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Buffalo State Students and the Neighborhood

I’d like to respond to the recent article “The Neighborhood Strikes Back” (Artvoice v10n1) and the responses to it. I have been a community leader in that neighborhood since 2000, when my neighbors and I attempted to ameliorate these same problems described in the article. In 10 years of dealing with this we have not seen any significant change and we’ve talked to students, met with police, the city, the college, the State Liquor Authority, the health department, New York State, etc.…to no avail. Things may temporarily quiet down but each new crop of students starts the same thing again every year.

The issues described are not new nor are they specific to the students mentioned. However, Tremont Avenue is a particular locus of problems because of the slumlords who rents multiple houses together and often encourages groups to rent together. Many different fraternities, sororities, sports teams, and clubs have all engaged in the same behavior. In meetings with students I have found that there is a persistent myth that the neighborhood is a “ghetto,” that there are more students than homeowners, and “ghetto” people deserve this behavior. It’s a myth they use to insulate their consciences from the damage they do.

It is important to point out that most college students are fine neighbors but that they problem almost solely from organized groups. These parties are actually well publicized money-making events. Essentially these organizations run unlicensed bars selling and serving to minors—the main attendees at these parties. The profit motive, mob mentality, drugs, and alcohol lead to uncontrolled behavior, and nasty, violent confrontations with these kids.

The police are overwhelmed by the work. Over a period of about a year there were approximately 130 police called to a particular house for everything from robbery, noise, sexual assault, drunkenness, drugs, and violence. This is a waste of taxpayers’ money. Perhaps if landlords were to be legally bound to pay these costs they might improve their landlording or get out of the business. Slumlording to students could itself fill many investigative reports.

The college has also traditionally dodged any responsibility despite the fact that these problem students are almost always members of college-sanctioned organizations and despite our warnings that there will be injuries and deaths from fires collapses or stampedes among many things. The extreme overcrowding, overloading of porches, and their penchant for setting things on fire make this an inevitability.

Finally, the city and state agencies have also been unable to gain any control via the State Liquor Authority, Save our Streets, housing court, criminal court, etc.

There has to be a coordinated effort to shift the burden of these tenants from the neighbors and agencies directly to the landlords’ who currently exploit the system and hide behind unlisted numbers, P.O. boxes, and “property management agencies.” These students are disruptive, dangerous, and violent, and are not exempt from the laws because they are young or living in a less affluent neighborhood. Go the hell back to your neighborhoods and you’d be arrested within minutes of perpetrating this behavior.

Ian MacDonald, Buffalo

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