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Final vote pending for Collegetown rezoning amid community concerns

The proposed Collegetown rezoning is on to the City of Ithaca Common Council for a final vote after unanimously passing the Planning and Economic Development Committee.

The measure – a drawn out and still contentious plan for some – seeks to rezone Ithaca’s most dense neighborhood using form districts that will regulate features such as roof pitch, glazing, porches, and size of plain exteriors.

The plan calls for a total of six districts: two Mixed Use (MU) districts, which includes both residential and commercial spaces, and four Collegetown Residential (CR) districts. Much of the concern lies with the transitional CR-4 district with the closest proximity to the MU districts.

Draft: Collegetown Area Form Districts

Under the rezoning proposal, Collegetown will have six newly formed districts: two for a mix of commercial and residential uses in the center, and four surrounding residential districts.

Tom Hanna, one of Collegetown’s long-time residents, has voiced concern over the potential for consolidation by big developers under the law.

“We specified to the city [a concern for consolidation] in the CR-4 zones,” said Hanna, a ’64 graduate of Cornell University and Collegetown homeowner since 1970. Hanna also serves as a member of the East Hill Civic Association.

“If you look at the way we’ve written this law…this is clearly going to end up encouraging individual property owners like myself and others to consider selling out to major developers, rather than try to go through and develop the property ourselves.”

Hanna cites the low vacancy rate as a factor that keeps rent prices higher and worries the new policy will further increase the cost of living with a “gentrification” effect. The Cornell Daily Sun published his editorial on the issue in its Guest Room column last week.

“Everybody wants to be in Collegetown,” said Galal Cancer, a Junior Applied Economics and Management student at Cornell. He agrees that the city should make it a priority to keep Collegetown within the range of students’ budgets.”

“While the plan does not specifically address the goal of affordability, it does clearly address the goal of supplying quality, safe housing,” said Seph Murtaugh, the Chairman of the Planning and Economic Development Committee.

Parking at a Premium

The rezoning measure also eliminates parking requirements for the multi-use districts and, if parking-management plans are approved, the CR-4 district.

Factoring in space for parking can be costly for developers and, according to Murtaugh, is not as necessary with increasing use of alternative transportation.

“The parking requirements can really inhibit growth and density,” he said. “I think we feel comfortable eliminating it in the center of Collegetown.”

Murtaugh also pointed to other available parking nearby, including the Dryden Avenue garage that has been operating on average at only 50 percent capacity. A citywide Parking Director was recently hired to address policies as well.

Seven Years In the Making

In 2007 the City and Cornell University commissioned Good Clancy Associates of Boston, Mass. and two sub-consultant firms for a total of $180,000 to evaluate Collegetown and make recommendations for future development. After some additional modification by the Planning Committee, “The 2009 Collegetown Urban Plan & Conceptual Design Guidelines” was published.

In 2011, owners of affected property halted the plan’s implementation after challenging the parking exemption.

“There have definitely been criticisms of the plan,” Murtaugh said. “I think that the city staff will continue to monitor it…if we find that the plan requires tweaking in some way, if we have to change it to respond to local realities, I think the Planning staff and Common Council will make those changes as necessary.”

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Social media: the new frontier of journalism

With the exponentially accelerating advancement of technology nowadays, journalism is undoubtedly one of the most dynamic and exciting professions to be working in. Journalists have always depended on sources and tips for stories. But an unprecedented amount of new information and potential sources have become accessible with the emergence of social media.

One of the developments Dan Gillmor, author of We the Media, validates is the need for what some may call “backpack journalists”. The surge of citizen journalism emerging through social media has challenged the professional journalism industry to “transcend the desktop,” as Gilmor puts it, and actually take advantage of every feature our devices have to offer. It’s not necessarily that every person employed by a news organization has to be a trained videographer, but instead simply needs to have an eye for anything they come across in everyday life that may resemble news. Whether it’s in the form of video, audio, or photographs, mobile phones and tablets afford individuals the chance to capture the spontaneous and the unfrequented.

Gillmor also touches on how linking can add depth to stories. Not only does sourcing add authority to a piece by revealing where information was obtained, but also works in the best interest of the reader by directing them to material that provides greater context (e.g. transcripts or data) and perhaps even encouraging them to dig deeper on their own.

If this were a one way street, I might end this post by saying, “Now go grab your phone, get out there and find some news” and leave it at that. But, of course, social media has also fostered a robust dialogue between journalist and audience to offer feedback and new ideas. So, help me out here readers. What are some prime examples you’ve seen of social media’s impact on journalism? What are your thoughts on the benefits and drawbacks of this? Comment with your opinion, reflect on your experiences, maybe even share a link or two!

Tech Etiquette: the Dos and Don’ts of Online Reporting

Journalists on Twitter can reap major benefits from the service, but should also beware of pitfalls. (Photo Credit: AP)

Journalists on Twitter can reap major benefits from the service, but should also beware of pitfalls. (Photo Credit: AP)

The online world of social media is something of a mine field. With an ever-shrinking sense of privacy and ever-growing need for connecting via the World Wide Web, knowing what benefits or hinders an online reputation can make or break your personal brand.

Alexandra Chang — a former technology writer for Wired magazine in San Francisco and current freelancer in Ithaca, New York — recently shared her online wisdom with journalism students of Ithaca College’s Roy H. Park School of Communications. Here are some of her recommendations for behaviors to actively engage in, as well as those that should best be avoided:

  1. Be personal in professional areas. Content reflects how you want to be perceived.
  2. Create lists of reporters within your beat and try to engage with them in a thoughtful way.
  3. If you’re searching for sources on LinkedIn, opt for the anonymous setting. Users can see who views their profile.
  4. Use Twitter in a genuine way, even though it’s not the most genuine platform.
  5. The Internet is often a less than ideal place for civility. If you get heatedly attacked on Twitter or anywhere else, the best policy is to simply ignore.
  6. Create a brand for yourself through tone and how you present content. Social media is not just there for people to follow you professionally, but also to get to know you.
  7. Have a presence on Vine and other similar platforms, but remain conscious of the fact that they are still used more primarily for comedy than news at the moment.

Some other interesting tools that were revealed include Twiangulate.com (a website that allows you to find new people that follow several accounts related to your beat or interests), Qwitter.com (a site that tracks who unfollows you on Twitter), and Paper (the latest iPhone app from Facebook that offers users a “newsier” newsfeed).

Ithaca Rolfer aids pain with practice

By John Vogan & Allie Healy

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When Sarah Robarge was 15 years old, a horse ride changed her life. That fateful day, her horse became startled and reared up, throwing her from the saddle and onto the ground before the animal fell on top of her.

The accident resulted in two back fractures in and a hip injury. On and off for the next 15 years, Robarge had to wear a back brace and tried everything from medication to surgery to massage therapy, but still suffered debilitating pain.

That is, until, she discovered Rolfing, a unique kind of massage therapy aimed at realigning the body to minimize pain and tension. Ida Rolf, a biochemist, created Rolfing in the 1930s. After completing a series of Rolfing therapy with Wells Christie in Syracuse, Robarge’s pain was gone.

Robarge completed a Ten-Series, which typically spreads one-hour sessions once a week over 10 weeks, but could be extended to progress once a month over 10 months. The first three sessions are known as superficial sessions, working the superficial layers of the fascia, also known as connective tissue.

“It just changed my life so much that it inspired me to do that, so I could help people the way that I was helped,” Robarge said.

According to the Affordable Care Act section 2706 titled “Non-Discrimination in Healthcare,” insurance issuers “shall not discriminate with respect to participation under the plan or coverage against any health care provider’s license or certification under applicable State law.” Because Robarge’s practice is licensed, Rolfing would be covered by insurance, dependent on the individuals insurance provider.

Robarge now practices as a certified Rolfer, but getting to this point was not easy. New York state requires Rolfers to be licensed as massage therapists first, and the only Rolf Institute currently in the United States operates their instruction in Colorado.

Robarge spent the first semester studying in Colorado, and then travelled to other parts of the world where the practice is more widely practiced. She lived in Malaysia for the second semester, and studied for the third semester in Bali and Indonesia.

Rolfing is more thorough than traditional massage therapy and based on discovering the source of tension-related problems, Robarge said.

“To give an example, say you have sore shoulders. If you went and saw a massage therapist, you’d go in and you’d get a shoulder rub,” she said. “Most people’s sore shoulders are caused by tension in the front of the body. If you have tension either in your chest or abdominals or your legs, you are going to be pulled forward in your gravity. It’s pulling on your back.”

Unlike the temporary relief and relaxing chemicals released in a typical massage, Rolfing aims to realign the body to help the pain dissipate all together.

Susan Winter, the Manager of Marketing at the Rolf Institute, said the practice used to be more intensive and painful. The founder, Ida Rolf, initially would patients lay on the floor instead of a table.

“We’ve learned over the years about the nervous system, you don’t need intensity, but intentionality,” said Winter, a patient of Rolfing herself. If either the patient or the Rolfer senses too much pain, attention can be placed on shallower layers of connective tissue.

Robarge’s practice, located at 409 W State Street, will have been established a year in January.