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Albany leaders prepare for first weekend of college parties in Pine Hills

Student housing in Albany's Pine Hills neighborhood.
Dave Lucas
Student housing in Albany's Pine Hills neighborhood.

With the fall semester about to begin, Albany officials are cautioning students living off-campus to stay safe.

The Pine Hills neighborhood is home to many college students who rent apartments in midtown. Some city leaders call it a "hot spot" for gun violence and quality of life issues.

Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins, who went door-to-door this week greeting residents, says he has "a solid plan in place" to address any issues.

"We've already had several meetings with members of the administration of UAlbany, St. Rose, the Pine Hills Neighborhood Association representatives, student representatives, the landlords for that area," said Hawkins.

Mayor Kathy Sheehan says everyone needs to understand "the rules of the road."

"We want for students to understand what a lease needs to look like, and that they need to have a valid lease," Sheehan said. "We want our landlords to know about the requirements that we have with respect to ROPs. Those are residential occupancy permits, right? So we don't want students to be renting an apartment that doesn't have an ROP because that means it hasn't been inspected. And we want students to know what our expectations are, as does the university for those who are living off campus."

Jordan Carleo-Evangelist is a spokesperson for the University at Albany.

"APD are often doing neighborhood walk and talks programming, knocking on doors, talking to students talking to residents who are not students, about personal safety, about you know, things going on in the neighborhood, quality of life issues, how to be a good neighbor, you know, many of our students or upper class members are living off campus on their own for the first time in their lives. That's part of the college learning experience, it's part of that, you know, transformation from a high school student to a young adult,” said Carleo-Evangelist.

The university made national headlines in 2011 after the notorious "kegs and eggs" incident where students rioted in city streets during an event tied to St. Patrick's Day. It prompted the college to reschedule spring break to push students off campus for the holiday, and precautions have been taken every year since to avoid a repeat situation.

"We know that typically when they come back, that's when we start to see parties and large gatherings and so we want to proactively be there to get the message out that it's not," Sheehan said. "This is not a free-for-all, that there are expectations that we have students who are residents in our city, and that we expect them to abide by our nor noise ordinances, we expect them to be good neighbors."

A year ago there were complaints about loud parties and large gatherings in the streets. During a Sunday morning incident in late August, police were clearing a large crowd on Hudson Avenue between Quail and Ontario Streets around 3 a.m. While breaking up the large fight, where police said glass bottles were thrown at officers, police responded to gunshots heard in the nearby area of Hamilton and Ontario Streets, where five people ranging in age from 19 to 29 were found with gunshot wounds. Officials said none of the injured were students.

The College of St. Rose responded to a request for comment via email, saying in part it “values the relationship we have with our Pine Hills neighbors, and we will continue to work closely with the Pine Hills Neighborhood Association, the Albany Police Department, and the University at Albany, to foster a safe, thriving community for us all to live, work and learn in.”

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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