Monday, November 05, 2007
Touring The Combat Zone
A winter night. Walking through the central neighborhood of Plattsburgh, on my way to a college event. Groups of young people on each side of the street, throwing flaming toilet paper at each other.
A warm, sunny day. Walking down a sidewalk in Center City. I easily notice across the street three young guys who have flipped a car over in a driveway. Shouting, screaming, swearing, they’re kicking away on the car, one beating it with a baseball bat, windows cracked and shattered. Gas pours out all over the ground.
For decades Center City has suffered from the plight of unruly college students. And while those students are in the minority, it’s a potent minority. So few cause so much trouble.
But there’s profit to be made if you’re a landlord. Buy a one family house, chop it into apartments, and rent them out to college students. House by house the character of the neighborhood changes. Vandalism and noise. Rudeness reigns. Come home and find a college couple getting ready to couple behind your hedges. Or enter your bedroom and find a complete stranger, a drunken college student, passed out in your bed. (Make sure to check the sheets for vomit.)
Taxpayers who reside in Center City complain. Complain to the mayor, the police chief, the college president. Lately some of these issues have been coming to a head. Advocates are pushing for something to be done. But they run up against the money angle. Landlords and developers want to make a profit on their investments. The city wants to collect taxes on those investments.
But what about the enforcement of zoning, civil, and criminal laws to control the problems? Once again: it’s a matter of money. The city has a limited budget; it doesn’t have enough building inspectors and police officers to handle the situation.
So Center City remains plagued by vandalism and noise and litter and overall disrespect.
Welcome to The Combat Zone.