2nd ward news – August 2016


I have a dream
to fill the golden sheath
of a remembered day….
heavy and massed and blue
as the vapor of opium…
fired in sulphorous mist…
quiescent as a gray seal…
and the emerging sun
spurting up gold
over Sydney, smoke-pale, rising out of the bay….)
But the day is an up-turned cup
and its sun a junk of red iron
guttering in sluggish-green water
where shall I pour my dream?

– Lola Ridge, “The Dream”

Hello Second Warders. I’ll be honest, I picked this poem because of the reference to sluggish-green water. Seemed appropriate….


As I’m sure you’re aware, we’ve been having some water issues this summer. First the drought, which drew down our water supply to critical levels, and second, discolored water. Thankfully, both problems seem to be improving. We’ve gotten some rain that has helped refill the reservoir, and the city has been making progress on the discolored water issue.

The City recently released a statement explaining what went wrong and how we’ve been responding, which I’m copying below. As you’ll see, the City has violated two NYS drinking water standards – one for the mineral manganese, and one for cloudiness – and we’re required by law to notify the public. It’s worth noting that these are the lowest levels of violation. The County Health Department has been involved in all of these conversations from the beginning and there is no health threat reported at this time, nor from limited exposure to the higher levels of manganese.

I want to thank everyone for your patience this summer while we dealt with this problem. I had the brown water myself, and it was really nasty. Just as with any complex system, it took time to diagnose the problem and come up with an effective solution, but the problem does seem to be fixed. Here’s the City’s statement:

“Beginning sometime in late-June of this year, customers of the City of Ithaca drinking water supply system started reporting that their water was discolored. After suggesting several possible reasons for the discolored water and trying several solutions, the City has determined that the cause of the discoloration was high levels of manganese, and the problem is successfully being addressed.

Manganese is present in high concentrations in the earth and in sediments in the reservoir. It dissolves into the water, especially when it gets warm or when there is little rain. Dissolved manganese has no color, but when chlorine is added to water with high levels of manganese, the manganese solidifies and the water turns color, at first yellow and eventually brown.

It takes time for this to occur, so even though the water was clear or mostly clear at the water plant, it turned brown while it was in the water mains that carry water throughout the city. The manganese can solidify so much that it forms flakes that look like rust.

The City’s water treatment plant cannot remove manganese when it is dissolved, so the City started adding a chemical oxidant to the intake pipe at the reservoir to make the manganese solidify before it reaches the water plant. At first not enough of the oxidant was added and most of the dissolved manganese was still getting through. But by early August the right amount of oxidant was being added, and most of the manganese was solidifying early and being removed by the treatment plant. At that point, the reports of brown water almost completely stopped.

Since early July, the City has taken weekly samples from several locations throughout the water system. These samples are tested for several things, including the concentration of manganese and turbidity (cloudiness) of the water. The tests for manganese have to be sent to a private lab, and because the lab is very busy, it has taken four or more weeks to get back some of the results.

On July 11 the manganese concentration at the water plant was 0.59 milligrams per liter, and on July 19 it was 0.98 milligrams per liter. Both readings are above the maximum concentration limit for New York of 0.3 milligrams per liter. This is classified as a “Tier 3” violation, which is the least serious and requires that the public be notified within 12 months, typically as part of the annual water quality report.

Other samples taken on those same days at other locations in the water system all showed concentrations below 0.3 milligrams per liter. This indicates that the concentration that most water users were getting at their taps was lower than what was recorded at the water plant.

The City received results from more recent samples taken on August 16 (after reports of brown water had subsided), which showed so little manganese leaving the water plant that it was below detectable limits, and the levels of manganese throughout the water system met state water quality standards. The most recent results were expedited, but the City is still awaiting the results of additional tests taken before August 16. The City expects that those tests may also show elevated levels of manganese, because they were taken before the manganese was effectively being removed at the water plant.

Tests for turbidity (cloudiness) of the water showed that for the month of July the average turbidity at the water plant holding tanks was above the water quality limit. This was not unexpected given the discoloration that was being reported. However, it is considered a “Tier 2” water quality standard violation, one that requires water users be notified within 30 days.

Turbidity is regulated because it can be associated with bacteria and other microbes. However, the City monitors bacteria levels closely, and none of the 30 tests taken each month by the water department has shown any microbial contamination of the water supply.

The City worked with the County Health Department to develop a combined official notice of both violations. That notice is now available on the City’s website.

To prevent similar problems in the future, the City will maintain and operate a permanent system for adding the chemical oxidant at the reservoir. The City will monitor water temperature and stream flow and will use these to signal the right time to take manganese samples from the raw water and to begin adding the oxidant to help remove the manganese.

Cloudy and discolored water can also be caused by events such as water main breaks, like the one on August 17 when a large water main broke near Wegmans and caused brown water throughout the City system. Much of the brown color was likely the manganese that had settled to the bottom of the pipes over the previous month.

The water main has been repaired and most of the system has been flushed. However, pockets of discolored water can sometimes linger in the system. If you experience discolored water at your tap, please notify the water and sewer department at 272-1717 during business hours or 273-4680 after hours, and someone will come to flush the hydrants near your address.

If you have questions about the information contained in this summary, please contact Chief of Staff Dan Cogan at 607-274-6512 or at dcogan@cityofithaca.org.”


Earlier this year, the Common Council passed legislation that would require any proposed development in the waterfront to get approval from Common Council for a period of 18 months while the City works on new zoning for that area. Developers must submit an application that is reviewed by Council before they can proceed with a project.

Maguire, the local car company, is going through that process right now. They’ve submitted an application for a Ford Lincoln Nissan car dealership to be located at Carpenter Business Park (off 3rd Street near the Farmer’s Market, Community Gardens, and Wastewater Treatment Plant. You can find that application here (72 MB download): http://www.cityofithaca.org/DocumentCenter/View/4937

In accordance with the application process, the project team will present information about the project and answer questions from the public at a public information session on Wednesday, August 31, 2016, at 6:00 PM in Common Council Chambers, Third Floor, City Hall, 108 E. Green Street, Ithaca.

Following that, a public hearing will be held at the September 14, 2016 meeting of the Planning and Economic Development Committee, also at 6:00 PM in Common Council Chambers.

This is a big project, and we’d really like to hear from the community on this one. So I hope to see you at one or both meetings.


Yikes, those piles. I realize this is not a fun time to be living in the vicinity of 210 Hancock Street. INHS is working to complete this portion of the work as quickly as possible to limit the impact on neighbors. They expect the work to be complete by September 1st barring unforeseen issues.

Noise has been an issue, but also vibration in the ground and in people’s homes. INHS notes that vibration can be felt at levels that are much lower than would cause even cosmetic building damage. INHS has seismometers for monitoring vibration in place, and they are checking them regularly. These monitors will notify their engineer if construction activity causes vibration to rise to a level of concern. If issues arise, you can contact either Joe Bowes at 277-4500×204 or Scott Reynolds at 277-4500×217. Also, please continue to check the www.210Hancock.org website for construction updates.


Simeon’s is back, and it’s gorgeous. If you haven’t had a chance to stop by and take a look inside, you should. It’s two floors, with a really nice new bar, and an open, roomy feel. The Ithaca Journal took some photos. Congrats to the owners for bouncing back from such a tragic, devastating accident. They did an amazing job on the rebuild. 


Southside Community Center has announced new leadership: director Leon Lawrence and deputy director Thia Harriett. The Ithaca Journal has a great article about their vision for Southside. You might recall that a proposal was floated earlier this year to merge Southside Community Center with the City of Ithaca. Ultimately, the Southside board decided against that proposal. Here’s wishing the new leaders the best of luck in their new roles!


Here are some upcoming events that might be of interest to 2nd ward folks. If I’ve missed anything, I do apologize!

*CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap – a screening that Ducson is helping to organize, Tuesday 8/30 from 6:30-8:30pm at Cinemapolis. The documentary CODE exposes the dearth of female and minority software engineers and explores the reasons for this gender gap and digital divide. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion of local women in tech, including Singlebrook Technology co-founder (and 2nd ward resident) Elisa Miller-Out to discuss their experiences in a very male-dominated industry. The event is generously co-sponsored by Quinn Energy and theMulticultural Resource Center, two women-led organizations right in downtown Ithaca. You can reserve tickets here or buy them at Cinemapolis the day of the event: https://www.tugg.com/events/117374

*Labor Day Picnic – The Tompkins County Workers’ Center and the Midstate Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, will hold the 33rd Annual Labor Day Picnic from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Monday, September 5th, in Ithaca’s Stewart Park. This year’s picnic theme is “Labor Rights Are Civil Rights”. This year’s program will include the music of Black Lives Matter – Ithaca Organizer, Sammus, an Ithaca-based rap artist and producer; along with Featured Guest Speaker, and Black Lives Matter – Ithaca Organizer, Professor Russell Rickford, speaking on the links between economic justice and the Movement for Black Lives, as well as local activist folk singer, Colleen Kattau (Gringa Grooves from the Heart). The picnic is free and everyone is invited. Everyone is asked to bring a dish to share and to enjoy the free burgers (meat and veggie), hot dogs, ice cream and beverages. For more information, contact the Workers’ Center at TCWRH@tcworkerscenter.org, 607-269-0409, or via the website, www.TCWorkersCenter.org

*Porchfest – one of my favorite Ithaca festivals: for one day, you can wander around and listen to musical performances on porches throughout the Fall Creek and Northside neighborhoods. The tenth Porchfest (yes tenth, believe it or not) will be held on Sunday, September 18th, 2016. Save the date! More info here.

*New Jim Crow Community Read Kickoff – a group of local organizations (including the City of Ithaca) are sponsoring a community read of the book The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. This is the definitive academic/legal account of the contemporary system of mass incarceration. The kickoff for the community read will be taking place on Monday, September 19th from 5:30-8pm at the Space @ Greenstar, 700 West Buffalo Street. Refreshments and childcare will be provided. Books will be distributed. There will also be an announcement of upcoming events. More info here.

*Streets Alive Southside – Streets Alive is coming back to Southside on Sunday, September 25th, 1-5pm. South Plain and West Clinton Streets will be open to people and closed to cars for another fun Sunday afternoon in September. Anticipated new highlights include grooving through the streets with the Fall Creek Brass Band, jumping with internationally renowned jump-ropers, connecting to the Ithaca ReUse Center, and rolling on a newly paved Plain Street. Plus there’ll be the regular and wonderful bike rodeo and bike mechanics, great neighbors to meet, street art, and more.

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



August 2016 Planning and Economic Development Committee meeting

I’ll be chairing the August 2016 meeting of the Planning and Economic Development Committee this Wednesday, August 10th, at 6pm in Council Chambers. Here’s the agenda. A quick rundown:

Announcements, Updates, Reports

  • We’ll be getting three updates: 1) Collegetown construction, 2) design guidelines for Collegetown and Downtown, and 3) water issues.

Voting to send on to September Council meeting (Wednesday, September 7, 2016 at 6pm in Council Chambers):

  • Neighborhood Improvement Incentive Fund – neighborhood groups around the city can get reimbursed for community events, like block parties. In this case, we’ll be refunding Ithaca Housing Authority for costs related to two National Night Out events that were held in Northside and South of the Creek recently. This is approved at the committee level, so it won’t go on to Council.
  • Community Investment Incentive Tax Abatement Program (CIITAP) – Diversity Requirements – this is part of our continuing effort to reform the City’s tax abatement policy. With input from the city’s Workforce Diversity Advisory Committee, we are working to reform the city’s tax abatement policy to include requirements for the hiring of a more diverse workforce. See agenda packet for more info.

Voting to “circulate” (basically this means that we send a proposal out to the public for feedback; the proposal will come back to the committee next month for further consideration):

  • Maguire TMPUD application
    Maguire, the local car company, has submitted a plan to the city to build an auto dealership on Carpenter Business Park, next to the community gardens on Route 13. The plan requires Common Council approval, however. Earlier this year, the Council passed a “temporary mandatory planned unit development” district for the Waterfront area that basically requires any development happening in the Waterfront area to come to Common Council for approval. We did this because we are in the midst of a comprehensive planning process for the Waterfront and we want future development there to fit with our land-use goals. This is our first discussion of the Maguire project. If the committee approves, we will circulate the proposal for more feedback and it will come back to the committee next month for a public hearing and further discussion. See the agenda packet for more info.

Again, here’s the link to the agenda. You can watch a live stream of the meeting here. As always, if you have any questions, comments, or concerns, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us! Thanks! – Seph