Mayor Bryan Cranna and the Tivoli board of trustees got another earful from residents unhappy about noisy Bard students in the business district late at night.
At the board’s April 18 meeting, residents who live in and around the business district complained that an unacceptable atmosphere has been created by large number of students taking late-night Bard shuttle busses into the village, hosting loud parties, congregating in large numbers and engaging in displays of public intoxication. They had made similar complaints at the board’s March meeting.
Cranna said that he totally agreed with the residents’ complaints and that the board is doing everything that it can legally do to work with the college.
He said that he and members of the board met with the Bard College administration after the March meeting but have not yet reached any concrete agreements on resolving the problem.
A village noise ordinance is in effect after 10pm, and the Bard shuttle service runs until 3am.
“We asked that the shuttle stop running at midnight so that it coincides with their library operation,” Cranna said. “We have opened a dialogue with Bard, which I think is better than it has ever been before.”
Cranna also reported that the college is not looking to alter the shuttle service this semester but that he hopes that Tivoli and Bard can make changes for the upcoming fall semester.
Rich Schiafo, a resident who lives on Montgomery Street, was unimpressed. “I don’t find your answer satisfactory,” he said. “I don’t feel like the health and safety and welfare of the residents is something you should be negotiating.”
Schiafo suggested that more could be done to hold landlords accountable if problems are arising from their rental properties. Advocating for the village to take a harder line, he told the mayor, “You need to beef up the police, have them walking the streets, ticketing kids, arresting them, throwing them in jail, call their parents at 2 o’clock in the morning.”
Karen Cleaveland, a member of the village zoning board who addressed the issue at the March meeting, added that the students need to be treated like adults. “If you are old enough to hold a lease, you are old enough to be responsible,” she said. “These kids need to be fined, and the police need to be right there when it happens. No warnings. They have to know that we really mean business.”
The Village of Tivoli does not have its own police force. It contracts with the Sheriff’s Department for patrols and police coverage.
Contacted after the meeting by phone, Cranna said he believes the big issue is the college students who don’t live in the village. “There’s really no reason I can think of at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning to be coming into the village, except to be partying…” he said. “That’s a problem because you’ve got people living on Broadway and you have literally — I’m not exaggerating — 150 students collecting on Broadway at 1:30 or 2 in the morning waiting for busses [back to campus].”
Gretchen Perry, dean of student life at Bard, acknowledged that a growing student population has presented new challenges to the college’s relationship with the local community.
“Bard College’s student population has steadily grown over the last 15 years, and now holds steadily at approximately 1,950 students. The increased population, both on and off campus, necessarily requires the college to increase available services to meet student needs,” she said.
According to Perry, the increased shuttle service is a matter of safety. New larger busses had been added to the late-night service in order to “alleviate the crowding and unsafe conditions that were occurring at shuttle stops in the villages and on the shuttles,” she said.
“In any rural community, there is significant concern about individuals driving while under the influence of alcohol or walking along rural roads,” she added. “Neither condition is safe for the students or other drivers on the road, inclusive of local residents. Bard does not condone inappropriate behavior and does not encourage alcohol consumption. We do provide safe transportation for students who may choose to drink, in an effort to protect those on the roads. Invariably, we would be criticized if we did not provide shuttles.”
She added, “While Bard has no legal jurisdiction over the movement or behaviors of the students off campus, we make great efforts to help insure that travel and the patronizing of businesses in Tivoli and Red Hook by Bard students is done safely and with respectful conduct.”
She also stressed, however, that a growing student population has a positive impact on the surrounding community. “With that growth comes a huge economic boon to the community with millions of dollars going into the local economy,” she said.
And she asked that residents look at the larger picture. “College staff and students want very much to work in cooperation with community leaders to address certain behaviors, but believe strongly that the ties between the community and Bard are not defined by these issues but rather … by the tremendous positive community programs and projects going on every day in Red Hook, Tivoli and the surrounding community in the Hudson Valley,” she said.