On March 2, mayors Rich David of the city of Binghamton, Greg Deemie of Johnson City and John Bertoni of Endicott spoke to about 120 students, faculty, local business owners and community members about city and college relations.
The presentation is part of a monthly lecture series titled the “SUNY Business and Education Cooperative of the Southern Tier” and was held at the University Downtown Center. It was followed by a Q-and-A forum for attendees to voice queries, comments and concerns.
Each mayor focused on a “college town” theme and discussed how their municipalities could become more welcoming to students and other members of the University community. Deemie stated that many students already reside in Johnson City, and that more students are expected to come to the village after the construction of the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences is completed, as 300 students are expected to be enrolled.
“Johnson City has a great historic character, and that’s something we want to try and keep prominent,” Deemie said. “We’re on a good road to change right now, and we need to keep working forward.”
In addition, Deemie said that the village is currently working on a number of projects that will increase public safety, make Johnson City more walkable and bring more dining and shopping options to the Main Street area. To do this, Deemie plans to increase lighting on Main Street and target blight.
Bertoni spoke about the Endicott’s past as a manufacturing hub and future as a small-town haven for college students and professionals. He discussed an idea of establishing a bus line between Binghamton University and Endicott, and highlighted that he would like to see more students residing in Endicott and take advantage of its small-town charm, small businesses and affordable housing.
“The idea of incorporating the University into Endicott has always been our goal,” Bertoni said. “We have wonderful neighborhoods and we have worked diligently to improve our safety. I’d like to see more students coming to Endicott.”
David said that while the city of Binghamton already has a well-established relationship with students and the University, it will also see improvements in the future. Construction on a new trail between the University and Downtown Binghamton will begin this spring. In addition, a blue-light safety system similar to the one already in place on campus will be installed around Binghamton’s West Side as part of a partnership between Binghamton and the University.
“The issue of the town-gown relationship between Binghamton University and the city of Binghamton is a very important topic because it has changed [and] evolved over the last several years,” David said. “Where we are now, we have a lot of momentum, and we’re continuing that energy and focus.”
Attendees like 30-year-old Kathryn Fletcher, a resident of the city of Binghamton and a 2008 alumna, said that she was happy to see a pedestrian trail between the University and the city of Binghamton come to fruition.
“I came here because I like the idea of being a cooperative between the University and the community,” Fletcher said. “I was surprised to see the Johnson City and Endicott mayors speak, because they don’t seem to be involved with what the University is doing.”
Ala Ladd, a 49-year-old resident of Johnson City, said that she thought the cooperation between the University and the three cities was exciting and positive.
“I thought it was very encouraging and eye-opening,” Ladd said. “You got three different perspectives from the mayors and I think it’s very evident based on how they presented themselves on what you see happening and what you don’t.”