On Tuesday night, Binghamton city officials, students, faculty and community members gathered in the Binghamton University Downtown Center for the second meeting of the Town-Gown Advisory Board.
The board, which formed last fall after students led protests in spring 2017 against initiatives to install a blue-light system in Downtown Binghamton, held its first meeting in October. At Tuesday’s meeting, members discussed the work of the board’s five subcommittees: transportation and parking, student housing, promoting and cultivating positive community engagement, safety and dangerous or underage drinking. After the subcommittees presented their suggestions, they welcomed public comment from those in attendance.
Reginald Thomas Gardner Jr., the co-chair of the subcommittee on dangerous and underage drinking and a first-year graduate student studying education, suggested collecting data about student alcohol use could help define relevant issues and inform potential solutions. The subcommittee is also considering providing ID scanners to businesses to ensure that students are using valid identification to purchase alcohol, according to Gardner.
The subcommittee on safety suggested initiating a program for BU students interested in criminal justice, in an effort to increase the city of Binghamton’s police force. The suggested program would allow them to earn transferable credit toward their degree, and increase and diversify the applicant pool for local police.
The subcommittee on transportation and parking proposed investigating how to encourage students to bike to campus. The subcommittee also proposed working to decrease overlap in Broome County Transit and Off Campus College Transport bus routes in an effort to make public transportation a more viable option for students to commute to school.
During the public comment period of the meeting, some voiced their opposition to the suggested increase in police force, proposed by the subcommittee on safety. Steven Lewis, a senior majoring in Arabic studies and a lifelong resident of Vestal, said an increase in police will only exaggerate current problems between law enforcement and residents.
“Community relations with the police are not good,” Lewis said. “I can tell you that from the ground level, especially with high immigrant and people of color populations. Just adding to that is not going to integrate or make it safer — it’s building a wall.”
Additionally, many audience members said the proposals seem to be centered on the University, and questioned their benefits to the community. Rebecca Ho, the Student Association vice president for finance and a senior majoring in business administration, said the committees should increase their participation within the community to help their ideas come to fruition.
“Some of the ideas that are being floated around are feasible,” Ho wrote in an email. “Some of these ideas have the potential to start up within a year, which is rare for boards of this size and nature. The ideas themselves, however, have a lot of room to grow. The concerns raised by attendees during public comment were clear, pointed, and true. There has to be more participation at the subcommittee level in order to foster healthy debate.”
Randall Edouard, co-chair of the advisory board and the assistant vice president for student affairs at BU, said the subcommittees will use feedback from the board meeting to shape their ideas and create formal proposals to present to the executive board, which includes Brian Rose, vice president for student affairs at BU, and Binghamton Mayor Rich David.
“I felt that the meeting went very well, I was particularly very happy with the outcome of the community,” Edouard said. “They got the opportunity to have their voices heard, and that impacted what the subcommittees actually came up with the last time we had our meeting. Public comment is very important — we want to know what the public is concerned with.”
A concrete date for the next board meeting has yet to be set, however, it is expected to be held in April.