May 2, 2011
Police subdue Monroe Fest
Students say stepped up enforcement makes for tamer spring party
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
SUNY Cortland students Bryan O’Gorman, right, and classmate Chris Molja, center, wear shirts that read “Hey Albany, we know how to throw a party. Save Monroe Fest.” The students were celebrating Saturday at 7 Monroe Heights in Cortland during the annual off-campus party.
Uniformed City Police officers stood in contrast next to young girls drinking beer and wearing Hawaiin leis around their necks on the lawns of Monroe Heights early Saturday afternoon.
Police stepped up their presence during this year’s spring party, a tradition known as Monroe Fest that SUNY Cortland students participate in annually.
Police were aggressively checking identifications of any students seen drinking, actively looking for underage students possessing alcohol.
Police said the festival had become more dangerous and disruptive over the years and sent notices to Monroe Heights residents threatening to arrest anyone found violating the noise or alcohol laws this year.
Students were still determined to celebrate, though, just moving parties to driveways or backyards instead of front lawns.
Two backyard parties were broken up by police later in the afternoon, at 6 and 8 Monroe Heights and at 55 Tompkins St., as undercover officers monitored the situation and informed patrols about large student gatherings, which had been prohibited by police.
City police Lt. Richard Troyer said the city’s “nuisance party” law allowed police to break up those parties. Police also charged a 23-year-old with unlawfully selling alcohol at a large party behind 19 W. Court St.
The total arrests were 10 for open container, five for disorderly conduct, 12 for underage possession of alcohol, one for resisting arrest, one for possessing fireworks and two for unlawfully dealing with a child — giving alcohol to people under age 21.
“The nuisance party law really allowed us to break up those two parties, which had over 500 people combined,” Troyer said this morning.
City firefighters responded to four false alarms, at 10:40 p.m. Saturday at Shea Hall on the campus and three between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. Sunday along Tompkins Street.
Troyer said police spent $5,247 on overtime.
Early in the afternoon Saturday, SUNY Cortland junior David Cup thought the Monroe Fest atmosphere “sucked.”
“Last year the yard was packed, this year there’s no one here. People are scared to come here, afraid of getting tickets,” Cup said as he looked up and down the hill on Monroe Heights.
Senior Bryan O’Gorman, a resident of Monroe Heights who stood gathered with friends outside his apartment, said this year’s festivities had a “completely different vibe.”
“Usually the whole street is filled with people. Usually I see everyone I know,” O’Gorman said, adding this year was quieter.
O’Gorman and other students lamented what they thought was an unfair punishment for the riots and destructive behavior by University at Albany students in March during St. Patrick’s Day parties.
Some wore shirts saying, “Save Monroe Fest,” and stating that SUNY Cortland students are not like Albany students.
Senior Jillian Walsh tossed a plastic disc with her friends along the street Saturday, saying she thought the atmosphere was much different from past years.
As an upperclassman, Walsh said she and her friends were making sure to party legally and not allow underage students to their parties.
“Cops are going onto people’s properties. Last year they would just go up and down the street,” Walsh said.
Senior Meghan Mahony, who was visiting her friend Kelly Broccoli at her apartment on Monroe Heights Saturday, said the police could not cut down on all the parties.
Broccoli felt that the police created a bigger problem by forbidding Monroe Fest.
“Now it’s not just here, it’s everywhere,” Broccoli said.
The girls said they knew of several house parties going on at student properties all over the city.
Some residents of the Monroe Heights area, however, were pleased by the police response.
Laura Gathagan, a SUNY Cortland teacher whose property sits on the corner of West Court Street and Monroe Heights, said the police are very responsive to the residents’ needs.
Gathagan said some past parties got out of hand during Monroe Fest. Properties are often damaged, lawns urinated on, items stolen and fences destroyed, she said.
“It is not pleasant, there’s tons of noise,” Gathagan said. “It’s college life which I understand to some degree, but there shouldn’t be the assumption that students need a destructive outlet to have a good time.”
Gathagan said she knows many of the students who attend the parties, saying that under normal circumstances she thinks they are well behaved.
“I don’t care if their behavior is not destructive,” she said. “But once the community starts to pay for it, it is not acceptable.”
Lt. David Guerrera said officers broke up a party on 19 W. Court St., arresting several for underage drinking and arresting two homeowners for unlawful sale of alcohol and noise violations.
Around 5 p.m. Saturday, Guerrera was sending officers to break up another party at 6 and 8 Monroe Heights where about 200 people were partying in a backyard.
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