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Council approves 'nuisance party' law to clamp down on student parties

Buffalo lawmakers took a stand Tuesday against unruly parties hosted by college students and others by enacting a law banning "nuisance parties."

At the same meeting, lawmakers agreed to develop regulations covering ride-booking in case the service is eventually approved for upstate New York.

They also created a task force to develop recommendations for dealing with neighborhood gentrification.

The nuisance party ban, unanimously approved by the Common Council, declares a gathering a "nuisance party" if it creates what's considered unreasonable noise, or if unlawful activities – such as destroying property, serving alcohol to minors or urinating outdoors – occur.

The person hosting such a gathering could be charged with violating the nuisance party law, which is punishable by a fine of up to $1,500 or 15 days in jail or both fine and jail time.

The new law was introduced by University District Councilman Rasheed N.C. Wyatt, who hopes the threatened fine and jail time puts a damper on college parties in neighborhoods in the University District.

"Residents have endured parties from students too long," said Wyatt, when the new law was discussed at a recent Council committee meeting.

Some of the students, he said, "think it is OK to have parties until 3 or 4 in the morning, upsetting residents."

The city does not like to see students ending up with arrest records, Wyatt said on Tuesday.

But, there are instances, he said, when raucous parties are held at the same student house, over and over again, making it necessary to give police the option of filing charges against the person responsible for these gatherings.

Also at Tuesday's meeting, North District Councilman Joseph Golombek Jr. introduced a measure aimed at regulating ride-booking services such as Uber or Lyft if the service is eventually approved by the state Legislature to operate in upstate New York.

Golombek chairs the Council's subcommittee on taxicabs. A memo filed along with his proposal, written by a representative of the taxi industry, calls for Buffalo to adopt ride-booking regulations that generally mirror taxi regulations.

South District Councilman Christopher P. Scanlon objected.

"I don't think this body should be protecting an industry from other competitors," he said. "I think ride-sharing should be given an opportunity to succeed here in Buffalo."

Golombek said the memo is meant only as a starting point for Council discussions.

"I am not favoring one group over another, but do believe there should be an equal playing field," Golombek said.

Golombek noted that ride-booking services are not currently permitted in Buffalo, and cannot be offered unless the service is first approved by the state Legislature.

But in the event the state does approve the service for Buffalo, Golombek said, he wants Buffalo to have regulations set to go, so that ride-booking could begin in Buffalo as soon as state approval is granted.

The Council also created an Affordable Rent and Housing Task Force, to be chaired by Council President Darius G. Pridgen. It will include community stakeholders as well as housing and development representatives.

The task force will advise the Council on issues related to gentrification, as rent and housing costs rise in some low-income areas that are seeing more development.

The city has an obligation, Pridgen said, to protect its most vulnerable residents, its elderly and low-income citizens, as development occurs.

"We don't want to tell developers Buffalo is not a friendly place to do business," said Niagara Councilman David A. Rivera. "But we can rise everyone up."

"The new Buffalo should not be displacing people who want to stay in their neighborhoods," Wyatt said, in voicing support for the task force.

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