoided. Are there not three months between May and August 21st? Maybe the construction was being diligently worked on over the summer break and I just didn’t know. At the same time though, when I was in Ithaca after school ended last semester, the kind of progress that impacts public transit was nowhere in sight. 

After this analysis I’m left to ponder possible conclusions. It could be that we’re all victims of some great construction conspiracy against the residents of Cook St and College Ave between the University and the City of Ithaca. Seems unlikely. Instead, it seems that I’ll just have to suck it up rather than trying to connect all the strings. Either way, the construction is a nuisance, and I just had to get it out there. In the meantime, though, I suppose I’ll just have to leave for class a few minutes earlier. 

Brenner Beard is a fourth year student in the College of Arts & Sciences. His fortnightly column Agree to Disagree is a collection of musings and opinions on campus and the Cornell community at large. He can be reached at [email protected]

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