Coalition strengthens town, campus bond
Published: Thursday, September 23, 2010
Updated: Thursday, September 23, 2010 21:09
Plattsburgh State and the city of Plattsburgh have started working together to help strengthen the relationship between the college's campus community and the city's permanent residents through the Campus/City Coalition.
The coalition began shortly after Plattsburgh Mayor Donald Kasprzak was elected in 2007. Kasprzak said that at the beginning of his term as mayor he saw a need in the community for stronger relationships with students and permanent residents.
"I know, because I live in Plattsburgh, the issues that most of the residents have to deal with," Kasprzak said. It wasn't a campaign issue, but what we found was that the center city (between Beekman Street and Margaret Street) were at the fore front of a lot of city problems."
As a part of the Campus/City Coalition, Kasprzak and PSUC Prseident John Ettling began discussing the different needs of the community in order to strengthen community relations with the city residents and the college students, both on and off campus. Ettling said initially, the coalition came up with 30 recommendations that fell into one of three categories — things the college can do by itself, things the city must do by itself and things the city and the college can do together.
Permanent residents, who have lived in their homes for many decades, had to change as homes around them were converted to college housing, Kasprzak said.
"You will still have residents that are upset about a lot of the changes in their neighborhood issues with housing and things, which I understand, but I think we're working really hard to at least talk about their concerns," Kasprzak said.
Through events like Knock and Talk, and Meet Your Neighbors, the coalition is encouraging off-campus students to reach out and get to know their neighbors as a way to open communication.
Meet Your Neighbor was held Sept. 8 at different off-campus locations in the center city. The locations included 169 Cornelia St., 62 and 64 Couch St., 48 Broad St., and 122 Court St.
Roger Kallop, resident of 122 Court St., a member of the Pi Alpha Nu fraternity, has been involved with the coalition since its beginning, and said the fraternity has been involved with the Meet your Neighbor event since it began last year. Kallop said the event has brought the members involved closer to their neighbors.
"The main goal and outlook of what we are trying to do here is realize that the students need to have a better understanding of what the full-time residents are feeling, because we are kids invading on their normal home," Kallop said.
Kallop said the members of the house have benefited from the relationships they have made by being close with their neighbors.
Kallop said all of his surrounding neighbors are full-time residents, while members of his house have provided certain neighbors with their numbers in case he has any issues with them or needs help with certain things.
Kallop said that one of the only problems his neighbors have had is leaving trash on the side porch of the house. Once aware of the problem, however, him and his roommates made sure to always clean it up.
City of Plattsburgh police department and the University police department have also found that by joining resources the quality of life can be improved for both permanent residents and PSUC students.
"The thinking was that if we coordinated some of our efforts, and if we pooled some of our resources that we could address some of the safety issues and quality of life in Plattsburgh," Assistant Chief of University Police Jerry Lottie, said.
Chief of Police Desmond Racicot said that city police have seen a decrease in college related issues since the early '90s. Some of the major issues that city police see with students are noise, property damage, foot traffic, quality of life issues, which usually all occur when students are going "from point A to point B," when students go from one party to another or start walking downtown.
Kallop said another benefit of having an open communication with neighbors is that if any of his neighbors have any issue with them, the neighbors feel more open about addressing the members of the house with their concerns instead of involving police.
Kasprzak said that the coalition has accomplished most of its original goals. While some residents might feel like all things have not been addressed, he thinks the coalition has improved community-college relations, which has improved the overall living conditions for all.
"There are still a couple critics out there who don't feel we've done enough, but as mayor I deal with that at all levels because we're not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but we try to do the best we can with the resources that we have," Kasprzak said.