Members of the community are asking D’Youville College to consider keeping a green space at 492 West Avenue, instead of extending a parking lot to add 11 spaces. The College is looking to increase its number of parking spaces in the neighborhood in advance of building its new $20 million HUB project. While the new project would see the elimination of a number of parking spots at the corner of Connecticut and West, neighbors are saying that the College should be looking at a more comprehensive and longterm parking solution for the campus, rather than further encroaching into the neighborhood with asphalt parking.
One neighbor leading the charge to get D’Youville to reconsider converting the green strip into 11 parking spots is nearby resident Dennis Maher, who says that the college is not playing nice in the community sandbox. Mahar says that D’Youville has been playing a slippery game when it comes to gaining additional parking spaces in the neighborhood, to make up for the lost spaces from the development of the HUB project. According to Mahar, immediate neighbors have been kept in the dark about the attempt to convert the green space.
In a recent letter circulated to media, proponents of retaining the green space pointed out that past actions by D’Youville demonstrate that the College is always on the hunt for additional parking, which has left neighbors on their guard. While residents are happy to see the expansion of the College, and the elimination of surface parking lots, they say that the College must not simply look to make up those spots at the expense of the neighborhood, which has already seen its fair share of houses torn down to accommodate for parking. And lest we forget that St. Mary’s on the Hill is now a dedicated parking lot (we saw that one coming from a mile away).
At one point, D’Youville picked up 285 and 287 Fargo houses (ten years ago), only to sell them when the community fought to preserve the structures, to retain the built fabric of the street instead of the expansion of parking. These types of stories are all too common when it comes to the relationship between the College and the community. And it’s too bad, because for the most part, D’Youville is doing amazing things – whether it’s new athletic fields, buildings… or even enhancing the College’s exceptional programming. Community relations should be considered just as important. Whether someone is for the green space or for the expanded parking lot, an open dialogue is usually the best way to mitigate these types of clashes. The following sentiment is from the ‘letter to the media’ that I mentioned previously:
At Common Council hearing on 9/10/19, D’Youville counsel referred to 492 West as ALREADY a parking lot. These statements, coupled with the inadequate signage that was posted prior to Tuesday’s hearing, and which we are currently investigating, confirm for us the lack of integrity D’Youville has had throughout this process.
At this point, 492 West Avenue is a lynchpin for us. We believe that sacrificing rare, valuable green space, for the purpose of securing 11 parking spots is shortsighted, wasteful and adds no value to the neighborhood. This form of encroachment into the residential fabric is not acceptable.
We want to work with D’Youville in order to help the college advance its plans in a responsible and timely way. We do not want to oppose the larger development project, which we think can have many benefits to the area and beyond. We had communicated to Councilmember Rivera that we would be willing to help D’Youville through subsequent phases of the project if 492 West was removed from the plan.
“From the onset, we have been willing to work with D’Youville towards identifying common goals and strategies,” Mahar told me. “This is not just about the green lot – it’s about the bigger picture. This is a Bandaid solution to a much larger comprehensive sustainable parking strategy. There was never any signage posted at this exact site – it was posted a few doors down, hidden by some shrubs. We want this to be an open process, where everyone is on the same page about what’s happening. At this point, D’Youville has denied our request to help them navigate this process in exchange for removing 492 from their parking plans.”
One side: C’mon, does D’Youville really need the 11 parking spaces?
The other side: C’mon, does the neighborhood really need a buffered green space?
The result: An unnecessary dispute due to lack of communication and tactical planning.
One thing is clear. This neighborhood has certainly suffered at the hands of surface parking over the years. For far too long, there has been an unfortunate conflict when it comes to what’s best for the neighborhood, and what’s best for the College, when it comes to parking. Moving forward, it’s imperative that a symbiotic relationship is established. In order for that to happen, all parties must come to the table to discuss their wants and needs. After all, it’s important to remember – the best colleges in the US are typically found in thriving neighborhoods. And thriving neighborhoods are not simply thrown together willy-nilly. Rather they are thoughtfully grown by all of the parties that occupy them, working together to create the best place possible.