ITHACA, N.Y. — Street repairs, the waterfront, parking, building design guidelines and city facilities are among some of the major issues the City of Ithaca will take on in 2018.
Mayor Svante Myrick said during the annual address Wednesday night, “The state of the city is strong but in constant need of work, improvement and our dedication.”
He said Ithacans are “ambitious and clever” and have ideals from “all over the chart.”
In the past year, the city has passed legislation to serve the public that has included allowing for the implementation of ride-sharing services, sanctuary city status, sidewalk repairs, adopting a transgender and non-conforming gender policy, increasing accessibility to city jobs and volunteerism, hiring the first black police chief, and coordinating the approval of 568 new housing units, 107 of which are affordable.
Myrick said that those are reasons he is proud to be part of the city government.
“But if I’ve learned anything in Ithaca … pride should not make us complacent,” he said.
The city still has a long way to go. Myrick said there are still single mothers who can’t afford to live in Ithaca and drive an hour to get to the city for work every day; there are children who can’t participate in after school activities and there are seniors who are being forced out of the city because homes they can no longer afford the taxes on homes they bought 40 years ago.
“These are the people we serve,” he said.
While Myrick said the city is not putting crucial issues, such as affordable housing, law enforcement, the opioid epidemic, or sustainability on the back burner, there are new challenges the city is taking on.
Here are a few of the city’s big plans for 2018:
“You all know … that a pothole is more than just an eyesore. It can be a threat to your safety if you are a pedestrian. It can be threat to your life if you’re a bicyclist. And it can be a threat to your entire well-being if you’re a driver who breaks an axle and misses the next day of work, maybe loses their job and certainly goes further into debt because the streets are…..(not in good) shape,” Myrick said.
He said that over the next year Superintendent of Public Works Michael Thorne will work with Chief of Staff Dan Cogan and City Attorney Ari Lavine to find money for street repairs.
Myrick said the repairs will be a significant investment for the city, but the trio will work to find the money for repairs in the “most equitable (way) for all the people who live in the City of Ithaca.”
“People feel most comfortable living in places that are visually stimulating and beautiful and that should be our city,” Myrick said.
Other aspects of buildings are just as important — safety, accessibility, location, the interior — but he said there should be guidelines for developers looking to build in the city.
While it’s impossible, he said, for a room full of people to agree on what a beautiful building looks like, it is possible for the city to strive to have developers be consistent.
“I feel like the more people (who) are using our waterfront — either to shop, to live, to work, to play — the healthier they will be, the more attractive our community will be, and the better we’ll all be for it,” Myrick said.
But the city is far from building condos on the waterfront.
The city still has to relocate New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Transportation facilities. Then it has to adopt design guidelines for the waterfront.
In previous Common Council discussions, elected officials have discussed the desire to ensure mixed-use development for businesses and housing without trashing the environment.
Myrick said, “I will asking, in 2018, the Community Life Commission to begin a process to develop a new brand identity for the city. A process that will engage the public and respects our history…”
The city of Ithaca is known for many things, he said.
Some people know of it because it’s a place of learning. Others know it for its progressiveness. Some people know it as being a “place run by a bunch of weirdos.” And there’s the famous Ithaca gorges.
None of those are reflected in the city seal or branding efforts, Myrick said.
He said the current city seal is a building no longer in existence and, when it did exist, was not much to be impressed by.
Myrick said the city has made “revolutionary changes” to parking in the past few years, including installing electronic parking options that can be accessed with an app. But there is still room for improvement, especially with the Green Street and Seneca Street parking garages nearing the end of their usefulness.
In 2018, he said he is tasking the Mobility, Accessibility and Transportation Commission to review and revise the long-term parking vision in the city.
In city building that are more than 50 years old, public servants spend their days in buildings that don’t heat in the winter and don’t cool down in the summer. They’re dated and were never built to be used as office space.
Myrick said it’s time to those who work within the city able to do so in more up-to-date ways.
The tasks set before the city, Myrick said, are not easy. But it’s not the first time Ithaca officials have faced ambitious goals.
But no matter how ambitious an agenda is set before the city, Myrick said, the people working to solve some of the biggest problems in the city always seem to pull through.
“That’s just the kind of city we are,” he said. “I’m confident that one year from now…we will be talking about a city that is even stronger, even healthier, and even more successful.”
Stock photo of Mayor Svante Myrick by Kelsey O’Connor/The Ithaca Voice