Friction between colleges and nearby residents is as traditional as cap and gown at graduation, but the long-standing problems in Buffalo’s University Heights neighborhood have become intolerable.
The eye-opening article by News staff reporter Anne Neville, backed by photographer Sharon Cantillon’s images, depicted a neighborhood under siege by students returning to the University at Buffalo for the fall term.
The article described the scene near Winspear Avenue shortly after midnight when “a young woman walking with a group stopped, dropped her short shorts, squatted and urinated on a homeowner’s sidewalk.”
Packs of young people roamed the neighborhood near UB’s South Campus, some carrying beverage cups, in search of house parties.
Those parties were easy to spot, even without using social media: loud music, shouting, porches and balconies packed with people.
“They are too young to get into bars, so they walk, looking for house parties,” said one neighborhood resident. “If you look at their faces, they are babies. I’m out here watching the babies.”
The residents in the neighborhood, some of whom have lived in their homes for decades, are fed up with the vandalism, littering and noise every weekend night from the start of school until Thanksgiving and again in the spring when the weather warms up.
The frustration of the residents was summed up by one taunting young person: “That’s what you get for living here.”
Such comments are the height of disrespect, as are the long, noisy house parties that spill into the streets, leaving discarded red cups and beer bottles behind.
That’s not the way it should be. And, fortunately for the neighbors, change is possible if law enforcement, UB, city officials and block clubs work together.
City police for years have not consistently enforced the laws that should control the mayhem. On the nights cited above, police cars patrolled the neighborhood, but no effort was seen to control the packs of young people or to break up the house parties.
UB contributes to the situation by providing free shuttle buses from the North Campus to the South Campus. It was standing-room-only on buses arriving about midnight, and it’s safe to say they weren’t all heading to the library to study.
The weekend after the story appeared, police stepped up enforcement. In addition to 18 arrests, police issued dozens of citations for violating city ordinances, including excessive noise and open container violations. UB has also promised to take new steps when loud house parties are reported.
“Disruptive behavior in University Heights will not be tolerated,” said Police Deputy Commissioner of Operations Kimberly Beaty. “We want students to acclimate to our community and want them to be respectful of the people who live there all the time, are city taxpayers and community staples.”
Neighbors have to be relieved by the crackdown, but the concern remains that once the spotlight goes away in a few weeks, the trouble will return.
Police, university officials and students themselves can’t allow that to happen. Rowdy students don’t get to commandeer neighborhoods.