What is to be done with the community surrounding Niagara University?
By Jacob Foote
NIAGARA UNIVERSITY, N.Y. – The campus of Niagara University provides residential students with a relatively good place to live. Well-maintained scenery, decent housing, and assured safety are just a few of the features of this place that contribute to its quality of life.
However, Niagara University is a bubble in a much larger community. This is not to say that the outlying community is in a worse condition, though. As an anonymous junior put it, “the campus is great, but living off campus is awesome.”
“I’m always one to say that this is an underrated community,” said junior Nico Santangelo. Feeling that a lot of the flack the Niagara Falls area gets is undeserved, he pointed out a variety of positives. For instance, he described the local “Live on F” movement, wherein people show off what they as individuals and as a community do in everyday life. Other things ranged from the new skate park in Hyde park to his claim that the area is the breakfast capital of the world. “So there’s a lot of stuff to do if you live in the city, but most people don’t know about it,” he said.
Of course, the area is not without problems.
As Santangelo pointed out, general communication needs to be improved in the community as plenty of people do not know what is going on in the area. While this issue is being addressed in part by the “Live on F” movement, others are not being properly confronted.
“There are a lot of areas that are pretty run down and some houses aren’t really nice to look at here and it’s just kinda dirty,” said the anonymous junior. While there are plenty of affluent neighborhoods around Niagara University, there are just as many crumbling ones.
Houses are not the only things falling apart. “Our infrastructure, like most cities around us, is ancient. I mean those water pipes and the sewage, those systems are old,” said Santangelo. While the local treatment plant is relatively new, being from the 80’s, he found most everything else to being aged and starting to give.
Roads in particular pose a difficult problem in the area. “Pretty much all the way down Mckoon there’s potholes and everything,” said the anonymous junior. “They try to fix them but they’re still there, and you gotta watch out where you’re driving.”
“We live in winter, winter, construction, and more winter. So the roads are kinda always in bad shape,” said Santangelo.
The anonymous junior also mentioned difficulties with parking where he lives. Because the house he rents does not have a driveway, he said he had to park on the street everyday. This raises problems as cars are not supposed to be parked there on mondays in his neighborhood, nor can they block driveways. “One time I got a call from campus safety telling me to move my car because it was parked in front of these people’s houses. Parking here is horrible,” he said.
Given these ills in the area surrounding Niagara University, it seems like the school should take action one way or another. As junior Tohme Abounader put it, “what the university can and should do as its duty – as it has a concentration of the smartest people in the area – is give back to the community, which is part of our vincentian mission.”
To an extent, such activity is already underway in the form of development programs. Santangelo mentioned “ReNU Niagara,” the result of a merger of the city’s and Niagara University’s own program nearly three years ago. However, as communication has been lacking on campus regarding how to participate, Abounader wants more involvement on behalf of the student body and the university to exploit and create outlets for community service.
“I want some actual change. I want a soup kitchen, I want to help the poor, I want to help build shelters, I want to help work at shelters,” said Abounader. “Something direct, something right in front of you, something that will actually make a difference.”
“[There] was this idea that this city as a community could get together and do something, and that kind of spirit has been gone recently,” said Santangelo. “We’re trying to get that back.”