Sunday, May 19, 2024

Greek life students meet with neighbors, mayoral candidate

Mayoral candidate Iris Cain (right) speaks with long-time Plattsburgh resident Emmy Bodrogi while (from left) Antonio Romano, Dylan Canarvis and John Carpentier III talk among themselves Saturday, May 4.



By Aleksandra Sidorova

College towns are rife with parties and mayhem as young adults balance newfound freedom with the pursuit of higher education, causing rifts with neighbors who have long settled down.

Student Fraternity & Sorority Life representatives, mayoral candidate Iris Cain and city residents exchanged feedback to improve off-campus student conduct and strengthen community relationships. 

About 20 people gathered at the Hartwell House located at 77 Brinkerhoff St. on Saturday, May 4. Cain and Inter-Sorority Association President Sophia Sabatini moderated the discussion.

“I think that this is the start of bridging that gap,” Sabatini said. “I know that, in our community, we all have a dedication to service — how much more impactful would that service be if we knew the people we were serving?”

Long-time Plattsburgh residents and Behavioral Health Services North professionals joined students in discussion, agreeing that college students are generally a wanted presence in the city but could be more mindful of their volume, safety and party guests. 



Emmy Bodrogi, owner of the Hartwell House and a Plattsburgh resident of more than 40 years, said she stopped renting to students because she saw a safety issue. 

She said she won’t forget the concern she felt when she saw students partying drunk atop the second and third-floor roofs of her property.

“I saw the liability and I knew that I couldn’t afford to financially survive in a mishap, and I put the house on the market,” Bodrogi said. “This was years ago, but it will stay with me for the rest of my renting career.”

Art Degrandpre, also a long-time Plattsburgh resident, circulated print photos he took of vandalism caused by students over the past few years — graffiti, bins tipped over and overflowing with trash, a broken down door and a shattered car windshield. 

In part, he blamed the damage on landlord neglect to properties.

“If they put you in squalor and things are falling apart, you care less,” Degrandpre said. “In some of the photographs that I’m passing around, you can see that the landlords are not taking care of their properties.”

Degrandpre also said he worried for his wife, Peggy’s, safety when she would go to confront students making noise.

Students noted that most disruptions happen at the hands of people outside of their organizations. They said they take responsibility for who comes to their house and will be more careful with whom they invite to future events.

Cain raised a point of general mindfulness toward differences between student and resident schedules.

“How do we coexist without stepping on the toes of one another?” Cain said.

The community members, including Cain, said they wanted to communicate with students directly to avoid involving police. All participants agreed it would be helpful to compile a list of people who can be contacted in case of issues.



Students engaged in Greek life organizations embody leadership on and off the SUNY Plattsburgh campus, said Allison Swick-Duttine, director of Fraternity & Sorority Life.

Over more than 25 years of work, she has seen Greek life organizations contribute to cultural shifts on campus, Swick-Duttine said. As such, the student leaders can model behavior for other students and work toward bridging the gap between the campus and the surrounding community, even if they’re not the only students contributing to the issue.

Residents said they wanted to keep the tone of the meeting light and friendly, noting the value that students add to the city. 

“I don’t really have horror stories about the university taking away the joy of living in a small town,” Bodrogi said.

A university — and its students — add to the atmosphere of a small town, Bodrogi said. They provide exposure to new ideas and connect the community through service.

“The student population is one of our treasures,” Bodrogi said.



Cain and Sabatini said they were pleased with the meeting’s outcome.

“It was so amazing to see everyone here,” Sabatini said. “It makes me feel so excited for this community. We kind of have the stereotype of fraternities and sororities, they never do anything good. I think this just proves we’re all going in the right direction.”

Cain and Fraternity & Sorority Life planned the meeting two months ago. In the future, similar conversations can include student-athletes and the Student Association, Swick-Duttine said.

Cain and Sabatini said they hope to keep working together into the fall semester.

“I think a lot of students really have to correct themselves at a peer level for this to be effective — that’s why I’m so happy to be working with student leaders,” Cain said.

Engaging the student body is a pillar of Cain’s campaign as he runs for mayor.

“We would love to be able to incorporate collaboration with college students,” Cain said. “It would be a godsend for us to have that. The next step is to open the discussion up to more people and keep the momentum rolling.”


Aleksandra Sidorova
Iris Cain shares his experience living next to college students. He met with city residents and Greek life members May 4 to reach understanding.

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