Of course, that often occurs in small neighborhoods, with some neighbors becoming the best of friends and others not necessarily liking each other but choosing to live amicably beside each other, for the good of themselves and the neighborhood as a whole.
Then there are those occasional horror stories in which the dislike overrides everything and mini wars break out on the block, often resulting in destruction on both sides and an overall sense in the neighborhood, or at least on that block, or at the very least between those two houses, a peace accord is needed.
Still, the best thing to do is meet your neighbors, and this is especially important when there are transient populations.
Since I have been a journalist in this area, starting in March of 2000, there was no end to horror stories each semester in which college students, often drunk, destroy parts of the neighborhoods they live within in the City of Plattsburgh, usually the center city, though groups of them are spread out throughout the city.
It should be noted that we are talking about a small number of students when compared to the entire student body at Plattsburgh State. I continue to consistently meet respectful students at the university who are clearly on their way to bright futures.
But some students destroy property, scream on the way home and even enter residences, only to vomit and pass out in someone else’s living room.
I recall one particular time when a single mother struggling to pay the bills and put food on the table while dealing with her child’s severe and costly medical issues had both side mirrors to her car practically kicked off, definitely destroyed, and other property damaged too. She did not need that expense and hassle on top of everything else.
But the university and the city started a partnership in which permanent residents meet and get to know their college neighbors shortly after the students moved in. These residents even speak at orientation, directly addressing the issues they faced.
The residents also went as far as to invite students over for snacks and conversation, and to this day many students share with their friends how they love so-and-so’s chocolate-chip cookies.
I doubt this venture reduced drinking among the students living their who decide to drink, but it has helped reduce the number of incidents - at least in those neighborhoods where this occurs – in which students destroy property.
It’s really quite simple. A group of students go downtown and drink, and on their way home, some of them, possibly drunk, get that urge to destroy property or scream at the top of their lungs, but then they remember, “Wait, this is Erica’s house,” or, “John’s kids are sleeping right in that room and if we scream we are going to keep them up.”
Obviously not all students participating in this destructive behavior are affected this way and behave this way, but if some of them are and the amount of destruction or dangerous behavior reduces, then this partnership is clearly working.
The students are less likely to behave the same way if they suddenly feel invested in their neighborhood and if they know and can put a face to neighbors they have spoken with. Suddenly, some of them start to recall who they are negatively impacting, and they happened to like Marie and her yummy brownies and how nice she was to all of them.
I’ve heard some people in various parts of the city complain this year about noise and property destruction. I know where I live there are a group of students who party loudly each weekend, driving their cars dangerously down the road and at times making a mess.
Well, my suggestion to myself and others is to get to know these students. Have a conversation with some of them and ask them about themselves, sharing a little too. I wouldn’t suggest doing this while the party is occurring or when they are walking home buzzed, but if an opportunity arises, offer an introduction, so they can feel part of the community and know when they behave certain ways they are impacting people they have met.
I would suggest calling the college to get contact information from those who have already established such routines and seen the results. They will likely be able to help you get started and offer much wiser advice than I can.
But the small amount of time you devote to this endeavor could go a long way to improving the quality of life in your neighborhood.
Stephen Bartlett may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org