Eight Years Later

18 06 2016

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It’s kinda hard to believe eight years have passed since this blog was started. Last year, I drafted this post up on the early side, but this year, I’m kinda waited until the “last moment”, mostly because I wanted to figure out just what exactly I wanted to write.

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In previous years, the blog averaged 82, 166, 199, 216, 182, 155 and 219 hits daily. Over this past year, 97,401 hits were recorded, just over 266 hits per day, leap day noted.

The blog has its niche. Photo sets for construction projects run every month – Collegetown, Downtown, and projects in Lansing/Dryden occupy even months, while Cornell, Fall Creek, South Hill, West Hill and the rest of the county run during odd-numbered months. Fall Creek and Lansing/Dryden switched places this year to balance the workload. Nearly every Saturday at 0000 UTC, there’s “news tidbits”, the weekly news roundup, and if I’m motivated and have time, the other weekly topical post goes up Tuesdays 0000UTC. I like regularity.

One of the things that changed up over the past year was with role in the Voice. For the first year of so, most of it was Jeff pulling things he thought would work well for Voice content, and using it nearly word-for-word. But, over the past year, the Voice has had a greater proportion of unique content, so one has to read both to get all the development news.

Writing for the Voice on the side of my primary job has its fun times and its stressful times. There’s a lot of curious readers out there, and it’s great to engage with them. The stressful part is time management and just trying to stay on top of everything.

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In the past year, some projects have finished up – the Lofts @ Six Mile Creek, 206 Taughannock, the Carey Building is virtually complete (what a difference a year makes), 707 East Seneca wrapped up on East Hill, and Ithaca Beer finished their addition. Cornell finished Klarman Hall, and the lakeside mansion at 1325 Taughannock was also finished. The modulars at 804 East State were approved, built and finished by the end of the winter. HOLT Architects completed the renovations for their new HQ, Texas Roadhouse wrapped up, and the Belle Sherman Cottages just sold their last house.

Other projects are only just starting their construction journeys. 210 Hancock and Varna’s 902 Dryden were approved, last summer and this spring respectively. Both are expected to start construction this summer. Cornell has started work on the new Breazzano Executive MBA Center in Collegetown, and several block away, John Novarr is building Phase III of Collegetown Terrace. Work is just starting up on Conifer LLC’s Cayuga Meadows affordable senior apartments building on West Hill, while down the road the Brookdale facility is well underway.

Some things are still plodding along through review, like the Travis Hyde plans for the Old Library site, and the Chain Works District. Other proposals are still trying to figure out financing, such as 323 Taughannock and Harold’s Square. Then there are projects that are just big question marks right now, like the Chapter House Rebuild. Maybe there will be some solid development there next year.

There are also new plans presented during the past 12 months – 815 South Aurora and 201 College from developer Todd Fox, Cornell presented plans for renovations to Hughes Hall, and to redevelop Maplewood Park. 1061 Dryden will be sparking the latest development debates in Varna.

Lastly, a few plans bit the dust. State Street Triangle is probably the most well-known, but there were others such as INHS’s Greenways townhouse project, and College Crossings on South Hill. The owners of the SST site still want to redevelop it, but Campus Advantage won’t be involved.

This past year definitely had its share of debates and controversies. Virtually every project from home lots to big buildings has some level of opposition, but some are particularly contentious. State Street Triangle, the Maguire plans, the bar once planned for 416-418 E. State, Black Oak Wind Farm. BOWF is especially worrying. With goals such as affordable housing and renewable energy, there are times Tompkins County’s residents seem to be their own biggest enemies.

Some of my favorite posts this year include the two-part write-up about Ithaca’s Urban Renewal, and the analysis of 30 years of Tompkins County new construction permits. There were looks at the Fall Creek housing market and the NYSDOT Waterfront feasibility study. The Newfield UFO and the tour of STREAM Collaborative’s net-zero house offered diversions from the typical posts.

Eight years is a long time, and there will be some major announcements later this year. Stay tuned.

 





The Times They Are a-Changin’

3 11 2015

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A little less fact and a little more opinion with this week’s Tuesday post.

I postponed what I originally had planned because of a few things coming together at once. One, a post from Kathy Zahler at the Dryden Daily Kaz alleging ageism at work in the 4th District county legislature race, and this piece on the ever-evolving character of New York’s East Village from the Sunday New York Times.

In the 4th District race, you have a 19 year-old candidate, and a 56 year-old candidate, both Ithaca natives. Reading their views on the issues, one can’t find a whole lot of differences, but the “he’s just a kid” type of comment raises its ugly head. I don’t claim to know why people vote the way they do, nor do I feel it appropriate to do endorsements. People will vote how they want. But it would be a real disappointment if age were being used as the deciding factor.

It reminds me a lot of an Ithaca adage that people want Ithaca to look and feel exactly as it did when they moved here, or felt most in their element here. Which ties in pretty well to this NYT piece from last Sunday.

“When I asked nostalgic people to name the street’s golden era, they cited a range of years — often falling between 1960 and 1982, but sometimes 1945, or 1958, or 2012.”

Likewise, everyone has their own idea of Ithaca’s “Golden Era”, and when it ended. For many of the city’s oldest or most conservative residents, and for many older folks in the surrounding towns, it was when the Commons opened in 1974/75. It has just as much to do with the Commons itself as what the Commons represents – when Ithaca turned leftist. Up until the early 1970s, the city and county were run by Republicans. But, due mostly to the large influx of largely singleminded faculty at IC and Cornell in the late 1960s and 1970s, and a trend towards rentals in the city (then as now, students/young voters tend to be more liberal), the area started voting more and more Democrats into office. The last Republican mayor of Ithaca (Bill Shaw) left office in 1983. The last alderperson (Bob Romanowski), 1993. The national trend towards the right didn’t help, as Northeast Republicans generally trend to the moderate side. The Commons was a product of Democrat Ed Conley’s administration, and it’s often seen as a congregation site for social activists and crunchy boutique stores – head shops, organic specialty items, and the like. So it’s not hard to imagine why the Commons receives so much criticism, because for those who saw Ithaca’s best days as Republican ones, its opening signified the beginning of the end.

You could go down any street and get a variety of numbers – for the more blue-collar folks, the end of the Golden Era might be 1983 (when Smith-Corona shut down most operations and BorgWarner Morse moved to Lansing), 1986/87 (when Ithaca Gun moved out), or 2011 (when Emerson Power laid off its last local staff). For those who have clung to the misguided image of Ithaca as a small town where nothing bad happens, the Ellis Hollow murders in 1989, or the stabbing death of IPD Officer Padula in the line of duty in 1996, might be when Ithaca’s Golden Age came to a close, and it became to them an alien, dangerous place. Still others will say Ithaca’s Golden Age closed when Wal-Mart opened (2005), when Cornell turned to the lake for its cooling needs (2000), or this year, when Moosewood decided to go national.

The point is, Ithaca’s “Golden Era” ended at a different time for everyone; for some it’s still going.  That’s because the community is always changing, evolving, remaking itself into something different from what it was.

“If you’re complaining about the East Village, or New York in general, being dead, I think it’s worth considering the possibility that, yes, it is over — for you. But for plenty of others, the city is as full of potential and magic as it was in 1977. Or 1964. Or 1992. Or whenever you last walked down the street and felt like it belonged only to you.”

One of the things that I find bothersome is when one prefaces a comment with “I was born here in 1953/I moved here in 1977/I bought my house in Fall Creek in 1983…”. It doesn’t make one more “correct”, it doesn’t mean one’s opinion should have extra weight. For a community that prides itself on being so cosmopolitan for its size, bragging about the decades one has been in one place suggests insularity and close-mindedness. It’s like saying the community isn’t allowed to change without one’s explicit permission.

My exposure to it is mostly from the perspective of development. Almost always, it’s how they’ve lived here for decades, and something will ruin the character of a neighborhood. People don’t like anything that impacts the feel of a place, which can be something major like the physical appearance of a new house or apartment building, or something more subtle, like the type of resident moving in. But as communities go, character was never intended to be a static object. That’s why you’ll have a building built in 1926, next to a pair of houses built in 1880, just west of an office built in 1972, and across the street from a building built in 2005.

The average Tompkins County legislator is well into their 50s; the county’s average age is 30. Some might see a 19 year-old too young for office, I see a kid with a lot of potential and desire to work for his community.

“Walking along St. Marks Place now, I see young New Yorkers having their moment, living their own Technicolor years. To afford to be here in 2015, they may have trust funds or three jobs or their bedroom may be a friend’s brother’s couch in Ridgewood. Yet here they are at midnight, breaking up with their first boyfriend on the same corner where ’50s poets went to jazz concerts, ’60s radicals handed out fliers, ’70s punk rockers skulked on stoops, ’80s artists plotted their assault on the art world and ’90s skateboarders did kick-flips….Who understands the soul of any place? Who deserves to be here? Who is the interloper and who the interloped-upon?”

Ithaca is always transforming. People are born, they grow up, they age, they die, they move in, they move out. New thoughts awaken and old ways of thinking fade to the background. Change will happen, welcomed or otherwise. But at least if it’s welcomed, there’s the opportunity to guide it.

 

 

 





“Fun Facts” About the Ithaca Workforce

21 07 2015

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A few weeks ago, I did an article for the Ithaca Voice about how wages in Ithaca are only slightly higher than peer communities in upstate, yet they pay a lot more in rent.

This article isn’t going to focus on that, although I could certainly add a few more pages (or at least fix the embedded graphs issue in the first article). This “topic of the week” piece is intended to be more of a “fun facts” about the Ithaca labor market.

The data comes from the Department of Labor here. All figures date from May 2014.

– The major category that employs the most people in Ithaca is no surprise – “Education, Training and Library Occupations”, with 15.49% of the jobs in the Ithaca metro (the BLS estimates this category to have 7,660 jobs locally, but that would suggest only about 49,430 jobs in the region when their numbers elsewhere say 70,000…make of it what you will). This turns out to be the highest percentage for any metro in the entire country.

This category, which includes professors, teachers, librarians and teaching assistants, averages pay of $80,700/year locally, versus $46,660/year nationally. Not only is Ithaca the metro with the largest percentage of educators and librarians, it’s also the one with the highest wages – Ann Arbor (U. of Michigan) comes in second with $79,500. Ithaca’s quintessential college town vibe is strong.

– The occupational category with the highest average pay is no shocker either – Physicians and surgeons, who employ about 80 people locally and average a pay of just over $233,000/year. The national average is only a little lower at $224,000/year. They are followed by the 40 or so dentists in the region making an average of $205,000/year (national average $167,000/year).
– On the other end of the scale, fast food cooks make the least – the 140 estimated by the BLS make about $18,680 per year. Food prep, delivery drivers and laundry workers all make less than $20,000/year on average, and amount to 1,380 workers. The median salary for all jobs in the Ithaca area is $52,020/year.

– Some other rankings where Ithaca comes in the top 10 of the nation’s 381 metros: professional chefs (8th highest concentration in the nation), microbiologists (7th highest concentration), psychologists (5th) and editors (4th – here’s looking at you, Jeff).

– Now here’s a fun category – location quotient. Basically, how many times more likely a certain type of worker is in a given area versus the national average. For example, my field, atmospheric and space scientists, has a location quotient of 107.36 for the Boulder, Colorado – in other words, atmospheric and space scientists are 107.36 times more common  in Boulder than the national average. This is why we have a joke in my field that Boulder is like Mecca for atmospheric scientists – you have to visit at least once before you die, otherwise you can’t go to Heaven.

So what fields have the highest location quotients in Ithaca? Economics professors (24.53), Physics professors (14,49) and Fundraisers (14.03). And yes, Ithaca has the highest concentration of people in those fields out of any metro area in the country. Now I know why Cornell is so persistent with its donation solicitations.





Seven Years Later

18 06 2015

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Seven years. The amount of time it takes to master something. Today, Ithacating celebrates its 7th birthday. It was started in a dimly-lit bedroom on a cool, rainy evening on June 18th, 2008. I’ve made the comment before that I’ve never written the birthday entry in the same place – until this year. Most of it was written the evening of the 16th at home, with a quick check of the numbers at lunch before scheduling its publication.

So, as always, the yearly stats. Here’s the summary for the year-to-date:

stats_2015

In previous years, the blog averaged 82, 166, 199, 216, 182 and 155 hits daily. The numbers look a little more dismal than they are; the blog had a large downturn in traffic starting around February 2013, and only started to experience an uptick again in February 2014. The upswing has continued for a lot of the past year, with some months setting all-time records in late 2014 and 2015. This year, as of 11:52 AM EDT, 445,292 hits have been received, about 219 hits per day. In other words, the most traffic I’ve ever received has been in the past 12 months.

I owe a lot of that to the Ithaca Voice.

The biggest change over the past year has probably been the Voice and its relationship with the blog. The Ithaca Voice launched only three days before the 6th birthday post, so its impact was yet to be meaningfully quantified. Looking at the numbers, the Voice has referred 1,108 viewers (vice-versa, Ithacating has referred about 116 viewers to the Ithaca Voice). Some pieces on the blog are “syndicated” in the Voice, and once in a while vice-versa; but there are articles and posts that are exclusive to each, so one has to be reading both to see everything.

Partially for my own time management, I set a formal publishing schedule for the blog – a news roundup on Friday nights, and a “topic of the week” on Monday nights. This gets suspended for photo update weeks, because those are much quicker to write.

I still get occasional visitors from Ithaca Builds (281), which I miss, although I’m happy for Jason and his pursuit of an MRE at Cornell. And although I tend to share historical photos more than blog posts on Twitter, that’s contributed about 1,449 visits over the past year, making it the second largest source of visitors after search engines.

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It’s still remarkable to think about the changes that have happened to this blog over the past seven years. This was originally a Cornell blog for the most part. Cornell news, Cornell facilities and Cornell history. However, I started to exhaust myself of ideas, and the Ithaca development entries, which weren’t a big focus in the first couple years, began to take up a larger proportion of the subject matter.

I cringe when I look at some of the oldest entries. The quality of writing and the over-opinioned screeds are atrocious.

Slowly working my way into different subject matter changed viewing patterns; the huge summer dip hollowed, but I stopped getting such a large spike in January when the Greek system’s rushees came back to Cornell. But I’m still very self-conscious of what I write – facts are double-checked and opinions have been muted, especially write-ups in the Voice. I jokingly refer to pieces as “blog-appropriate” and “Voice-appropriate” depending on how colloquial my writing is and how much of my opinion shows.

I spent five years writing semi-anonymously, and only this past year have I really engaged with many of the people I write about – architects, developers, politicians and officials.  There are definitely times when I feel out of my league, and to find out these people read the blog is both motivating and anxiety-inducing. I don’t consider myself especially knowledgeable about Ithaca building projects and urban planning, but I like to think that I’m good at finding information and writing about it.

My favorite entries over the past year are the ones where I can combine history and development – the 10-story building once proposed for Stewart Avenue, the Collegetown history series I did last year, and that time Cayuga Heights stopped Cornell from building dorms. There were still a few Cornell-centric pieces – a biography of Cornell’s incoming madam president, a history of Cornell’s ladder-climbing provosts, Cornell’s logo failure, and dogs at Cornell. There were also some new fast facts entries, including a couple for Ithaca College.

Looking at construction projects over the past year, a few projects were completed, or are about to be completed. The Lofts @ Six Mile Creek has gone from a foundation to near completion, Planned Parenthood wrapped up its new building, Ecovillage is ready to open their new apartment building and Stone Quarry is nearly finished. A few smaller projects, like 140 College Avenue in Collegetown, are also nearing the finish line.

A few projects were approved. Some have started, or are about to start construction – 114 Catherine, 327 Eddy, 307 College and 205 Dryden in inner Collegetown. Elsewhere, there was 707 East Seneca, the downtown Marriott and Canopy Hotels, and the Carey Building. Still others are awaiting financing, like 323 Taughannock and the Hotel Ithaca.

A few more projects were proposed – more Collegetown housing (some more likely than others), the Tompkins Financial Corporation HQ, 210 Hancock, 215-221 W. Spencer, and a Texas Roadhouse. Oh, and let’s not forget State Street Triangle, which will probably be a lightning rod of attention as it goes through the review process.

Lastly, a few projects also met their demise. 7 Ridgewood, a hotel for 339 Elmira Road, and the Cayuga Trails and Troy Road housing developments in Ithaca town. The town also recoiled from the Maguire HQ Plans, for now at least.

Over at Cornell, the Hotel School finished their new entrance and addition, the Gannett expansion started construction, Klarman Hall continued to plod towards completion, and the “Sesquicentennial Grove” was planted. Cornell announced plans to renovate Upson Hall and Rand Hall.

It’s been a busy year, and even CNN noticed. But it gives me plenty to write about in the news round-ups. I won’t issue a Friday night post if there are less than four news items, and that’s only happened a few times in the past year.

So, here I am. It’s been seven years, but I wouldn’t call myself a master of anything (except puffy cloud studies). In late April, I received a job offer in Sacramento. I was sudden, and only a couple close friends and family knew about it. Two years ago, I’d have taken it without question. A year ago, probably yes. But (after a stressful weekend of debate) I turned it down because it no longer felt like the right move at the right time, which has led to some soul-searching about what I want and don’t want. It’s not easy to articulate. I dunno where things will go moving forward. In life or in blog. But I’ll keep writing as long as I enjoy it.

 





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:

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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.

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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.





College Towns As Retirement Communities

5 04 2014

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Growing up in upstate New York, retiring and moving to south Florida was considered a rite of passage. You worked for forty years, you retired with your company or government pension, you moved to a gated condo community in Florida, and then you complained about how much worse everything is these days and how terrible drivers are in Florida for the rest of your days.

I imagine that still tends to be a big draw (considering the New York to Florida population pipeline is the largest in interstate migration), but an increasingly-popular alternative in recent years has been to retire to college towns, enough that mainstream publications like USA Today and the New York Times have devoted articles to the topic.  it’s usually ascribed to some combination of a modest cost of living with expansive cultural and recreational amenities. Without having any numbers directly in front of me, I imagine Ithaca in a sort of second-tier in this category, if only because of the climate, which is a little cooler and snowier than the most popular college town retirement destinations. Still, I’ve been thinking about this topic a little bit because a number of the projects in the Ithaca area are targeted towards the retirement crowd. The individual trigger for this article was a Lansing Star article discussing review of a ~$17 million, 110-unit senior apartment building proposed for the forever-discussed Lansing Town Center development. The more I think about it, the more I realized a number of local projects, both recently built and proposed, are explicitly geared towards the 55+ age group:
Hawk’s Nest at Springwood (50 units)

Cayuga Meadows (62 units)

Longview Patio Homes (22 units)

Conifer Village at Ithaca (72 units)

The Kendal at Ithaca expansion (24 apartments and 13 “skilled care” units)

-The Old Tompkins County library site (likely)

Some of the news stories focus on collegiate affinity (i.e. living near the old alma mater) and offerings at the universities as a draw for retirees. To that end, Cornell offers summer courses for seniors and the local community college allows residents over 60 to audit courses (I don’t see anything described for IC). Those offerings along with the open lectures and Ithaca’s fairly active community engagement seem to provide some draw for those in their later years. I find college students and retirees an odd mix (even if they live in different neighborhoods for the most part), but if it works, I have nothing against it.





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.

 








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