Six Years Later

18 06 2014

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Birthday number six. As blogs go, Ithacating is an old-timer. Many blogs stop within weeks, months, sometimes they limp into a year or two. Going into its seventh year of writing is something of an accomplishment. As with each birthday, here’s the statistical summary:

yr_6_stats

In previous years, the blog averaged 82, 166, 199, 216 and 182 hits daily. At this time last year, I was actually pretty concerned about the drop in traffic, thinking that the blog’s best days were behind it, and it would just be a slow decline until I finally gave up the ghost.

Before taking that drastic step, I figured I’d change up tactics first. For one, the twitter account was started on February 2nd; I try to keep many of the twitter posts unique, so that followers aren’t just getting rehash of the blog. About 500 hits have been from twitter (the vast majority from the Ithacating account), which accounts for about 2% of the blog visits over that Feb-Jun period – not enormous, but notable. After search engines and facebook, it’s the third largest source of visitors. I also started to leave links to other entries in posts, a practice I had shunned for years as a form of shameless self-promotion. I came to realize that, for easy info access, convenience outweighed modesty. However, I firmly maintain no one will ever see links to this blog on my personal Facebook or LinkedIn accounts.

Second, I decided to borrow methods from Ithaca Builds; in some ways, Jason was the kick in the rear this blog needed to get back on its game. A daily check of city document uploads allow this blog to be among the first, if not the first, to report on new proposals and developments, and when I get around to a photo tour every few months, I break them up into individual projects – much less photo lag, and a steadier flow of entries. The old maps I did for a couple older entries were also “retired”, seeing as the HTML version on IB is much more useful. Jason has his strengths, and I have mine; I like to think we’ve both found respectively niches that complement the other writer’s work.

Another small detail is seen here – many blog posts are now written in advance and scheduled. I wrote this two days ago, leaving out the actual numbers until today.

Over the years, the content of this blog has also evolved quite a bit. At the start, it was largely Cornell, Cornell facilities and Cornell history. However, I eventually started to work my way through most of those topics, and ideas became fewer and further between. The Ithaca development entries, which were a small portion in the beginning, began to take up a larger proportion of the topic matter. I don’t regret this move, but it definitely changed up traffic patterns and what visitors come to this blog for. If anything, it makes me feel a little self-conscious when I get emails or comments give me far more credit than I feel is due. If I became an expert on Ithaca development and urban planning, it wasn’t my intention. I just prefer to not look like an idiot when I write something up.

mothly_numbers

Anyway, the numbers: as of 3 PM today (note that the blog time is GMT), there have been 56,700 hits, a daily average of 155 hits over the past year. But, looking year to year by month since the big drop after January 2013,  numbers are up 20-50%, a pattern that looks to continue this month. It took some work, but this blog is bouncing back.

Looking over the past years, there have some Cornell-related posts, a topic near and dear to my fingers, if not my heart. Buildings named for “friends” of Cornell, Cornellians in the Olympics, and the “Fast Facts” entries.

I sill do construction updates once in a while, though mostly I’ve left those to Jason’s domain. About the only ones I visit more often are the Belle Sherman Cottages and the Boiceville Cottages; I actually feel a little bad about the Boiceville updates, because I have the remarkable ability to make the place look unattractive every time I take photos, due to  it always being grey or cold when I pass through. In the past year, Seneca Way finished up, the Argos Inn opened (and I hit up its bar), Collegetown Terrace continued construction, and Breckenridge welcomed its first renters. Harold’s Square received approval, the Marriott and Hotel Ithaca dragged along (but at least one has started and one is about to start). Many projects were announced, including hotels at 339 Elmira and 371 Elmira, a new apartment building for Collegetown, 323 Taughannock, the Chain Works District, and everyone and their grandmother wants to redevelop the old library. It’s been busy, and sometimes it’s hard to keep up, which I consider a good thing. History has taught me that not everything proposed will be built, but I’m optimistic much of it will, to the benefit of the city’s bottom line.

Over at Cornell, the Gannett addition was formally announced, the Statler planned yet another makeover, Gates Hall opened and the Dairy Bar reopened. Klarman Hall is underway and a new “Sesquicentennial Grove” is planned for Libe Slope. Lastly, I had my random topics, usually on the weather, the keyword bar, or my borderline obsession with 115 the Knoll.

It’s occurred to me that I have never written a “birthday” entry in the same place. Last year, about a week after that post, I did an interview for an air quality scientist job in Albany; after having an attack of conscience and turning down a job in California in December 2012 (the pay was great, but if I was going to hate the work, it wasn’t worth the move), I had felt that I was stuck in a rut. A few days after that June 27th interview, I received a phone call at 1:55 PM on July 1st, extending to me a job offer. It was great, because I was working night shift as a ship router, and had been woken from my nap; the excitement was tempered by drowsiness. I put in my notice, moved up here in late July, and here I am. I don’t want to “settle” in one tier of one job for too long, but it’s not a bad place to be for the time being. In a way, these anniversary entries are a timestamp of my life, one of many things I’ve enjoyed in these years of writing. I hope to make more timestamps in years ahead.





Cornell’s Presidential Credentials

2 05 2014

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Making its rounds in the news over the past couple of months, Cornell’s president, David Skorton, is leaving the gorges of Ithaca to be the secretary (head) of the Smithsonian down in Washington D.C. The departure of Skorton in June 2015 will give him a tenure of about nine years, which as Cornell presidents go, is about average. Considering how many college presidents view their institutions as stepping stones, trying to get out of a place as soon as they have a year under their belt and another line on the resume (Excelsior, I suppose), Cornell’s not doing all that badly in this respect. Of course, this also opens up the task of trying to find Skorton’s successor, a task that is by no means an easy one.

In a meeting about what to look for in the next president, an audience member expressed that they would be very disappointed if all the candidates were white men. I hope the candidates aren’t all old white dudes, but I suspect this is mostly going to be a battle of credentials. In that vein, I decided to take a look at the credentials of Cornell’s past president, prior to their hire.

Andrew Dickson White – Hard to use here because he co-founded Cornell, so the circumstances aren’t comparable to other presidents. A.D. White’s resume prior to Cornell includes a B.A. and an M.A. from Yale, a stint working as a translator for the U.S. ambassador to Russia, a professorship at U. Michigan, and at the time of Cornell’s founding, a state senator out of Syracuse. Six years after his term at Cornell was voluntarily concluded in 1885, he had been asked to serve as the first president of Stanford University, but declined.

Charles Kendall Adams – Assistant professor at Michigan, 1863-1867, then full professor from 1867-1885. He was a former student and close colleague of A.D. White. Adams’s time at Cornell was a tumultuous and unhappy one, and he resigned due to conflicts with the Board of Trustees in 1892, after only seven years of service. His nine years that followed at U. Wisconsin would be much more amicable.

Jacob Gould Schurman – Professor, Acadia College (Canada), 1880-1882; Professor, Dalhousie College, 1882-1886; Professor, Cornell University, 1886-1892. Dean of the Sage School of Philosophy, 1891-1892. Schurman had the longest tenure of any president, at 28 years (1892-1920).

Livingston Farrand – M.D., Columbia, 1891. Doctor of Laws (LL.D.), Cambridge and Berlin, 1893. Adjunct professor of psychology, Columbia, member of multiple anthropological expeditions to the Pacific Northwest. Full professor of anthropology at Columbia, 1903-1914. President of U.Colorado, 1914-1919. Treasurer of the American Public Health Association (1912-1914), Executive Secretary for a tuberculosis prevention group (1905), Director in France for the International Health Board, 1917-1919. Chairman of the American Red Cross. Cornell president, 1921-1937; he died in Manhattan two years later.

Edmund Ezra Day – Degrees in economics, BA and MA from Dartmouth, PhD from Harvard. From 1923, professor at U. Michigan, where he would advance to become first dean of their business school, and dean of the university. President of Cornell 1937-1949. He passed away shortly after his resignation. the interim president, provost Cornelis de Kiewiet, would act as president for two years before a successor was approved. He would leave that same year to serve out a decade as president of the Univ. of Rochester.

Deane Malott – B.A. in economics from U. Kansas and a Harvard M.B.A. Assistant Dean/Assistant Professor at Harvard, 1923-1929. Vice President, Hawaiian Pineapple Company (now Dole), 1929-1934. Professor, Harvard, 1934-1939. Chancellor, U. Kansas, 1939-1951. Sat on numerous corporate boards. Deane Malott served 12 years at Cornell, 1951-1963, before he retired. Malott was noted as an excellent fund-raiser, and although personally a social conservative, he had a liberal approach to Cornell’s intellectual pursuits.

James Perkins – Degrees in political science from Swarthmore (BA) and Princeton (PhD). Professor, Princeton, 1937-1941. Administrator, United States Office of Price Administration and the Foreign Economic Administration, 1941-1945. Vice president, Swarthmore, 1945-1950. Vice President, Carnegie Corporation (an educational foundation), 1950-1963. Perkins served as president for six years, 1963-1969, before stepping down in the aftermath of the Willard Straight takeover. Afterwards, he served as the chairman and CEO of the International Council for Educational Development for 20 years.

Dale Corson – BA (Emporia College), MA (U. Kansas), PhD (Physics, U.C. Berkeley, 1938).  Co-discoverer of the element astatine. Helped to develop radar during WWII. Associate professor of physics, Cornell, 1947-1956. Full professor, 1956. Dean of the Engineering School, 1959-1963. Provost of Cornell, 1963-1969. Appointed president after Perkins’s resignation, Corson was considered a mild-mannered scientist who provided stability to the university through the 1970s. After eight years, Corson resigned as president in 1977, becoming Chancellor and then appointed president emeritus.

Frank H.T. Rhodes – U. Birmingham (UK), BA,MA, PhD (Geology, 1951). Fulbright Scholar, U. Illinois, 1950-1951. Professor of geology, U. Durham (UK), 1951-1954. Assistant professor, U. Illinois, 1954-1955. Associate Professor, U. Illinois, 1955-1956. Geology. Dept head, U. Wales-Swansea (UK), 1956-1967. Dean of science, U. Wales-Swansea, 1967-1968. Visiting research scholar, Ohio State, 1965-66. Professor, U. Michigan, 1968-1971. Dean, College of Literature, Science and the Arts at U. Michigan, 1971-1974. Vice president of academic affairs, U. Michigan, 1974-1977. Frank Rhodes served as Cornell president from 1977-1995. He is a professor emeritus of the geology department and still lives in Ithaca.

Hunter R. Rawlings III – B.A. (Classics, Haverford College, 1966), PhD (Classics, Princeton, 1970). Associate Professor, U. Colorado-Boulder, 1970-1980. Dean of classics dept., U. Colorado-Boulder, 1978-1980. Recipient of U. Colorado teaching excellence award, 1979.  Full professor, U. Colorado, 1980-1988. Associate vice chancellor, 1980-1984. President, U. Iowa, 1988-1995. Rawlings served as president of Cornell from 1995 to 2003, and later as the interim president between Lehman and Skorton. Rawlings was known as a strong fundraiser, but was criticized for his hands-off approach to the university. He continues a professor at Cornell, and is also the president of the American Association of Universities.

Jeffrey Lehman – the only one with Cornell in his pedigree prior to his presidency. BA, Cornell (mathematics, 1977). J.D. and an M.P.P. (Master of Public Policy), U. Michigan, 1981. Law clerk to Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens (1982-83),  Lawyer, Caplin & Drysdale, 1983-1987, Assistant law professor, U. Michigan, 1987-1992, Professor of law/law and public policy, 1992-2003, Dean of U. Michigan law school, 1994-2003. Lehman served only two years as Cornell president before suddenly stepping down due to disagreements with the trustees; what specifically caused the rift remains a subject of debate. He continued as a Cornell law professor until 2012, and is now the vice chancellor of NYU Shanghai.

David Skorton – BS (Psychology, Northwestern, 1970), M.D. (Northwestern, 1974). Medical residency in cardiology, UCLA. Instructor, U. Iowa, 1980. Assistant Professor in internal medicine, U. Iowa, 1981. Assistant professor in electrical and computer engineering, U. Iowa, 1982. Vice president of research, U. Iowa, 1992. Vice president for research and external relations, U. Iowa, 2002. Chancellor, U. Iowa, 2003-2006.

So if the latest presidents are any indicator, they’re going to have a lot of education, a lot of titles on their resume, and more likely than not, hail from a large state school. Given our trend for Iowans, has anyone contacted Sally Mason yet?

 

 

 

 





The Keyword Bar XXI

11 04 2014

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I figured I had two options at the moment – write about all the Chain Works District news, or do one of my tried-and-true keyword bar articles, where I examine and comment/answer on searches that led folks to this site. Well, I’m holding off on the Chain Works discussion, until some of the materials presented start floating around one of the local government websites (city of Ithaca, town of Ithaca, or county), and can be reused here. So in the meanwhile-

1. “what frat can ithaca college students join” 4-9-2014 and “ithaca college sorority options” 4-2-2014
Officially, IC offers a few professional music fraternities, but there are a couple of social Greek chapters that are based at IC but are not officially affiliated with the college. Rarely, IC students join Cornell University Greek organizations, though it’s normally no more than 10 IC students per year. Many of these are in the MGLC, fraternities and sororities that focus on minority groups, but a couple do join chapters affiliated with Cornell’s IFC (I don’t know if Pan-Hellenic allows sororities to recruit IC students; maybe in the informal fall rush). These students aren’t allowed to serve in leadership positions in most chapters, and I imagine the trek between campuses gets old after a while.
2. “cornell snow graduation” 4-8-2014

Thankfully, there’s nothing to worry about. According to the NRCC, the latest snow of any amount (trace or higher) in Ithaca occurred on May 18th (1973). With graduation traditionally at the end of May, the possibility of snow is very remote. Winter graduation is a different story.

3. “proposed south hill development town of ithaca” 4-7-2014.

That would be the Troy Road development. Which from a planning/land use perspective, I become less and less a fan of every time I see it. But then, I prefer New Urbanist planning, not suburban cut-and-paste development. I just keep reminding myself that the current zoning is worse, and the town has a poor track record in raining in sprawl.

4. “is there any problem of construction in collegetown terrace” 4-4-2014

Jason over at Ithaca Builds would know this better than I, but as far as I’m aware, there’s been no indication of construction issues. Perhaps the parking isn’t being utilized as much as they thought it would, but that has more to do with planning than construction.

5. “the cradit-moore house” 4-1-2014

Actually, this one has a pretty cool story attached. The Cradit-Moore house dates from 1817, with an addition built in 1860-61. The older north wing was built by Issac Cradit, and the south wing by Peter Kline (the Kline family were locally prominent farmers who held a lot of land, and its where Kline and Klinewoods Roads take their name from). The house was bought in 1938 by Dr. and Mrs. Norman Moore. Dr. Moore was the director of the Cornell U. infirmary, and in 1948, the Moores sold the house to Cornell but with the condition that they could live out the rest of their days in the home. When Cornell began plans to expand North Campus with CKB and Appel back in the late 1990s, the original intent was to demolish the house. This caused substantial protest, and working with the non-profit preservation group Historic Ithaca, Cornell donated the house away in 2000 and Historic Ithaca loaded the house, all in one piece, onto a flatbed truck and hauled it .3 miles to a new foundation on a lot donated by Cornell further up Pleasant Grove Road. The house was then sold to a private owner to recuperate the moving costs, the new foundation and landscaping.

Image property of Historic Ithaca

Image property of Historic Ithaca

6. “tunnel barton teagle” 3-25-2014

It exists, though like many of Cornell’s tunnels, it doesn’t appear to be open for public use.





Ithaca is Cold

3 04 2014

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It probably doesn’t take a meteorologist to realize that this year was a long, cold and harsh winter. But let’s give it some perspective. All data comes courtesy of the Northeast Regional Climate Center (NRCC).

Records go back to 1893 for the Ithaca area. If we look at just snowfall, this was a fairly average year. The typical Ithaca winter averaged 64 to 67 inches, depending on your source, with accumulations on 19 days. Barring any freak spring snowstorms (God forbid), this year will finish up at 63.3 inches tallied from 20 days of accumulating snow, virtually par for the course.

Then we take a look at the cold. That was the news maker this year – the cold, not the snow. Let’s put this into perspective and look at the period from November 1 to March 31st – what most folks would describe as the cold season, rather than just calendar or meteorological winter (we’ll hit met winter in a minute).

This was tied for the second coldest cold season since 1893. The average temperature was 24.8 F. Tied with the winter of 1969/1970, and 0.3 F short of the record holder, 24.5 F set in the winter of 1903/04. Even the detestable cold of the winter of 1993/1994 wasn’t as bad as this year (though it holds fourth at 25.0 F). The average coldest temperature in a year is about January 18th, with a high of 30 F and a low of 17 F.  23.5 F. In other words, the temperatures seen on what is usually the coldest day in a year could very nearly be applied to a five month period. It was that bad.

Now let’s look at meteorological winter, December 1 – February 28th/29th. 21.4 F. This is, surprisingly, not awful. It’s the 15th coldest meteorological winter on record. Below average, but not awful. 2002-2003 was worse (21.2 F). The winter of 1917-18 is worst, with an average of 19.0 F. So winter was cold, and seems to be shifting the blame to November and March.

In that respect, we have to hand it to March for being an epic piece of frigid dung. Fourth coldest March on record, at 24.5 F. Only March 1900 (24.4 F), 1984 (23.8 F) and 1960 (21.5 F) were worse. November 2013 averaged 35.7 F, which is once again below average, as the 16th coldest November on record. To sum up this season, it wasn’t just the cold, it was duration that truly made it a memorable year.

To touch upon the cold a little more thoroughly, the number of subzero temperatures in the cold season was 23. 23 subzero days ties second place for the most subzero days in a cool season. Tied with 1947/48, and one short of the record holder, 1960/61 (change it to met winter and it moves to third, behind 1960/61 and 1962/63). In terms of maxima, it still has yet to hit 60 this year, the last time Ithaca was above the “jacket line” was December 23rd. You know, because everyone wants a green Christmas, followed by three months of polar conditions.

So there you have it. Persistent troughing in the east gave us one of the coldest cool seasons in decades. If you want to blame someone, look at California and their persistent ridge out west, giving them their warmest winter ever recorded. But then, given the drought, and given that the fringe suburbs of SoCal may go through this again in six months, maybe blame’s not the right word.





2013 Census Estimates: Say Hi to the New Neighbors

30 03 2014

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Every late March, the U.S. census releases their new population estimates for counties. So, I causally checked in to see how the Tompkins County numbers were doing. The county typically shows a modest addition of a few hundred each year – from 2010 to 2012, the estimated addition was 990 residents, from 101,564 to 102,554, which if carried out evenly, it would be an expected 4.9% increase for the decade (and roughly on par with the 5.2% in the 2000s).

I was a little taken aback when I saw the numbers for this year. For one thing, somewhere along the way, they revised 2012’s number up to 102,713. For another thing, this year’s number is a relative spike in the trajectory – 103,617.  In addition of 904 from the revised 2012 figure, and 1,063 from the original 2012 estimate. So, the change from 2012 to 2013 is about as much or more than the gain of the previous two years. Using the 2013 figure and extrapolating the three years’ estimates out to the end of the decade, the county would be projected to grow 6.74% to about 108,400 residents in the year 2020.

In many states, this would not seem an overly impressive figure. But it is worth noting that this is economically-depressed upstate New York. Last year, the only counties that were growing faster than Tompkins (as a percentage) were Jefferson County (Watertown, with the economic engine of Fort Drum) and Saratoga County (Saratoga Springs, with the massive Global Foundries computer chip plant in suburban Malta).  With the 2013 figures, Tompkins County moves into the second-place slot, behind Jefferson County (I note that the population estimates gave Jefferson a population decrease this year; the army base up there is expected to see a loss of 1500 to 2000 soldiers as it loses a brigade over the next few years, as part of army cutbacks). I’m also leaving out downstate counties/boroughs – Kings County/Brooklyn Borough is projected to have added 88,000 people for 3.5% growth since 2010. Almost all of Tompkins’s population, in three years. New York City gains ever-more reason to view it and its boroughs as the center of the world. On the other end of the scale, Schoharie (sko-hair-ee) County has the biggest estimated percent loss, at -2.8%. Schoharie is a rural county just west of Albany; it suffered a major hit from Hurricane Irene.

Echoing my comments from last year, estimates should be used with caution, as they don’t always reflect the true population. From the housing units perspective, using the number of 2.29 residents per unit estimated for 2008-2012, one gets justification for about 395 more units of housing for the past year, or about 897 units since 2010. I’m cautious about using these number as much more than curiosities, but they’re intriguing, and seem to bode well for the health of this county. Even when the jobs numbers aren’t.

 





Fast Facts: Cornell Employee Headcounts

25 03 2014

All figures come from the Cornell University Factbook.

I’ll lead off with a breakdown of overall number of employees. Faculty and academic staff have been discussed previously, but for consistency’s sake, their numbers are included here in their separate sub categories. In other words, the total number of Cornell employees is faculty + academic staff + non-academic staff. These figures don’t include Weill Cornell, but do include the Geneva research facility and the tech campus in New York City, (the tech campus had 7 employees in 2012 and 15 in 2013). Student and temp employees are not counted either. All figures were taken from November 1 of the year displayed.

cornell_headcount_total
In terms of raw numbers and in percentage, it’s pretty clear that non-academic staff were the ones that decreased the most in the midst of the Great Recession. The big plummet comes from 2008 to 2009, where the number of non-academic staff dropped from 7,707 to 7,038, an 8.7% drop. Combined with the losses in employment in faculty and academic staff, the drop in employment that year was from 10,548 to 9,786. Today, the number of total employees is even lower, at 9,731. Meanwhile, student enrollment has continued to climb.

Cornell had a few different tricks up its sleeve to decrease the numbers so sharply. The primary constituent was a retirement incentive package. If you worked at Cornell for over 10 years and were 55 or older, the university was willing to give an employee a lump sum payment (one year’s pay) and an enhanced retirement account payment (30% of what was in the account), provided that the individual retired by the end of June 2009. According to their press release, 432 people accepted the offer. As I recall from my job at the Cornell Store, at least three of the full-time store employees had accepted the package. Another 200 accepted in 2009-2010. Of the 669 positions, at least 105 were layoffs. A Sun article from 2011 details the results of these cuts, including concerns of low morale and overburdening certain departments. It also notes that cuts were expected to continue through 2015, which given the numbers out since then, looks to be pretty accurate. For the curious, the average salary of a non-academic full-time staffer at Cornell was $33,885 in 2007.

Looking at the numbers in greater detail, we can take further nuggets of information from the figures. For fall 2013, for instance, there were 7,070 non-academic staff. Of those 7,070, 4,130 (58.42%) are female, and 6,193 (87.60%) are white. There are 479 part-timers, or 6.78% of the total non-academic staff workforce.

The types of non-academic staff can be broken down into subcategories, both for occupational group and by organizational sector. For occupational groups, the subdivisions are clerical/secretary, executive/admin/managerial, other professional, service and maintenance, skilled crafts, and technical/paraprofessional. For organizational sector, the subdivisions are “Colleges, Research, Library, Other Academic Units, Student and Academic Services, Facilities Services, and Other Administrative Units”.

Job Groups

Org Sector

Speaking broadly and looking at proportions alone, if you work in research or in an administrative position, you’ve fared pretty well since the big slimdown five years ago. If you’re a skilled craftsman or fall into the vague term of “other academic unit”, the prospects haven’t been as sunny. The big employers in gross are secretaries and the grab-bag called “other professionals”, in colleges and “other administrative units”. I presume a lot of secretaries have been replaced by Ms. Google and her friends.

colleges_headcount

In this Cornell-provided chart, if you split up the colleges by headcount, the Vet School and CALS appears to have taken the biggest cutbacks, although AAP took a big hit percentage-wise. Hotel, HumEc, the Johnson and the Law Schools employ more now than they did at the 2008 peak.

cornell_employee_age

Lastly, even with the retirement incentive, the employee population continues to grey. In 2001, 12.4% of non-academic staff were 55 or older; by fall 2013 it’s doubled to over 25%. In sum, while the student population goes up, the staff population is generally decreasing and trending older.

 





Two Sides to an Argument

18 03 2014

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I generally try to stay on the sidelines when it comes to promoting or opposing for Ithaca projects. I’m not about to get involved in favor of the West Falls Street proposal, the Stone Quarry proposal, or Cayuga Meadows, or any other local project that neighboring residents want shot down. NIMBYism (NIMBY is short for “not in my backyard” , a reference to when people accept a community has a need for a project but they oppose it in their neighborhood) is ever-present, just about every project in the city and town has had some degree of opposition (the only exception I can think of offhand is the convention center/hotel planned for downtown). My own opposition arises when I feel a proposal threatens something of historic value. Regardless, the planning board is good at staying neutral. I may not always agree with the planning board, but I generally respect their judgement.

I’m going to make an exception to my non-partisan stance for 1 Ridgewood, thanks to Walter Hang.

As much as it bothers me to do it, to explain my issues, it is best if I provide a link to the petition and its partially-labelled map of square footages.  A large chunk of those appear to be people who have little or no connection to Ithaca. Token disclaimer: I’m not for or against his fracking work, my concern is focused squarely on this project. In an attempt to keep this project from being railroaded, I decided to examine the petition’s arguments.

chhd1

Here’s the area Mr. Hang wants his moratorium, Cornell Heights, split between the city and Cayuga Heights. For the record, the dark grey represents Cornell-affiliated properties, mostly GLOs and a few Co-Ops in the CHHD. Looking at the city section specifically:
chhd2

The red X is the Ridgewood apartment parcel, for three buildings between 5578, 5710 and 6662 square feet, with mostly below-grade parking. One of my issues is that some of Mr. Hang’s assertions are misleading. For example:

Due to recent development, the Historic District is clearly transitioning from its original turn-of-the-20th century “residential park” to a densely developed area that bears little resemblance to the community that warranted special historic district protection approximately 25 years ago.”

It’s hardly changed. There have been two three projects built since 1989. A single-family home at 116 Dearborn Place that was built in 2005, the Tudor house of the Bridges Cornell nursing home was built in 2005, and the new apartments currently going up on Thurston. If you want to push the envelope, Alpha Zeta (214 Thurston) replaced half of its original structure in 1992-1993 when it was renovated. A couple buildings (Kappa Delta, and 111 Heights Court) have received renovations, which were approved by the Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Council (ILPC).

 

Approval is being sought for an apartment complex proposed for 1 Ridgewood Road. Three buildings would be built on the largest undeveloped property in Cornell Heights, a spectacular forested setting enjoyed by hundreds of local residents who walk along and through it each day.

The proposed buildings would dwarf nearby structures. Figure One illustrates that the buildings would be 300% larger than the adjoining structure on Highland Avenue and at least 200% larger than all the immediately surrounding structures.

Out of a total of more than 200 structures in the Cornell Heights Historic District, only six are bigger than all three proposed buildings. Those six were built before the Historic District designation.

What’s not being told about that “spectacular forested property” is the abandoned swimming pool or dilapidated poolhouse. Also, as seen in at Mr. Hang’s map, the project is shifted to the west (left side) of the parcel, where many its nearby neighbors tend to be larger, ranging from 3000-8600 square feet (Westbourne to the north is a contiguous complex with 10,800 sq ft of space). To call this “dwarfing” is to take it out of its full context.

It concerns me that a petition with emotionally-charged language, gathering signatures from people that are not stakeholders in the Ithaca community, is being pushed by someone who has a history of aggressive tactics. It bothers me that an underutilized parcel with great public transit access in a highly populated area is going to have its zoning changed after the developer has been sensitive to planning board concerns and returned with a proposal within current regulations, which sets a terrible precedent for the community and opens up the possibility of legal action against the city. Lastly, in a period where Cornell continues its enrollment growth, I’m worried that if projects like this will be prohibited, it will only encourage more rental conversations of existing housing, more subpar housing situations, higher rents and increased sprawl.








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