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  #981  
Old Posted Nov 10, 2008, 4:15 PM
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Ithaca sails calmer seas during economic storm
Businesses, campuses trim expense plans
By Tim Ashmore • Staff Writer • November 8, 2008

Buzz up! Michael Horzing's plan to someday expand Brotchen, a coffee and baked goods shop on The Commons, is on hold indefinitely until he stops seeing his profits eroded by high wholesale prices of goods like flour.

As costs rise for Shangri-La owner Kim Min You, she has moved her store into a larger building and entered into an agreement with other business people to sell their gifts and crafts.

Horzing and You are among business people in Ithaca finding that while Tompkins County's economy hasn't been blitzed by the fall's financial crisis like some communities, it feels the effects. With a relatively steady combined workforce of 11,500 employees in a county with a workforce of about 60,000 people, Cornell University and Ithaca College have historically insulated the Ithaca area from ups and downs of the national economy. But that doesn't mean some of the effects don't get through.

Area economic sectors, including retail, housing, manufacturing and high-tech companies, continue to perform relatively well on the whole, but profits are narrowing and store owners and industry executives are preparing for coming changes.

Retail sales were down nearly 6 percent from August 2007 to August 2008, according to Elia Kacapyr's Ithaca economic index. Kacapyr is an economics professor at Ithaca College.

Local merchants
Whether it's lower prices or higher costs, retailers like Horzing and You are facing narrower profit margins. Horzing said he can't raise prices on pace with wholesale cost increases. You has lowered some of her prices on garments to “reach customers' budgets,” she said.

Dave Wrisley, manager at Schooley's Jewelers on The Commons, said the store has scaled back spending on advertising, primarily because advertising wasn't translating into more business.

Despite that, Wrisley said business has been on par with last year, and he saw a spike in sales in late September and early October.

Wrisley said he's trying to help customers choose jewelry that won't go beyond their household budgets.

Ian Golden, owner of Finger Lakes Running Company on West State Street, said that while he uses credit, the most troubling news he's recently gotten is his supposedly business-friendly Advanta card's rate has more than doubled since January to 26.31 percent.

The store's sales through October are down 16 percent from October 2007. For the first nine months of the year, business is down 30 percent.

Golden said the decline may be due to a colder October than last year.

In early October, Golden's sales were up 12.5 percent on the year. Golden said he's watched his business rise and fall with media coverage of the markets.

“When (bad news) is not in the headlines, (business) seems to be OK,” he said. “I think I sell things people need. People keep running and they need shoes.”

Large regional retailers like Bon-Ton, which has a store at the Shops at Ithaca Mall, face concerns resulting from consumer trepidation.

“All retailers are experiencing difficult times due to the macroeconomic environment,” Mary Kerr, vice president of investor and public relations, wrote in an e-mail. “Although our comparable store sales number for September was a negative 4.6 percent, Bon-Ton had one of the best sales results in our peer group. It is obvious that the consumer is very nervous especially with the news coming out of Wall Street the past couple of weeks. We hope that ... there will be positive news coming out soon due to the actions of our government to help to restore consumer confidence.”

If large corporations begin layoffs, the relatively strong Tompkins economy could slow. That was the message from Stephen Romaine, CEO of Tompkins Financial Corp., at a Rotary club meeting in October.

Ithaca College
The financial shake-up is also affecting typically secure Cornell and Ithaca College jobs.

In a joint statement, Ithaca College President Thomas Rochon and Carl Sgrecci, vice president for finance and administration, said Ithaca College had already consumed its contingency budget for the 2008-09 school year and is asking each department vice president to cut their budgets 4 percent.

One way to do that will be to cut positions that have been vacated, they wrote. It's unclear how many Ithaca College jobs might be affected.

Contributing to Ithaca College's financial woes is lower-than-anticipated enrollment by about 223 students, the pair said in the statement, blaming lower enrollment on the national economy. Tuition, and room and board fees comprise approximately 90 percent of the college's operating revenue.

The stock and bonds market has affected the Ithaca College endowment as well. At the end of the 2007-08 school year, the college had $237 million in its long-term investment portfolio, the statement said. By the end of September, the fund was down $36 million. Through October, the endowment has continued its decline, according to the statement.

Cornell University
Cornell is facing similar problems, but the root is different.

During his state of the university speech, Cornell President David Skorton noted some layoffs had occurred at the campus and several of the university's funding sources — state funding, research grants and investment earnings — have declined or are expected to decline in the coming months. Enrollment continues to be strong and a steady income stream.

Two weeks later, Skorton outlined a plan to slow replacement hiring of non-professional staff from outside the university until March 31.

Employees working on projects funded by federal grants could be in jeopardy as fewer are awarded next year, Skorton said, though he didn't think any programs would be cut completely as a result.

Wall Street is affecting Cornell funding primarily through the funds New York state provides the university. Skorton said 20 percent of state funds come from Wall Street and the troubled financial industry. And although Cornell is a private university, four of its constituent schools receive state money. Skorton said he would not force the four to handle state cuts on their own.

High-tech start-ups
High-tech Cornell spin-off businesses are more confident. And the jobs those companies provide bolster the shaky economy.

“They're the kind of individuals we should want,” Steven Kyle, a Cornell professor of applied economics, said of the small, high-tech businesses in Tompkins. “They're pretty clean environmentally, and they employ people of relatively high-income level.”

Businesses like e2e Materials LLC, a company that produces petroleum-free, biodegradable composites, bring out-of-town dollars into the county through venture capital and other investments. And consumers from all over the country buy the products e2e makes.

Mezmeriz, a company that makes tiny projectors for cell phones, and e2e aren't worried about investors pulling money out. Most of it is established through venture funds and angel investors — early stage investors with industry knowledge — who are used to high-risk investing.

“It's not a question of is the money there or not,” said e2e co-founder and president Pat Govang. “I think the folks that do this early-stage, high-risk investing have a risk tolerance that helps them look for opportunities in any kind of financial times. We're not seeing a slowdown in that aspect of the business.”

If venture capital, which many small start-ups rely on, has already been raised, it isn't in jeopardy. But the amounts raised may need to last longer as wealthy investors could be tighter with future investments, said Nasir Ali, executive director of the Seed Capital Fund of Central New York.

“The bottom-line impact is that if you have recently collected that funding, you need to figure out how you're going to make it last longer than you thought you would have to,” said Ali, who is invested in both e2e and Mezmeriz. “If you haven't raised funds, you're just about to do that for the first time, then you have to sort of worry about the impact, particularly since most of the angel seed investing that we do relies upon high net-worth individuals ... so those people, if they have an impact on their 401Ks or their investments and cash flows and so on the amount of money they might be allocated toward these investments may go down.”

Opportunities in area
For Brad Treat, Mezmeriz president and chief executive officer, the Wall Street shake-up means there will be qualified people looking for jobs that he can seek out.

“One of the things that it helps me do is it's going to enable me to find and recruit top-class people,” he said of the recent crisis.

Instinctiv CEO Justin Smithline sees an opportunity in the troubled market as well.

“Companies are instituting hiring freezes, so they're looking to more outside vendors to help with services they may normally have done in-house,” he said.

Instinctiv produces media search and discovery projects.

Global reach
Treat's customer base is global. Just 20 percent of the cell phone market is in the United States, he said. While foreign markets are affected by the American crisis, Treat expects cell phone sales to remain strong.

“As a global marketplace, people are viewing communication devices as necessities, not luxuries. In relative terms, the cell phone is not that an expensive of an item. Think about big ticket purchases like a car, a home and washers and dryers, and those are the kinds of things that people will push out. “

The issue high-tech start-ups may face is the credit freeze, and not because they rely on credit — because consumers do.

“We're financed with equity, so (we're) not feeling the credit side,” Smithline said. “I'm sure it will be affecting our customers and, indirectly, us.”

Manufacturing
Credit markets will affect manufacturing, however. GMAC, a big home and auto finance company that is part of General Motors, began restricting new loans for consumers with good credit, the Wall Street Journal reported last Thursday.

BorgWarner recently laid off about 330 employees in Ithaca and Cortland as part of a national restructuring amid difficult times for automakers. The news that credit continues to tighten in the auto industry is the latest bad news.

Emerson Power Transmission reported a 14 percent drop in sales through the third quarter and would not comment further on its earnings.

Housing market
While it might be expected that the housing market would be in a similar situation, it's not. Community banks like Tompkins Trust Co. and First National Bank of Dryden avoided writing sub-prime loans and ducked the financial fallout other lenders face. Alternatives Federal Credit Union avoided the housing crisis as well.

The housing market is softening, though. According to figures from the Ithaca Board of Realtors, home sales from March to August have been at their lowest since 2005. The figures aren't drastically lower, however, and sales in September were up from September 2007.

Part of the problem with getting a home in Tompkins is selling a home elsewhere, said Herb Dwyer, a sales manager for Warren Real Estate.

“Other housing markets aren't as strong as they are here, so homes are sitting much, much longer on the market there ... and they're having problems buying a house here because they have to sell their (old home) first. It's too difficult for people to carry two mortgages.”

Joe Mareane, the new Tompkins County administrator who is moving from Onondaga to Tompkins County, is facing that dilemma.

“I can't buy before I see what I can sell my house for in Onondaga County. My goal here is to move once. My house in Onondaga County is a little bit remote. So it's affected by a sluggish housing market, at least in Onondaga housing market, and secondly its a long commute. The good news here is the market here is still holding up.”

tashmore@gannett.com
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  #982  
Old Posted Nov 18, 2008, 3:28 PM
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Here's an interesting pic I found on Flickr (taken by Vadikunc) of a street in downtown Ithaca:



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  #983  
Old Posted Nov 19, 2008, 12:19 AM
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Hey, Ex - did you see the piece on Ithaca in the New York Times (on Saturday, I believe)? I don't think it would qualify for this thread, as it's not really news, but it was quite nice.
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  #984  
Old Posted Nov 19, 2008, 1:24 AM
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Noooooooo, dammit, I missed it.

If you find it, can you please post it here?
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  #985  
Old Posted Nov 19, 2008, 3:29 PM
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Can do!

Quote:
Homecomings Amid the Gorges



By JILL P. CAPUZZO
Published: November 13, 2008

CORNELL University sits on East Hill and Ithaca College looms on South Hill. Along the streets below, a palpable energy and an eclectic spirit run through Ithaca’s neighborhoods and along the lakefront of this small city in central New York. Sitting at the southern end of Cayuga Lake, Ithaca is the urban capital of the Finger Lakes, a region that lures second-home owners, retirees and tourists with the city’s sophistication, the area’s natural beauty and a thriving wine industry.

The schools and large student population have helped define Ithaca, which has embraced the influence of its colleges to create a liberal, cultural and gastronomic oasis in a region not known for being particularly progressive. Many of the second-homers and retirees are Cornell and Ithaca alumni, seeking to reconnect with the cultural and intellectual offerings of a city set in a place rich in natural bounty.

“I can bring my boat into town and dock it at the farmers’ market, or outside one of the restaurants,” said Steve Greene, a 1965 Cornell graduate who bought a lakefront vacation house two miles out of the city six years ago. “Or I can go the other way, up to a Cayuga Lake winery.”

Ithaca first gained prominence in the 1830s with the completion of the Ithaca and Owego Railroad, which connected the Erie Canal and the Susquehanna River. Its central location made it a magnet for heavy industry in the mid-19th century, which later gave way to education as the city’s main draw.

For some alumni, like Mr. Greene, having a vacation home there means finally getting to enjoy Ithaca summers, an opportunity that likely escaped them as students. “I remember feeling every May the weather would just be getting nice,” he said, “and I’d be driving out Route 89 and thinking, ‘How stupid.’ ”

A retired professor of journalism whose primary home is in St. Petersburg, Fla., Mr. Greene stretches his summers out to the end of October at the three-bedroom house that he bought for $300,000. He says he prefers Ithaca to Florida, largely because of the many cultural offerings, which include film series, art shows and theater.

While most people make their lakefront retreats their second homes, for Cande Carroll that’s not the case. After living year round in a house that she and her husband own on the western shore of Cayuga Lake, the couple decided in 2004 to buy a $240,000 town house near Cornell for the winters. “Winter’s a little dicey,” Ms. Carroll said, “with the long, steep driveways that many lake houses have.”

The Scene

If you’re trying to catch up with a friend, chances are good you’ll run into them at Ithaca’s farmers’ market. Settled at the edge of the lake, the 150-stand weekend market is like an East Coast version of Seattle’s Pike Place Market, where artists and musicians mix with sellers of prepared ethnic foods and organic produce.

A similar conviviality can be found on Ithaca Commons, the main commercial area. Besides one-of-a-kind shops (plenty of tie-dye, but also upscale furniture), there are many restaurants, including the Mahogany Grill, a steakhouse, and the Moosewood Restaurant, which put organic and vegetarian food on Ithaca’s map. With its proximity to Finger Lakes wineries and with the many graduates of Cornell’s hospitality school choosing to stay in the area, some call Ithaca the state’s best culinary outpost outside New York City.

In the last 10 years, various publications have named Ithaca the “most enlightened city,” “best emerging city,” one of “America’s smartest cities,” and among the best cities for gays and lesbians, retirees, mountain bikers, vegetarians, career growth and green living.

“There’s no end to the number of things you can do here,” Ms. Carroll said. “Your kids can even learn to sail at the Ithaca Yacht Club, and you don’t have to be a member.”

It is common to see a bumper sticker that reads “Ithaca Is Gorges,” referring to the many waterfalls and gorges that carve up the landscape and to the region’s overall beauty. There are also many state parks and state forests, with plenty of trails for biking and hiking.

And the Finger Lakes have spawned one of the largest concentration of wineries outside of California. The deep lakes that never fully freeze offer an ideal microclimate for grape growing, and in the last 25 years, more than 100 wineries have sprung up in the region.

While many flee their lakefront or rural properties when the weather turns wintry and bitter, Mark Owens is not among them. After 30 years of renting along Cayuga Lake in summer, Mr. Owens, a tax lawyer from Silver Spring, Md., bought a second home there last year: a three-bedroom lakefront house in Sheldrake Point, about 30 minutes north of Ithaca, for $600,000.

For Mr. Owens, the best times to be there are in fall and winter. “We’re right on the water, and you have the impression there’s no one else around,” he said. “When the leaves are gone, from the fourth floor, I can look out the window and see up and down the lake 20 miles with nothing obscuring my view.”

Pros

An outpost of urban sophistication in the heart of one of New York’s most scenic regions, Ithaca has an unusual combination of brains and beauty.

Cons

Winters are long and cold, though some residents argue that Ithaca gets no colder than other northern locales, like Boston.

The Real Estate Market

While some second-home buyers want to be in the city, most look to the region’s lakes when considering property in and around Ithaca, local real estate agents say. A smaller number want to acquire acreage a few miles outside the city, but within easy driving distance.

“People coming from New York City are sick of living on top of each other, and most are interested in finding an old farmhouse with land,” said Herb Dwyer, an agent with Warren Real Estate. “Those coming from the West, like Oregon or California, want a lake house.”

The housing stock ranges from modern, multitiered lakefront homes to Federal-style farmhouses to Greek Revivals and Victorians.

Lakefront property is the most expensive. With such property ranging from one-tenth of an acre to 1.5 acres, with lake frontages of 30 to 1,400 feet, the prices of lakefront homes swing widely. An average for a lakefront house on one acre is about $600,000, said Peggy Haine of Audrey Edelman Realty USA, while a smaller cottage goes for about $400,000.

For homes not on the lakes, Mr. Dwyer estimated that a three-bedroom, two-bath house in Ithaca or elsewhere in Tompkins County averages between $185,000 and $200,000. Farmland ranges from $3,000 to $10,000 an acre, Ms. Haine said, depending on whether it is viable for vineyard production.

Farmhouse properties vary. Ms. Haine said she recently sold a 1,350-square-foot farmhouse on more than two acres for $81,500 in Freeville, about 10 miles from town. More typical is a four-bedroom farmhouse built in 1818, on more than three acres about 10 minutes south of downtown, and listed for $324,000.

LAY OF THE LAND

POPULATION 29,829, according to a 2006 Census Bureau estimate. College students roughly double it during the school year.

SIZE 6.1 square miles.

WHERE Ithaca sits at the south tip of Cayuga Lake in central New York, north of Binghamton and south of Syracuse.

WHO’S BUYING Cornell and Ithaca College alumni, West Coasters seeking waterfront property and those from New York and Boston seeking land.

WHILE YOU’RE LOOKING The William Henry Miller Inn (303 North Aurora Street; 607-256-4553; www.millerinn.com) is just off Ithaca Commons. Rooms range from $135 to $235 a night.
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/14/gr...=ithaca&st=nyt
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  #986  
Old Posted Nov 19, 2008, 6:37 PM
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^ Love it, thanks TSS.
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  #987  
Old Posted Dec 3, 2008, 1:46 PM
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This should have been done years ago, long overdue. btw, I remember swimming at Stewart Park - damn I'm old.


City of Ithaca seeks destination for sediment
Cayuga Lake's tributaries to be dredged by 2010
By Krisy Gashler • Staff Writer • December 3, 2008


Cass Park, Stewart Park and Newman golf course are among the locations being considered to hold the sediment that could be dredged from Cayuga Lake's tributaries by 2010.

Where to place the dredged sediment, or spoils, is the “biggest and most difficult decision” in the project, Lisa Nicholas, senior planner, said by e-mail. It's also the primary issue that has delayed dredging in the tributaries for the last 26 years, said Jeff Cleveland, owner of Johnson Boat Yard.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recommends dredging every 10 years.

New York state recommends that Cayuga Inlet be kept about 12 feet deep to remain navigable.

Cleveland said it's probably closer to 6-8 feet in the center of the inlet.

“The biggest problem ... is Cascadilla Creek. As you go further up the creek it's 3-4 feet,” he said. “People are damaging propellers.”

The project to dredge the lower reaches of some or all of Cayuga Lake's tributaries — Cayuga Inlet, the flood control channel, Fall Creek, Cascadilla Creek and Six Mile Creek — has been estimated to cost a total of $8-10 million. The City of Ithaca has already appropriated more than $150,000 toward planning for the project, and New York state has pledged more than $2 million so far.

Nicholas said she expects the regulatory agencies, especially the Canal Corporation, will fund “some or most” of the actual dredging cost, but the city will likely have to pay for some of it.

Elizabeth Moran, the city's environmental consultant and president of EcoLogic, LLC, said the primary purpose behind the dredging project is improving navigation for boats along the waterways, though there may be a small benefit toward reducing flooding.

“The main purpose is for improvement to navigation,” Moran said. “Removing the accumulated sediment will help the capacity of the channels as well, so it may give some slight benefit in terms of reduction in flooding risk, but actually flooding is more controlled by the level of Cayuga Lake itself in the Ithaca area because it's so flat.”

The city has been planning for the dredging project for several years and is currently evaluating sediment, measuring channel depth and studying aquatic habitats in order to assess how much sediment must be removed from Cayuga Lake's tributaries and where it can safely be placed, Nicholas said.

There is still 18 months to two years' worth of planning and design to accomplish before actual dredging could begin, likely in 2010, Nicholas said.

Emphasizing that the city has not decided on any particular location or locations to de-water the spoils, Nicholas said the city needs 15-20 acres of space owned by the city, within a mile of the dredging location, primarily vacant and not up-gradient from where the spoils were removed.

“As you can imagine, we have very few sites that fit this description,” she said. “We may have to have more than one site. All or portions of Cass, Stewart and Newman do fit that description, but again no decision has been made.”

Cass Park is 137.7 acres, Newman is 65, and Stewart is 39, said Rick Ferrel, assistant superintendent of public works for streets and facilities.

Contrary to a rumor circulating around Newman, Nicholas said the city “is not considering permanently closing any area that might be used as a dredge spoils dewatering site — particularly not the golf course.”

Aside from space, another potential issue is smell.

Nicholas said the city will undertake a complete environmental review of the dredging project, including any potential impact related to bad smells from de-watering spoils.

Moran said she doesn't anticipate this to be a big problem, as foul smells are related to how much organic material is in the spoils.

“The sediments that are deposited in the Inlet are pretty much clay and silt particles. They're not as heavily organic,” she said.

An entirely different option could be to use the dredge spoils to create an artificial wetland off the edge of Stewart Park, Moran said.

“Almost think of it as an artificial island, extending the Stewart park shoreline out,” she said.

It's not an unheard-of idea — much of Ithaca's waterfront was created with dredging spoils, including all or parts of Cass, Stewart, Newman and Allan H. Treman State Marine Park.

“It could be used for habitat creation,” Moran said. “Potentially it could alter the circulation pattern in the southern basin in a way that helps reduce some of the turbidity plumes that affect right off shore of Stewart Park.”

Excessive turbidity or sediment is one of the primary reasons the Stewart Park swimming beach was closed in the 1960s, but Moran said citizens shouldn't count on a constructed wetland to bring back swimming to Stewart.

“I wouldn't ever go so far as to promise that there could be swimming at Stewart Park,” she said.

Dredging projects are overseen by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, which requires that municipalities test dredging sediment for a variety of potential contaminants, Moran said.

Moran said she had just completed a project to collect sediment samples, and test results will likely be available by the end of the year.

For more information, visit www.ecologicllc.com/ithacadredging.html.

kgashler@gannett.com




Inlet Island, center, stands between the Cayuga Inlet, left, and the Flood Control Channel, right, in this May 2008 view looking south toward Lowe's and Wal-Mart. The City of Ithaca is making plans to dredge all the tributaries of Cayuga Lake to improve navigation. (SIMON WHEELER / Staff Photo)




Taughannock Boulevard and the edge of Cass Park, foreground, abut the Cayuga Inlet at Inlet Island in this May 2008 view to the east. The Cornell University boathouse is in the center on the inlet, Cornell University is at the top left and downtown is toward the top right. (SIMON WHEELER / Staff Photo)




Cass Park and Taughannock Boulevard are seen in the bottom of a May 2008 aerial photo, adjacent to the Cayuga Inlet where Cascadilla Creek joins the inlet separating Johnson's Boatyard and the Newman Golf Course, left from the Ithaca Farmer's Market, the Ithaca Wastewater Treatment Plant behind it and the New York State Department of Transportation base, right. (SIMON WHEELER / Staff Photo)




Cass Park and Allan H. Treman State Marine Park are seen next to the northern end of the Cayuga Inlet in May 2008. The City of Ithaca is preparing to dredge the inlet and other tributaries of Cayuga Lake. (SIMON WHEELER / Staff Photo)
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  #988  
Old Posted Dec 9, 2008, 1:09 PM
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Ithaca makes another "Best" list.

Real Estate
Best Middle-Class Housing Markets
Matt Woolsey, 12.04.08, 06:30 PM EST
Ten pockets where home prices are rising and outpacing larger sales trends.

In Pictures: Best Middle-Class Housing Markets Four years of tuition plus room and board at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., costs $190,000. It's expensive, but an Ivy League education is usually a good investment.

So, apparently, is a median-level home there. It's $179,000, up 5.9% over the last year.

While luxury beachfront condos and Rust Belt homes fall into foreclosure around the country, an often overlooked corner of the market is the middle class sector. In Ithaca, it's the strongest nationwide, according to Zillow.com, a research firm that draws data from multiple listing services.

It's the same story in Winston-Salem, N.C., Utica, N.Y., and Spartanburg, S.C. Home prices in the middle of these markets are up 3.4%, 3.3% and 3%, respectively. Over the same period of time the national market dropped 16%, according to the S&P Case-Shiller Index.

In Pictures: Best Middle-Class Housing Markets
Credit affordable prices that resisted the boom: None of the cities on our list have median home prices over $180,000, which means prices didn't grow beyond what the core of the market could afford. Often, housing-price growth is the result of rising wages and jobs. In Dallas, for example, jobs have grown every month since February 2004, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

In Little Rock, Ark., jobs and wages have grown every month since January 2003, according to the BLS. That solid economic foundation, especially in an affordable market with pro-growth zoning policies that keep the price of land low, means more homeowners who can afford mortgage payments.

Behind the Numbers
Using data from Zillow.com, we looked at the country's 165 largest Census-defined metro areas for housing markets where the middle 50% was outperforming the local market as a whole. In Dallas, for example, the middle of the market--which won't get you into Highland Park, but includes neighborhoods like Oak Lawn--has grown 1.2% over the last year, while metro-area prices have risen only 0.1%.

Ditto Little Rock, where the middle-class housing stock grew in value by 2.5%year over year, while the broader market increased by a paltry 0.8%.

One reason middle class markets have kept their values has to do with a lack of foreclosures. According to Stan Humphries, vice president of data and analytics at Zillow.com, these markets "are adding a whole lot of inventory--and low-priced inventory," which drags prices down. But since the spots on our list resisted the boom, they are not as foreclosure-rich as places where prices--and mortgages--rose.

In Sacramento, Calif., for example, one the nation's foreclosure epicenters, middle-tier prices are down 18%, which hurts, but not as much as the 30% drop in the bottom quarter of the market.

Investment in condos has also hurt metro areas as speculators pumped money into new construction only to see prices drop and buyers flee. Middle class markets have remained relatively immune to this trend since condo speculation in revitalized downtown areas and luxury developments has been concentrated among those buying in the higher end of the housing market.

"The two markets are not really linked," says Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel, a Manhattan residential real estate appraisal firm. "What drove the condo market was different than what drives single-family homes."

But the stable home values of some of the country's middle class markets could soon change. Now that the U.S. is in a recession, national unemployment rests at 6.5%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while cities like Detroit and Los Angeles have unemployment rates of 10% and 8%, respectively. When people lose their jobs and can't find work, they tend not to move up from a starter home to a middle-tier home, which could lead to price declines in the very areas that have resisted fast growth. Once people stop moving up within a market, the volume of transactions slows down, leading to price declines.

"What's happening in the larger economy is going to seriously constrain the ability of those markets to rebound," says Humphries. "And additional stress is something that some markets won't be able to deal with."


The Link: http://www.forbes.com/realestate/200...ealestate.html


Here's a city by city review of the top 10:

http://www.forbes.com/2008/12/04/cit...hisSpeed=30000
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Typically Ithaca.



Town, city land dispute simmers
Engman suggests short-term market lease
By Krisy Gashler • kgashler@gannett.com • December 10, 2008

Town of Ithaca Supervisor Herb Engman suggested Tuesday that if the city and town can't come to a speedy resolution on Steamboat Landing, perhaps the city and the Ithaca Farmer's Market should sign a short-term lease extension while the city/town property dispute is resolved.

Representatives from both the city and the farmer's market said that after a year and a half of negotiating, and with the current lease expiring Dec. 31, they want to get a long-term lease settled so the market can continue plans for improvements and expansion.

Meanwhile, carcinogenic coal tar near the Ithaca Area Wastewater Treatment plant may pose a liability for the Towns of Ithaca and Dryden if they decide to accept the City of Ithaca's offer to transfer the land into joint ownership.

In the 1950s, when the City of Ithaca purchased the waterfront property along Route 13 that now hosts the joint sewer plant, no one had any idea about the danger of residual coal tar left over from energy production, said City Attorney Dan Hoffman. Coal tar is now one of few known cancer-causing agents.

The coal tar, which exists in the soils primarily east/northeast of the sewer plant and within the sewer plant fence, is also left from a predecessor of New York State Electric and Gas and NYSEG is responsible for cleaning it up, Hoffman said.

NYSEG is currently in the process of excavating coal tar from the Court Street block that houses the Markles Flats building.

NYSEG made “a very informal suggestion” to the city that they would clean up the coal tar near the wastewater plant in 2010, or after they finish the cleanup at Court Street, Hoffman said.

“The question which the towns would have to answer is, do they bear any risk in acquiring lands now that they know are contaminated,” Hoffman said. “I would think not because it's been determined that NYSEG is the responsible party, but I don't know that for a fact.”

Engman said the coal tar does weigh into his view of the land's worth.

“If the land that is agreed upon between the city and the town is beyond the current sewage treatment plant land, then it probably makes it worth it for us to be co-owners. If it is just the current footprint, then it becomes a question of, do we really want to be an owner or not because we would be in the line of liability for that coal tar. But we haven't really looked into that very much because we don't know exactly where all this is going,” Engman said. “But then there's the issue of, well the city already has our $400,000, which is now worth close to a million (including) an inflation factor. Do we get our money back?”

The city and town disagree about how much land the city should have transferred into joint ownership when the city and Towns of Ithaca and Dryden built their joint sewer plant 27 years ago. The land transfer never occurred and no one noticed until the city discovered the problem during negotiations with the Farmer's Market this year.

In letters over the last two weeks, Engman and Mayor Carolyn Peterson have indicated in no uncertain terms their convictions about the Steamboat Landing property. The city and town provided each of the letters to The Journal.

In a Nov. 26 letter to Peterson, Engman wrote that “unless the City is willing to agree that joint ownership with the Town of Ithaca includes both the current plant site and the Steamboat Landing site — and the City begins immediate action to effectuate that joint ownership — the Town of Ithaca is prepared to file Notices of Pendency since the title to real property is in dispute. Please respond immediately as to the City's willingness to change its position.”

In a Dec. 4 letter to Engman, Peterson responded that “your letter presents a partial account of the events of the past eight months, making it incumbent upon me to set the record straight for the Common Council and Town Board members who have now been drawn into this issue.”

After a visit to the Town Board from the city's Attorney and Acting Mayor Monday night, Engman suggested Tuesday that if the city and town can't come to an agreement on Steamboat Landing before the Dec. 31 Farmer's Market lease expires, the city should look at “other options.”

“They could extend the lease for a year,” he said. “There's a bunch of other things they could do. It's not like there's a drop-dead date on these things.”

Jan Rhodes Norman, the liaison between the farmer's market and the city and the chair of the lease re-negotiation committee, said a temporary lease would leave the market in limbo and make it virtually impossible to apply for grants.

The market hopes to create an expansion or a new building to host vendors year-round, she said.

“For the last couple years, as we've been coming so close to the end of our lease the response (from grant funders) has been, ‘After you get your lease in place, let's talk about this,'” Norman said. “We've been talking for over a year and a half and we're quite anxious for this to be settled.”




The Ithaca Area Wastewater Treatment Plant, center, is seen next to the Ithaca Farmer's Market, right with the outlet of Cascadilla Creek in the bottom in this May 2008 view looking Southwest. A problem with the ownership of the land where the treatment plant is situated is jeopardizing a renewed lease agreement for the Ithaca Farmer's Market. (SIMON WHEELER / Staff Photo)
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Here's a pic from flickr (Vernacula) which shows an old boarding house from the 1880s which is located in my old neighborhood. The shot on the left taken in 1891, and the one on the right is after a renovation in 2006 (I think).




Pretty nice job.
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Parking is tight on East Hill (where I grew up).




Ithaca's Board of Public Works OKs long-term parking in city garage
Board discusses other efforts to decrease cars in Collegetown
By Krisy Gashler • kgashler@gannett.com • December 11, 2008

Ithaca's Board of Public Works voted Wednesday to allow long-term parking in some areas of the Cayuga garage but held off on a proposal central to the Collegetown urban plan — to give Cornell students a discount for storing their cars downtown to keep them out of Collegetown.

The Board also formally voted to move ahead on bridge projects, in hopes that they could be funded by a federal economic stimulus package based on infrastructure repair.

City garages generally have a 72-hour time limit, otherwise cars can be towed, Superintendent of Public Works Bill Gray said.

The city regularly gets requests from students who want to store their cars for a month or more during winter breaks, City Chamberlain Debbie Parsons said.

Because the Cayuga garage does not fill its capacity, meaning the city has to pay to subsidize it, Gray and Parsons recommended that the Board remove the time limit for at least part of the garage.

The city is slated to subsidize garages by $905,000 in 2009.

The Board voted unanimously to remove the time limit but not to reduce the daily rate for long-term parking.

On the broader issue of creating a cheaper parking rate for people who would store their cars and only use them up to 10 times per month, Board members asked for more information before taking a position.

The issue is central to the controversial transportation component of the Collegetown urban plan. The city's consultants have called for increasing density in Collegetown while eliminating or reducing developer's requirements to build parking spaces.

Developers would instead be required to pay into a fund that would cover things like mass transportation or a remote parking garage.

While the consultants say the change will eventually result in fewer students bringing cars to Collegetown, long-term residents in Collegetown and Belle Sherman have said the result will be more student cars in their neighborhoods.

One mitigation suggested by the consultants was to let students park cheaply in under-filled downtown parking garages during the transition.

Board member Ray Schlather said such a proposal could impact city revenue from other parking agreements that are based on the cheapest rate charged by the city.

It's already less expensive to park in the downtown garages than in Collegetown's Dryden Road garage. The maximum parking rate in the downtown garages is $7 per day while it's $12 per day in Collegetown.

The Board voted unanimously to recommend that Common Council set up capital projects to do engineering work for the South Cayuga Street bridge over Six Mile Creek and the Lake Street bridge over Fall Creek in hopes that the construction could be funded in a federal economic stimulus package.

Gray said regardless of the funding source, the bridges will have to be repaired within the next five years because the decks have deteriorated to the point that the city is “now patching the patches.”

Gray reported that an aide from Sen. Charles Schumer's office contacted him and said Schumer is interested in using the federal stimulus for green building projects like mass transit and bike/pedestrian pathways.

Schlather recommended the city consider asking for money to build part of the Black Diamond Trail, especially the proposed bridge over Cayuga Inlet, which would connect West Hill with the heavily utilized commercial strip on Route 13.
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Hmm...that boarding house was built in the early 1880s, back in the day (even before your day, EX) when College Avenue was known as Heustis Street. The building became a slum by the mid-20th century, and was renovated just a couple of years ago.


IMG][/IMG]

This is the same house in 1980, back in its slummy days.
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^ nice find Vis. Thanks for the older pic. A lot of places in C-town were going down hill about then. Our old apartment building is a mess now. There is definately a student slum-type condition to many of the old apartment buildings.
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The Travis Family has a good track record of quality development in Ithaca. Hope this is a sign of continuing those standards.



Travis developers to take over historic Clinton House, State Theatre
By Krisy Gashler • kgashler@gannett.com • December 20, 2008

ITHACA — Ithaca developers Mack and Frost Travis are taking over both the Clinton House and the State Theatre from Historic Ithaca, the parties announced Friday at a press conference.


The Travises plan to purchase the Clinton House, with a closing scheduled for the beginning of February. Historic Ithaca plans to transfer the State Theatre property to a separate not-for-profit organization, State Theatre of Ithaca, Inc., with management by the Travises.

Though the deal is still being worked out, the two parties have signed a purchase agreement on the Clinton House and a transfer of management agreement for the State Theatre.

“There's a reason that we're doing this and it's not suicidal,” Mack Travis said. “I would say it's been a very difficult theater to keep going, as many theaters are; however . . . we are in something like the top 4 percent of theaters around the country in our ability to function and almost be economically viable.”

Not-for-profit performing arts theaters such as the State almost never operate in the black and depend upon donations and other “unearned income” to stay afloat, Downtown Ithaca Alliance Executive Director Gary Ferguson said.

However, the State does much better on this front than many theaters, newly named State Theatre Executive Producer Dan Smalls said. While the national average of earned income to unearned income is about 50-50, the State averages 85-15, Smalls said.

Smalls will continue to operate his successful Dan Smalls Presents, which books acts for the State as well as other clubs. He's agreed to oversee the State as executive producer for a salary of $1, though he'll be paid for booking acts through Dan Smalls Presents, as he is now, he said.

The Clinton House sale relieves Historic Ithaca from the more than $1 million debt it has accrued over the past decade trying to get the State Theatre on its feet.

The Travises took over management of the State Thursday, re-hiring all the staff and ensuring that “the spring season will go forward.”

The parties declined to disclose the purchase price for the Clinton House, though Mack Travis said it was “very, very, very close to the appraised value that was done” by a private assessor.

The county assessment department values the Clinton House at $1.48 million.

Mack Travis is the developer responsible for a variety of Ithaca projects, including the environmentally friendly Gateway Plaza and Commons. His son, Frost Travis, is currently working on a project to clean up lead and other contamination left by the Ithaca Gun factory and develop the site into high-end condos.

In addition to his 35 years of property management in Ithaca, Mack Travis said he was also one of the original backers of the Thomas Wolfe Playhouse in Asheville, N.C.

Historic Ithaca, a not-for-profit historic preservation organization, purchased the Clinton House in 1972 when it was slated for demolition. They restored the former hotel and profitably rent it as office space.

In the late 1990s, Historic Ithaca purchased the State Theatre when it was condemned and also heading for demolition.

Martha Eller, president of the Historic Ithaca board of directors, said the decision to sell the Clinton House and the State Theatre was “bittersweet” for the board, but necessary in order to allow the organization to focus on its core mission of historic preservation.

The organization also works on preservation advocacy and runs Significant Elements, an architectural salvage warehouse on the corner of Center and Plain Streets.

“In 2006 Historic Ithaca concluded that it, as a small preservation organization, could not continue indefinitely to own and operate the State Theatre because we simply did not have the financial resources to ride out the storms, I would say,” Eller said.

Since re-opening the State Theatre in 2001, Historic Ithaca has accrued more than $1.3 million in debt, according to documentation given to the city earlier this year. The group had to take out a short-term operating loan this spring, with the Clinton House as collateral, in order to keep its doors open.

The City of Ithaca was one of several groups to sign guarantees backing that loan. The Clinton House sale also relieves the city of that risk.

Carol Travis, wife of Mack Travis, sits on Historic Ithaca's board of directors.

“Carol . . . has made me very aware of the difficulties that have faced Historic Ithaca in owning these properties,” Mack Travis said. “And rather than see them closed, at least the Theatre, we chose to step in and do what we could to enable Historic Ithaca to sell them and meet obligations that they have.”

Travis, Ferguson and Smalls stressed that even with this transfer and debt-relief, the State will not be able to operate without continued community financial support.

Jeb Brooks, through the Brooks Family Foundation, has agreed to donate up to $100,000 to the State next year as a matching community grant, Mack Travis said. This means, for every dollar the community donates, Brooks will match it, up to $100,000.

The State Theatre's role in maintaining a vibrant downtown is another reason Mack Travis said he was willing to step in.

“The downtown, the stores, the whole environment that's created here is absolutely integral to people wanting to come to Ithaca to work,” Travis said. “It's important to the medical center, it's important to the universities, it's important to BorgWarner, it's important to the county, town, city. And that's really the reason we're stepping in to try to make it happen. Otherwise (the State) would be closing.”

Old pic of the Clinton House (middle left with tower on top - the top floor and tower were lost to a fire, but it's still a classy old rascal):

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Here's a pic of the old hometown in the Ithaca Journal newspaper. It was taken at the west end of the block where my old apartment is located. Steep hill, and we (kids) use to sled down the length of the block to this intersection.



A City of Ithaca Department of Public Works road grader turns uphill onto Buffalo Street from Stewart Avenue as city crews work to keep the hilly streets drivable in the snow. (SIMON WHEELER / Staff Photo)
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Not surprising news (considering most transit companies have experienced a boost since the price of gas was so high), but still a positive bit of info:



TCAT ridership grows in '08
Increase attributed to 50 cent fare, high gas prices
By Tim Ashmore • tashmore@gannett.com • December 23, 2008

TCAT is coming off a record-breaking ridership year in 2008, and plans for 2009 would give the mass-transit authority a chance to further increase its busloads.


Officials from Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit are expecting a 5.4 percent increase in ridership over 2007, and September and October 2008 marked the not-for-profit's biggest ever months, each topping 350,000 rides.

Meetings are also taking place regarding TCAT taking over as a regional transit system, Director Joe Turcotte said, which is likely the result of the large commuter population Ithaca has because of Cornell University.

The increase came in a year when summer gas prices peaked near an unprecedented $4.40 a gallon. Financial collapses and other signs of a recession in the fall pushed consumers to find ways to save money, and ridership spiked toward the end of the year.

Nicole Tedesco, TCAT service and operations analyst, attributed growth to two main factors: the economy and general service improvements.

“Not only have gas prices gone up, but in addition we are in a recession,” she said. “People are looking to stretch their household budgets, and so it's not just gas prices that have gone up. It's also the prices in the supermarket. So when you're trying to make do on a monthly budget, being able to get anywhere in Tompkins County on $1.50 is pretty sweet.”

TCAT Director Joe Turcotte said the rise in gas prices helped fuel the increase in rural ridership, which is expected to eclipse 2007 rural ridership by 11.6 percent.

“I think the riders are realizing it's a lot cheaper to ride a bus than pay $400 in gas at the pump,” he said.

Monthly TCAT passes cost $45.

Rising fuel prices may have increased TCAT ridership, but they also gouged its budget. In June, Turcotte estimated a $250,000 budget gap. A recent slump in oil prices has eased that blow. However, Turcotte still expects to use money from the TCAT fund balance to cover 2008 expenses, he said.

“Unfortunately with the recent drop in fuel prices we still have to tap into our fund balance, our reserves, but not at the level that we were projecting in mid-year,” he said. “The fund balance still took a hit. This year we were extremely fortunate to get a 9.9 percent increase from all of our partners to help with that.”

Turcotte added that he hopes state funding stays intact, but it's too early to predict where transportation will fall on the state's list of priorities.

Another major reason for the ridership increase cited by Turcotte and Tedesco is the 50-cent fare promotion that allowed TCAT riders to catch a lift for just 50 cents — a dollar less than the regular fare — during off-peak riding hours from July through October.

The promotion yielded a 23 percent increase in ridership in its first month and sustained increases for the following months where 50-cent fares were available.

Less flashy TCAT improvements include larger buses on rural routes and maintenance to signs and maps around the county, which Turcotte said help increase TCAT's profile.

2009 plans
In 2009, TCAT has plans to extend routes into Schuyler County that will pick up riders in Odessa, Montour Falls and Watkins Glen, Turcotte said.

“Schuyler County contacted us to see what we could do,” he said. “They were under a contract with another private provider that was really raising their rates and they no longer could afford it. So it's either we were able to help them or they wouldn't have had a service at all.”

TCAT will also get a list of suggested route changes from a consulting firm in 2009, Turcotte said.

Another initiative that would increase TCAT's reach is one being spearheaded by Dwight Mengel, a transportation specialist with the Tompkins County Department of Social Services. A federal grant will provide enough money for Mengel to create what he called a “feeder service” for rural residents more than a quarter mile from a TCAT stop.

The plan is still in the very early stages, but it would likely involve picking residents up from their homes in a smaller vehicle before dropping them off at a TCAT stop.

Earlier this month at an Enfield town board meeting, Mengel pitched the project, which would be piloted in Newfield and Enfield, where there is a high demand for TCAT services but not always the ability to utilize them.

Mengel said 9 percent of Enfield's population is within a quarter mile of the bus stop. The plan was designed to help residents without transportation get to work or find a job.




Passengers arrive from several different buses Thursday afternoon at the Seneca Street stop in downtown Ithaca. (SIMON WHEELER / Staff Photo)


TCAT ridership

2007 2008


January 232,719 233,939


February 330,429 345,473


March 299,177 302,286


April 330,829 335,366


May 234,814 237,110


June 168,172 177,171


July 164,333 215,252


August 224,747 232,387


September 320,603 355,128


October 330,344 357,647


November 292,589 295,492


December 177,459 NA


Source: TCAT
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Just wanted to say Merry Christmas to all you poor souls who actually read this thread.

And here's hoping 2009 brings you happiness (and maybe a couple of new buildings to downtown Ithaca ).
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Some of the projects on the agenda for 2009 in Ithaca.




The Commons is shown from above on Monday. The city will likely decide in 2009 who will oversee the project to upgrade The Commons. (ERICA THUM / Staff Photo)



Ithaca facing key decisions on water source, downtown plans
By Krisy Gashler • kgashler@gannett.com • December 30, 2008

In 2009, the City of Ithaca is scheduled to name a new planning director, launch a dually designated State Street/Martin Luther King Jr. Street and begin $4 million worth of renovations on the Greater Ithaca Activities Center, to name a few high-profile items.


Like everyone, city leaders are watching the national recession for negative impacts like lowered sales tax revenue and higher unemployment, but they're also watching for potential positive impacts, like needed infrastructure repairs that could be funded by a federal stimulus package.

* Water. Common Council is slated in 2009 to make the “decision of the century” on where Ithacans should get their drinking water. The city has spent a decade deciding whether to re-build its current water treatment plant on Six Mile Creek or purchase water from the Southern Cayuga Lake Intermunicipal Water Commission, commonly known as Bolton Point.

* Martin Luther King Jr. Street. The city is scheduled to unveil this dual designation for State Street on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 19.

* The newly re-formed city Youth Council is scheduled to meet for the first time Jan. 19. It will be composed of 14 teens, grades 9-12, living within the Ithaca City School District.

* Planning director. Thys Van Cort, outspoken city planning director for almost 35 years, retired Jan. 5, 2008. Almost a year later, a committee recommended three names to Mayor Carolyn Peterson. Peterson will name her choice, likely by February, she said.

* Collegetown. The controversial Collegetown urban plan, which calls for more students and less parking in the core of Collegetown, is under review by Common Council. The construction moratorium, established in order to create and debate the plan, is scheduled to expire in April.

* The Commons. Peterson will likely sign a contract in early 2009 with a consultant to oversee the $250,000 design phase of the controversial project that has been variously called the “Commons Re-design,” “Commons Reconstruction” and “Commons Upgrades.” Roughly half of Common Council favors going ahead with the project for infrastructure repair and economic development. Several members of Common Council have opposed the project, questioning the need and citing impact on the city budget from the recession and potential state budget cuts. Actual construction work, initially estimated at $5 million in 2010, will likely be pushed back by a year or more, Peterson said.

* Downtown. Peterson said she hopes to see completion of recent downtown development by late spring, including full occupancy of rental space under the Cayuga Green apartments and the Cayuga garage. Cinemapolis, under the now-completed Green garage, is slated to open in early 2009.

* GIAC. Construction is set to begin mid-year for the $4 million renovations at the Greater Ithaca Activities Center, Peterson said. This will mean relocating GIAC's host of programs, as was done in 2006, when falling brick outside the building forced an emergency closure, and in 2007, when the boiler went out.

Separate from the renovations, NYSEG's coal tar removal next door on Court Street will also require re-locating GIAC's summer basketball leagues. After a proposal to install a full court at Conway Park was defeated by neighborhood opposition, GIAC is looking at Wood Street Park to host the games.

* Markles Flats. The Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Commission is scheduled to decide in January the fate of the historic Markles Flats building, which sits on the same block where NYSEG is removing carcinogenic coal tar. All the other buildings on the west side of the block are being torn down so NYSEG can dig out up to 15 feet of contaminated soil.

* Ithaca Gun Factory. Demolition of the former gun factory has been delayed for several months but is now anticipated to begin in early 2009. Property owner Wally Diehl and developer Frost Travis propose to re-develop the site into 33 high-end condos.

* Smoking ban. Alderman J.R. Clairborne, D-2nd, and chair of Common Council's community and organizational issues committee, said in 2009 there should be a decision and implementation on a “limited smoking ban” in the city. A Common Council committee has been meeting for several months to examine where on public land the city should ban or limit smoking, looking at everything from The Commons to city parks to bus stops.

* Cayuga Waterfront Trail. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2009 on Phase 3 of the trail, which will connect the farmers' market, Stewart Park and the Tompkins County visitors' center. Phase 2, which is proposed to connect Cass and Stewart parks, has been delayed for several years because of opposition from several property owners who do not want the trail to go on their land. Though the city has threatened using eminent domain to take the land, Peterson said she still hopes to resolve the issue with negotiation. New offers to purchase right-of-ways on those West End properties will go out in letters next month, she said.

* Planning. Work will continue and become more focused on Cornell's $20 million investment into community housing and transportation infrastructure, said Alderwoman Mary Tomlan, D-3rd and chair of Common Council's planning committee. The city will also continue work on updating its comprehensive plan to better guide “planning, zoning, development, and public improvement initiatives in the decades to come,” she said. Common Council authorized $200,000 to hire a consultant to oversee this process.

* Capital Projects. Alderwoman Maria Coles, D-1st and chair of the city administration committee, said she will push for more Common Council involvement in long-range planning of capital projects. Currently, capital projects are determined by the mayor and city staff in internal meetings and included as part of each year's budget. Coles said she wants Common Council to have a better sense of the city's infrastructure needs five to 10 years into the future, so they can make more informed decisions about which capital projects to approve.

* Dredging. Planning also continues on the city's project to dredge some or all of the lower tributaries to Cayuga Lake, and the project to turn the area between Wal-Mart, Nate's Floral Estates and the train tracks into a new, mixed-income Southwest urban neighborhood, Peterson said.
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Maybe some new bridges will help:



The Cayuga Street bridge over Six Mile Creek is among the projects Ithaca Common Council wants to get ready for federal funding under the infrastructure-oriented economic stimulus package President-elect Barack Obama plans for 2009. Another city bridge targeted is the Lake Street Bridge over Fall Creek near Ithaca Falls. (ERICA THUM / Staff Photo)




Panel waits on bridge decision
Federal stimulus could help city infrastructure
By Krisy Gashler • kgashler@gannett.com • December 30, 2008

ITHACA — A Common Council committee held off Monday night on authorizing almost half a million dollars in design work for bridges.


The city's Superintendent of Public Works lobbied for the authorization in order to have the two bridge projects “shovel-ready” in the event of an infrastructure-focused federal stimulus package, as has been proposed by President-elect Barack Obama.

Ithaca's Board of Public Works voted unanimously to support the projects earlier this month.

The committee voted unanimously Monday to wait a month and take a broader look at the city's infrastructure needs before committing $422,500 toward design and engineering for the two bridges: the Lake Street bridge over Fall Creek and the South Cayuga Street bridge over Six Mile Creek.

Several members of the committee, including Chairwoman Maria Coles, D-1st, and Mayor Carolyn Peterson, referred to recent discussions about the $250,000 Commons Reconstruction design project, which some Council members wanted to de-fund. Part of the opposition to the project was based on concern that Common Council needed more long-range information about city needs so that Council members could better prioritize projects in context.

Both Coles, who wanted to de-fund the Commons project, and Peterson, who wanted to go forward with it, argued for waiting a month so Council could take a wider look at infrastructure needs and already funded capital projects.

Superintendent Bill Gray argued that both of the bridges are in need of repair and will have to be completed sometime soon, whether they receive federal funding toward the cost or not.

“This is vital work, and the design won't change,” Gray said. “I think this will be money well spent.”

Gray said that getting the projects to the point where they're ready for construction would take roughly three months in the private sector but will likely take six months in the city because of the voting process required. He asked that the committee allow him to start the process, even if it ends up stopping the process before any or all of the money is spent.

Peterson said it would be difficult to stop a contract once the design process has started. She made a similar argument in favor of going forward with The Commons project.

Gray disagreed, saying that if the city spent $50,000 toward engineering and design work and then learned that, for whatever reason, the projects wouldn't be eligible for federal aid, they could cut the project off there.

Waiting a month will also mean that Obama will be inaugurated and more details on the stimulus package may be available, the committee decided.
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Old Posted Dec 31, 2008, 3:03 PM
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Even Ithaca's main industry (education) isn't recession proof.




The Cornell University Physical Sciences building will continue to grow in 2009 as it is built between Baker Lab, left, Clark Hall, at the rear and Rockefeller Hall, right. The almost 200,000-square-foot building, scheduled for completion in 2010, will provide space for research in bio-physics and nano-biotechnology. To learn more about the building, visit info.physciproject.cornell.edu/index.php. (SIMON WHEELER / Staff Photo)




Ithaca College, Cornell to trim budgets in new year
By Liz Lawyer • elawyer@gannett.com • December 31, 2008

ITHACA — The efforts of Cornell University and Ithaca College to shore up their finances in the current recession are expected to define the beginning of 2009.


As Cornell moves forward with a diminished endowment and Ithaca College scrambles to keep student enrollment from falling, both schools are looking for ways to tighten their belts, eliminate inefficiencies and cut costs.

Ithaca College's department heads have been asked to cut 4 percent from their operating budgets in this budget year, while Cornell President David Skorton has called for up to a 10 percent reduction in the university's operating budget over the next few years.

Both schools' endowments shrank over the past couple of months, but Cornell depends more heavily on its endowment than Ithaca College does.

Cornell implemented a construction and hiring freeze in October. The construction moratorium will last until the end of January, and the hiring freeze will hold until March 31. An internal hiring program is working with those workers who are on layoff notice to find new placement for them within the university in jobs left open due to the hiring freeze.

President David Skorton said there will be further layoffs in his end-of-the-year letter to the campus, saying that “while I do not anticipate any across-the-board cuts, the fact remains that this is a very serious situation and any reasonable solution will affect real programs, real jobs and real people.”

Other things ahead for Cornell include release of its complete Climate Action Plan in September.

The plan will outline the steps the university will take to limit its greenhouse gas production and energy consumption. The action plan is part of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, which Skorton signed in February 2007.

Ithaca College is hoping for a bigger freshman class after a smaller enrollment year than expected this fall. The school depends on enrollment for 90 percent of its operating budget, President Thomas Rochon said in a college-wide e-mail this month.

The task of the school is “to convince prospective students that this is, in fact, the place they should attend,” said college spokesman Dave Maley.

To help achieve that goal, Rochon created a position of vice president for enrollment management, replacing the position of dean of enrollment management, which reported to the provost rather than the president.

Though Ithaca College's endowment also took some hits, the blows to family budgets have more potential to reduce the college's revenue stream as more students may look to public schools for their education instead of more costly private schools.

In April, Ithaca College will be inaugurating its new president, Thomas Rochon, who stepped into the role of president at the school in July. Rochon is the college's eighth president.

Also during spring 2009, the college will break ground for its new athletics and events center. Construction is planned to take two years. When finished, it will be the largest building on campus.

TC3
At Tompkins Cortland Community College, enrollment is expected to go up. Tuition will not go up at the college next year, said Peter Voorhees, media relations coordinator.

The community college will also see the opening of a new residence hall this year and the completion of an expansion of the campus' main building.
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