ITHACA, N.Y. — A candidate for Ithaca’s Common Council said in a speech at City Hall Wednesday night that development in the city was proceeding too rapidly and must be reconsidered.

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Sean Gannon is running as an independent candidate for the Council’s Second Ward seat against Ducson Nguyen, who won the Democratic primary.

Screenshot of Sean Gannon campaign flyer
Screenshot of Sean Gannon campaign flyer

Nguyen has largely expressed support for the city’s recent spurt of downtown development — a position also taken by Mayor Svante Myrick and many other local officials, who say the greater urban density represents an important effort to combat the city’s affordable housing crisis. (Not all members of the current Common Council agree.)

Speaking at a committee of the Common Council, Gannon expressed skepticism with the pace and speed of development in downtown Ithaca.

“As I have walked every street in my ward campaigning these last several weeks, I can honestly say that today many of us feel we are no longer sufficiently heard,” he said.

“… The unified voice I hear clearly is that regardless of the lively debates on density, height, architectural style, intended clients, we do agree that we need to slow down for a moment, catch our breaths as a community and apprise ourselves of the already momentous changes we are experiencing.”

In particular, he criticized the process by which developers are granted tax abatements by municipal officials.

“As a candidate I wish to be forthright on my position regarding planning and development: We are a growing city and downtown density is desirable,” Gannon said. “However, we can soften the edges more, both in the height and mass of buildings and how they merge into our residential streets.”

“…Developing downtown must incorporate their needs and concerns but without being monolithic, catering to single demographics. The residents in our future buildings can and should reflect the diversity already existing in our neighborhoods.”

Gannon’s position appears more critical of the pace of development in the city of Ithaca than that of Nguyen.

In a previous interview with the Ithaca Voice, Nguyen expressed his support for the Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services project at 210 Hancock Street as well as an 11-story building proposal for the Trebloc site on State Street.

Both projects have been controversial and opposed by some as changing the face of the city of Ithaca too quickly. But Nguyen, like many other city officials, has argued that the new buildings are necessary to expand the supply of housing and reduce the cost of housing for individual units.

“The housing market works on supply and demand like any other market; when we have extraordinary demand like we do in the city of Ithaca, the best way to take pressure off the pricing is to increase the supply and we have an opportunity here to make a substantial dent in supply,” Nguyen said when asked about the Trebloc site proposal. “And for that reason I’m very interested in it.”

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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.