Students, University faculty, community members and local government officials are teaming up to create a more student-friendly neighborhood in Binghamton’s West Side.
The West Side Neighborhood Project (WSNP) is a part of the mayor’s Commission on Housing and Home Ownership in April 2008. The WSNP looks to improve many aspects of the city’s West Side, including community, economic development, marketing, zoning, public safety and curb appeal.
David Husch, director of Off Campus College and a University representative on the main committee for the Project, said his goal for the program is to unite relations with students and long-term neighbors, eventually eliminating the ‘us-versus-them mentality.’
Binghamton graduate student Robert Kadar has been working with David Sloan Wilson, a professor at BU and director of the WSNP, to research how to ‘minimize the adverse relations between absentee landlords and transient tenants.’
According to Andrew Block, director of community relations for the city of Binghamton, the WSNP is headed by residents, who are consulting with the mayor’s office for the viability of their plans.
‘The mayor is pleased by such action on the Commission’s efforts and he looks forward to implementing strategies that will benefit all residents, including students,’ Block said.
The research for WSNP has been ongoing for a year. The committee recently learned the students at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee had a similar pilot program, and various members met with a Wisconsin official on April 27 to discuss the future of Binghamton’s program.
According to Kadar, Wisconsin’s program gives incentives to permanent residents and landlords to improve their properties to provide a viable neighborhood. Their program rewards good behaviors of community members and punishes bad behavior.
‘While we may have to tweak some things to make it work here, the next step is to see how much we can take from their program,’ Husch said.
Alycia Harris is one of three co-chairs of WSNP, along with Mary Webster and Tobey Kellam. Through her work on the Commission, Harris realized there was need for change in Binghamton’s West Side.
‘Binghamton is ready for smart growth, dealing with the issues that currently exist and collaborating among residents and students,’ Harris said. ‘It’s a huge motivation when people are excited about improving and revitalizing their neighborhoods.’
According to Husch, they are looking to create a more student-friendly neighborhood that would have long-term residents and other renters.
Brian Rose, vice president for student affairs, said the University will continue to work with and support this grassroots collaboration of University staff and faculty, as well as city residents.
Harris hopes as a result of this Project, the West Side will have higher home ownership, safer living conditions and improved relations among the city and University neighbors.
The WSNP is currently funded by donations, volunteerism, $1,000 from the Student Association and funding from the University for Kadar’s research.
According to Harris, the WSNP is interested in student help through internships and school projects. Also, it will be holding a WSNP Spring Clean Up on May 8 starting at the Tabernacle Church on Main Street. Students interested in becoming involved with WSNP or with the cleanup can contact Harris at email@example.com for more information.