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Columns

April 14, 2014

Student housing stirred unrest in 1970s

Oneonta has certainly been no stranger to controversial college student housing projects in recent years. The proposed dormitory just south of the State University College at Oneonta campus on Clinton Street in 2011, and the more recent Hillside Commons project, which is under construction at the top of Blodgett Drive, both ruffled feathers.

During most of the 1970s, there were several on-again, off-again efforts to build a student housing complex in an area near Cedar Street and Monroe Avenue.

In 1973, the Cleveland, Ohio-based Ferris Construction Co. had made plans to build a housing complex in this part of the city, with 52 apartments and 75 parking spaces, to house about 200 students on just over acres of land on a wooded tract south of the SUNY Oneonta campus.

The plan was not welcomed by residents of the nearby neighborhoods or a majority of the members of Common Council. At a meeting of Common Council on Tuesday, Oct. 2, 1973, members voted not to issue a building permit to Ferris Construction.

At that meeting, The Oneonta Star reported, “The crowd booed and hissed at positions defending the issuance of a permit were explained, and cheered when the aldermen took a stand against the project.

“Although granting building permits falls within the jurisdiction of the city engineer department the Common Council had instructed that office to withhold any permit unless the Common Council authorizes otherwise.”

Ferris Construction claimed it had lived up to city ordinance provisions and felt the city’s position was arbitrary. The result was a date in State Supreme Court for a non-jury trial, which began on Monday, Dec. 17, 1973. It was adjourned on Dec. 21 and resumed on Jan. 29, 1974.

The Supreme Court decision was made public on Thursday, April 25, upholding the city’s decision not to grant the building permit. Judge David Lee also ruled against Ferris’ $85,000 claim of damages as a result of the city’s actions.

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