Housing, West Village, the ‘Welfare Security State’ And More with Ithaca 1st Ward Candidates

Categories Housing & Development, Ithaca, Politics

Three candidates are running for one Common Council seat in the city of Ithaca’s First Ward this year. If you live on West Hill, South Hill, or in parts of the West End, you could be a First Ward voter. Josh Brokaw of TruthSayers News has interviewed all three of your candidates on WRFI Community Radio in recent weeks: incumbent Cynthia Brock, challenger Anthony Hayton, running on the Operation West Hill line, and Jim Lukasavage, running on the Ithaca New Cynics line. Below, you can read a few excerpts from the conversations and listen to the full interviews.

You can ask questions directly of these three candidates this Friday, October 27, at the Southside Community Center. A debate is being held at 7:30 p.m. Election Day is Tuesday, November 7, this year.

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Alderperson Cynthia Brock, at an event on the Commons in March 2017. Photo: Josh Brokaw/TruthSayers

Alderperson Cynthia Brock is running for re-election to the Common Council seat she first claimed in 2011. Brock said that she’s running for re-election because in government, “things take a really, really long time. Being able to carry those goals forward, being able to see those efforts come to fruition is very exciting, and I’d like to have the opportunity to do so.”

On housing, Brock said that “affordability is a function of income.” As real income in New York State has declined, Brock said, “while the cost of living and inflation continues to rise, by definition an increasing proportion of your population will not be able to afford the things that they need. We can chase that problem by addressing the symptoms, the symptom being you can’t afford stuff, or you can try and address the problem by addressing it face on, by looking at wages people are being paid, by looking at the work environments people have. Sixteen, 17 years ago, I believe at the campuses in our community a lot of the support staff had full time benefited positions. Many of those support staff now are being filled by part-time positions or perhaps not even benefit positions. I think you would see the same trend looking at commercial businesses like Wal-Mart or so on, or other areas, even municipalities.”

Brock added that “by just increasing volume of housing and the quality of housing by nature what will happen is unimproved housing will become unaffordable.” New housing should be of a high quality, Brock said.

On the question of what’s happening at West Village, Brock said that making owners Omni New York LLC provide better oversight and staffing is a challenge because the city has “little to no recourse to require a property manager to provide adequate management of their properties.”

Regarding the recent outcry from South Hill property owners about continued student-oriented development, Brock said that the “remaining residents are really struggling to reclaim their presence in that neighborhood. While that 217 Columbia Road property kind of became the flagship for this movement, what is also on the back of everyone’s mind is there are a handful of very large properties on South Hill, and the current zoning allows multiple what’s called a primary dwelling, you could have multiple of them on one lot … what you’re seeing is what i would call high-density housing being added to that neighborhood just adding to those stresses that are forcing everyone out.”

Listen to this full interview at archive.org or use the embedded player below.

Anthony Hayton at the West Village gazebo. August 14, 2017. Photo: Josh Brokaw/TruthSayers.

Anthony Hayton said he’s running for Common Council as an independent on the Operation West Hill line “because I live in West Village and for a few years I have been trying to clean up the area and change just doesn’t seem to be coming. I figured the only way to make changes is to do something about it, which is run for Common Council and help make some decisions to change the neighborhood.”

Hayton said that issues of drugs and crime at West Village have been going on “for a while,” although major crimes like assaults and robberies have “slowed down.” Hayton said he understands that the Ithaca Police Department has limited resources: the IPD “needs a larger police force,” Hayton said, with a budget that’s a “little bit bigger so they can recruit more officers and have manpower they need to do what they need to do for the entire city of Ithaca.”

Hayton said he’s also been working on a Ban the Box campaign and on source-of-income protection for tenants, so landlords cannot use the fact a renter is using a government voucher to prevent them from renting.

Hayton said he’s been working with people on source-of-income protection on “coming up with different solutions, different protocols that would actually help people who have vouchers, not just Section 8.” With his neighbors, Hayton said “it has been one of the things that they said ‘I tried to apply and move in here and they won’t accept Section 8, or the rent is higher as opposed to someone who lives there and works for the city of Ithaca. It’s just ridiculous, I think it’s unfair, and something needs to get done about it.”

The drugs are “just too much,” Hayton said. “When my four-year-old daughter sees the fire truck come up here and says ‘oh, Daddy, did somebody die?’ that’s a bad thing … when they’re up here, in her mind, someone died, because it’s happened so much.”

Listen to the full interview at archive.org or use the embedded player below.

Jim Lukasavage. Photo provided.

Jim Lukasavage is making his second run for Common Council on the Ithaca New Cynics line – Lukasavage challenged incumbent George McGonigal in 2015.

Lukasavage said he’s running for office because he wants to “shift the balance of political power from the state to families and neighborhoods in the city of Ithaca.” He said he wants to form a board of restorative practices in order to prevent the government from taking kids away from families. A criminal charge would be required to take children from homes, reducing the “arbitrary and capricious removal” of children from families by what Lukasavage calls the “welfare security state.” The referrer of the allegation would have to present themselves after making a claim to Child Protective Services. The board would operate something like the Community Police Board, Lukasavage said.

“Long ago, the city of Ithaca exceeded its environmental carrying capacity,” Lukasavage said. “The largest drivers of hyperdevelopment and overpopulation in the city of Ithaca are Cornell University and Ithaca College. And developers of retail establishments, hotels, and low income housing. Under Title IX of the New York State constitution, I believe city has ability to impose a cap on the enrollment at Cornell and Ithaca College students each year.”

The 50,000 cars going by his house on South Hill every day, Lukasavage said, is “unsustainble.” Lukasavage is calling for a moratorium on development. With less services, he said, there could be fewer taxes.

Listen to the full interview at archive.org or use the embedded player below.

Help Support TruthSaying Reporting

If you ever have photos, video, or reporting from an event you’d like to share on TruthSayers, email josh.brokaw@truthsayers.org. Be a reporter! You can support TruthSayerswork with a donation, too, at the link. Funds go toward keeping this start-up, worker-“owned” reporting project fed & fighting.

Featured photo by Josh Brokaw/TruthSayers of West Village, August 2017.

Josh Brokaw is an independent reporter based in Ithaca, N.Y.
Email josh.brokaw@truthsayers.org with tips, story suggestions, and gentle criticism.
Twitter: @jdbrokaw