Fix Hancock St. Project

This site is supported by some close neighbors to the 210 Hancock St. site, which Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services has proposed to develop.  We are thankful for the work INHS has done in Ithaca and are glad they are working on this site.  But we feel they have overreached in their plan in several ways. 
More deeply, we feel the ideology of high-density urban living does not belong in our low-rise traditional neighborhood.  We are not against change, but it should be a moderate evolution, not a stark construction of 54 units in a four-story building.

Links about Hancock Project

  • Petition
    Here's the online petition you can sign to encourage the city to rethink the Hancock project and reject the variances.
  • Blog by Bob Sherman

Ithaca Journal article slanted

The article in the Ithaca Journal on June 25 is substantially slanted in favor of the Hancock St. project.  Here is Dick Feldman's response to the author:

Nick,
I see you switched photos of the Hancock project from the IJ article that is online. Was that just by chance or does INHS prefer the one with all the non-existent trees and extremely broad avenues?
I found your article fairly slanted in favor of the project, ignoring many of the issues we have raised. Did they really create more green space as a result of the meetings?  How could they have less than the current project?  Did you not notice that the parking study was not done during alternate-side season?  What about the pile driving down 90 feet that many people spoke about at the meeting?
Also quite a few spoke about the lack of transparency at the community meetings. You make it sound like everyone knew what the project was, had their say, and INHS accommodated their ideas. This is not the case. They never said how many rental units there would be. The only way to have really more green space is to have fewer units; for example by building duplexes like other low-income housing in Northside.  You also did not mention the substantial controversy that arose at the meeting about the density recommendations of the comprehensive plan - the plan specifies half the density of the Hancock project.
An interesting aspect to look into would be when they will build the townhouses and whether they are really committed to building them at all. The big rental building they say they will build in one year, but the whole project they say may take four years. And they have waffled about the townhouses. Except for the townhouses there is no green space at all.
I'm curious about the median income being almost half the county average ($29K/$50K according to you article). Where do those figures come from?  If true, then many low-income people are living in the city now; why do we need more low-income housing then?  Your rent/income figure - 34% - assumes that everyone lives alone. Do you think that's true?  Or is that per person and you are saying that a family of four is paying $3,264 (four times $816)?
Did you read any of our material?  You didn't mention that we have paper petitions with more than 120 signatures, as I said at the meeting, in addition to the online petition. 
I know the Journal has to support the power centers in the city, who are all in favor of big boxes in Northside, but I was looking for more complete coverage.  I think your readers were left puzzled at why so many people came to the meeting.  We look to you for reflection and explanation, not whitewashing.

Parking and High-Density Concept

Here from the Fall Creek listserve is a response to Daniel Keogh, an urban planning student:

Daniel Keogh seems to suggest that parking spaces will bring more cars.  If people have and need a car they will park it somewhere, regardless of whether spots were built to accompany their new housing. If their apartment has been built without enough parking, then they'll park in nearby spots, in front of other people's houses, as will their visitors, merchants and customers coming to the project site.  The parking study showing available spots was done by INHS not in alternate-side parking season, when overnight parking is reduced by half.  Ask people who live in the neighborhood, instead of doing a clandestine study.

The planners' ideology is that everyone would be better people if they didn't have cars.  They would walk more, not be obese and support public transportation.  They would "live, shop, work and play" within a quarter mile,  a politically correct nirvana.  How does that really work in this neighborhood half a mile from downtown, where there is no basic shopping anyway?  How do you buy your groceries in the winter in Ithaca, especially if you have a family?
The high-density urban design works in real cities with services, transport and nearby employment.  That is not Northside. 

There is a debate going on about the suitability of the high density concept to Ithaca - it's at the bottom of the Old Library discussion also. The Ithaca Journal and Ithaca Voice seem to want to ignore the issue.  Does our small-city geographically hemmed-in setting support the concept of high-density housing for low-income families?  In Northside?  I think not.

Let's keep to the density recommendations of the city's comprehensive plan, which are half of this project. Of course the block should be developed, but in harmony with its setting.

Dick Feldman