2nd ward news – February 2016

2ND WARD NEWS – FEBRUARY 2016

We unstave the winter’s tangle.
Sad tomatoes, sullen sky.

We unplay the summer’s blight.
Rotted on the vine, black fruit

swings free of strings that bound it.
In the compost, ghost melon; in the fields

grotesque extruded peppers.
We prod half-thawed mucky things.

In the sky, starlings eddying.
Tomorrow, snow again, old silence.

Today, the creaking icy puller.
Last night I woke

To wild unfrozen prattle.
Rain on the roof – a foreign liquid tongue.

-Tess Taylor, “Mud Season”

A poem called “Mud Season” seems appropriate for this February. There’s been a lot of that peculiar mix of rain and snow that’s known rounds these parts as “Ithacating.” It’s been a busy month, folks. Here’s your 2nd ward news:

 MAYOR’S DRUG POLICY PLAN

Big news this month was the announcement of the “Ithaca Plan,” a comprehensive drug policy for the City of Ithaca. This grows out of the work of a committee commissioned by the Mayor two years to examine the growing problem of drug addiction in our community.

You can read the entire plan here. The announcement of the plan garnered a lot of media publicity, particularly the most controversial part: a proposal for supervised heroin injection sites, something that has never been done in the United States, although it’s been done in Europe and Canada.

There are pretty big political and legal hurdles that would have to be overcome to build a heroin injection site. The injection sites are just one part of a multi-part plan, however, and there are many other proposals in the plan that are more straightforward: an office of drug policy, methadone treatment, a crisis center, a law enforcement assisted diversion program, and more.

As with any new proposal I have a lot of questions, but as a set of recommendations, this plan is really valuable. A comprehensive drug strategy for our community is long overdue, and there are some excellent ideas here. Heroin is a major crisis in our community, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had constituents contact me about it. Wait, I’ve had to say, we’re working on a plan. Well, I’m glad to see that plan is finally here, and I commend the Mayor for pushing forward a vision that could put Ithaca on the cutting edge of municipal drug policy.

CITY DRINKING WATER QUALITY REPORT

I’m sure you’ve heard the news reports by now about elevated levels of lead in the water at Ithaca area schools. The news is alarming, and it’s sparked widespread concern. The City of Ithaca Water and Sewer Division released its annual water quality report, and the news is good: the water quality has exceeded the requirements set forth by New York State Public Health Law. I wanted to share this information to reassure city residents who may have concerns.

 CITY NEWSLETTER

The February issue of the city’s “CityScene” newsletter is out. Check out the Mayor’s 2016 State of the City Address, information about new taxicab rates and clean energy opportunities, and a farewell to four long-time public servants who served the City of Ithaca well.

CITY “NOTIFY ME” TOOL

A new development in our ongoing efforts to improve city communications with the public: by signing up to the city’s “Notify Me” tool, you can receive all kinds of news from the city, such as press releases, agendas, city newsletters and more. Enter your info here, and you can go down the list and pick the updates you’d like to receive.

 “OFFICER NEXT DOOR” PROGRAM

At our February Council meeting, we approved an “officer next door program” for the West Village apartment complex, which has seen its share of crime over the years. This program would allow a police officer to live on site in return for subsidized rent. The hope is that the presence of an officer would deter crime in the neighborhood. West Village is privately owned, so no city tax dollars would be spent.

We had a vigorous debate about the program at our Council meeting. The Ithaca Voice did a good summary. Ultimately I do think this program will be helpful, but it should be paired with other measures, like better property management. No one in our city should have to live amidst the kind of crime that West Village families have experienced.

J. DIANN SAMMS AWARD

Congrats to Milicent “Millie” Clarke Maynard who was honored with the 2016 J. Diann Samms African-American History Recognition Award at our February Council meeting! This is an award that’s given out by the Ithaca Common Council every February to a member of the Ithaca community who has made a lasting commitment to improving the lives of the underserved or marginalized. Here’s a write up of the ceremony with a nice photo of Millie and her husband.

 BIKE LANES ON NORTH TIOGA STREET

The City of Ithaca is looking for public feedback on a proposal to install bike lanes on the section of North Tioga Street between Court Street and the Commons. If the bike lanes are installed, on-street parking in the area would be reduced. See this link for more info, as well as a schedule of public meetings where this topic will be discussed. Written comments will be accepted until March 14, 2016 and can be submitted to the Department of Public Works, Engineering Services, 108 E. Green Street, Ithaca NY 14850 or submitted to engineering@cityofithaca.org.

 EXTERIOR PROPERTY MAINTENANCE ORDINANCE CHANGES

At our February Council meeting, we passed some changes to our Exterior Property Maintenance Ordinance – you know that costly ticket you received for a missing trash can lid, overgrown yard, or bag of garbage left on your porch? Here is the best summary of the changes. And if you haven’t signed up to the city’s notification system yet, please do so!

DEVELOPMENT UPDATES

Here’s a quick roundup of development news of interest to 2nd ward residents:

            State Street Triangle Project – last month I reported that the State Street Triangle Project had returned in a smaller, more scaled-back version. (If you’ll recall, this is the 11-story building that caused all the controversy over the summer). The developers brought back a 9-story version, but they pulled the project from the Planning Board agenda and issued a statement that they were unable to come to an agreement with the property owner. So this project, for the time being anyways, is not moving forward. I’m sure many people will be glad to hear it; this was not a popular project.

            Old Library Project – the redevelopment of the Old Library is moving forward. The developer and architects met with a joint meeting of the Planning Board and Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Commission to get feedback on the concept, which calls for a new building that would include market-rate housing for seniors, expanded facilities for Lifelong, and professional office space. The project is in the Dewitt Park Historic District, so it needs to get ILPC review. The public process to approve the project is quite lengthy, and will go into the summer. There will be a second joint meeting of the Planning Board and ILCP on Tuesday, March 8th at 6pm in Council chambers.

            210 Hancock Projectjust last Friday, demolition started on the former Neighborhood Pride grocery store to prepare the way for INHS’s 210 Hancock project. The Ithaca Journal made a video of the demolition, which is quite something! The project has a website, which is a great way to find out information on the project’s timeline and construction schedule. There is also a number to contact if questions or concerns come up during the construction process.

Simeon’s Rebuild – The Simeon’s building is aiming for a late spring reopening date. Brian Crandall has the latest. In other news, Chuck Schumer was in town to announce federal funding that could be available to improve traffic safety on Ithaca roads; as I’m sure everyone knows, the Simeon’s building was demolished when a runaway tractor trailer struck it in the summer of 2014.

            Chapter House Rebuild – Not in the 2nd ward, but it’s such an Ithaca icon that I thought I would include it: the Chapter House rebuild received its final approvals from the Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Commission and is moving forward. I think the new design looks great!

That’s about it for February, folks. Until next month,

Seph