Tuesday, January 5, 2010

What would Barbara Haller do?

This item in the paper really got me fired up this morning. Eleven hours later I'm still fuming.

Why tear down houses when there are so many families and individuals at Abby's House, Friendly House or the Mustard Seed who could benefit from a home?
This whole situation was created by the poisonous 'debate' created by the T&G and our City Council in reaction to drunk, rowdy Holy Cross students and the 'need' for a PILOT program.

Every cliche has been thrown into the ring regarding the neighborhood surrounding Holy Cross. It's been characterized in the local paper as rich spoiled brats vs. hard working taxpayers. What hasn't happened is a reasonable dialogue where solutions are possible.

The partying isn't a recent development. It's been going on for years. But to me, it always seems as if the issue gains traction around elections, when it is an easy story for the paper and a winning 'issue' for the City Council to score easy publicity. If the City of Worcester and the WPD can't figure out how to contain a few apartments that are rented by absentee landlords to party prone college students, then how are we supposed to fix the difficult problems facing the City?

As acting president of Holy Cross from 1998-2000, Frank Vellaccio worked with the City to address the problem of off campus partying. Nine years later, nothing has changed, and it won't change until the City cracks down on off campus activities, and Holy Cross helps. What incentive does Holy Cross have to be a good neighbor when a good, decent man like Frank Vellaccio is dragged through the mud in the local paper?

Tearing down houses around Holy Cross isn't going to solve the party problems, unless the College plans on buying all of College Hill and creating a bombed out neutral zone. Holy Cross is a dry campus. All of the party problems are off campus. And because the only parties are away from where the students live, the parties are much louder and rowdier.

I went to Vassar College, which was the exact opposite of Holy Cross. It was secular, very liberal, and very lenient in its policies regarding alcohol and parties. In my four years there, you could always find a party on campus. There were rarely any parties off campus because the students weren't forced off campus to find a good time. The local bars didn't have hordes of underage students pounding down their doors for the same reason. Because the students were partying where they lived and actually had to pay fines for any damage to their dorms and rooms, the parties weren't loud, destructive or all encompassing. If you wanted a quiet weekend or a party, you could find either, no problem. I never had to worry about loud parties on my hall every Wednesday night, nor did I ever wake up to a bombed out hallway on a Sunday morning.

I know Holy Cross will never relax their policies on alcohol due to the religious nature of the school. Perhaps this could all be avoided if there was any sort of night life near Holy Cross, or even a viable public transportation system that operated past 9PM to ferry students to downtown and the bars. I'd suggest turning the vacated three deckers into transitional housing for the homeless, but that's been vetoed in the past by the Mayor's Task Force on Homelessness. Instead of tearing down buildings, Holy Cross could extend their support of Dismas House to the vacated three deckers. Maybe the College could collaborate with Friendly House or Abby's House to provide homes for Worcester residents and a service program within the community for their students. Then we could see how colleges and cities can help each other, and leave any references to PILOT behind.


Nicole said...

Thanks for the comments about Vellaccio. That's what has irritated me: this guy brought in the paddy wagons ten years ago and it didn't work. So I think he has a right to be pissed at people throwing the same, tried-and-untrue solutions at a problem.

This was really a wonderful piece. (And I'm not just saying that because my brother is also a Vassar graduate.)

SFD said...

I've known the Vellaccios for over 30 years, and they're a great family. I just find this whole situation ridiculous from the College's perspective and the City's.

If there truly is a huge party problem up on College Hill, why aren't we reading about multiple arrests and parties being broken up every week? Are the neighbors neglecting to call the WPD? Is the WPD refusing to arrest anyone? Or is this being overblown because it makes for an easy article and a way to force a PILOT program on Holy Cross?

When did your brother graduate from Vassar?

Nicole said...

My brother graduated in 2002.

Your second point is a good one, and one that a lot of people have been making. There's a paid [by the college] detail every weekend. So, we've got one of two situations:
1) Things aren't as bad as the neighbors say they are.
2) Police aren't doing everything they could to enforce (i.e., arrest everyone in sight).

Also, how much of this issue will resolve itself when the college puts in the new dorms?

SFD said...

At this rate, I guess the whole neighborhood will be torn down to keep neighbors from complaining.

KDoyle said...

Holy Cross does not have a dry campus; it is very much "wet". I'd say much of your argument is subsequently flawed.