May 19, 2009
Cleanup ensues as college students depart
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
This pile of trash and recyclables, left by departing SUNY Cortland students, sits Monday along Lincoln Avenue. The items were picked up by the evening.
Amy and Lonnie Pittsley were hard at work Monday morning along with Frank Williams, who helps them clean houses and apartments after SUNY Cortland students move out.
The trio had swept the floors, cleaned carpets and looked for damage to fix at a Lincoln Avenue house that contains two apartments.
The three had been at the house four hours, since 7 a.m., and expected to be there for a few more hours. All of the seven male residents, mostly seniors, had moved out Sunday except one who was sticking around through Monday.
Up and down that street and others within a few blocks of campus stood a sign of spring: piles of blue city garbage bags and other kinds of bags, bulging with trash, plus recycling bins overflowing with bottles and cardboard.
With commencement done Saturday and celebrations over, most students had packed up and left, cleaning as they departed, often helped by their parents.
Most student houses were empty and waiting for their owners to clean, paint and, if necessary, assess damage to be paid for with security deposits.
The Pittsleys and Williams planned to mow lawns across the street in the afternoon, then see which of their five landlord clients needed them next. They had spent Sunday working on another house.
They said some houses are just beaten up, with holes in walls and doors off hinges. Usually such houses are occupied by male students.
“One house, the pipes froze last winter and water leaked all over, ruining the sheetrock in the bathroom,” Amy said. “Another place, students unplugged the refrigerator and left it but they forgot about food in the freezer, so we opened it and maggots came pouring out.”
Her husband said he cleaned the refrigerator and got it ready for use, but the landlord discarded it.
Amy Pittsley said they created their business in August when they saw that landlords needed help maintaining properties. They employ three to 10 people.
A few students remained in houses Monday, either taking their time moving home or getting ready for summer courses. One Clayton Avenue house was still full, as its tenants are lacrosse players headed later this week to play in the national championship game in Foxboro, Mass.
Otherwise the hilly street was quiet. Some piles of trash showed their makers’ haste to depart: city garbage bags not tied up and black bags, neither of which the city’s haulers, Casella Waste Service, would take away. The landlords would take those to trash bins or landfills, or pay someone to do it.
Newspapers had been piled next to bags in a few places, blown by the breeze across nearby lawns.
By evening, landlords had taken away most piles of refuse.
Luella and Sandy Gay were walking their Boston terrier, Radar, when they passed such a pile at 44 Clayton Ave. The couple have lived on the upper part of Clayton Avenue since 1972, when it was mostly families.
Now the upper part is a mix of year-round residents and students, while the lower part is all student houses.
“Things will quiet down now, it’s a time when you can relax,” Luella Gay said. “Although the landlord next to us is very good — he responds if we complain about noise. But the students on this street were not bad this year. We only got woken up two or three times, and nobody damaged our property.”
Just then Mark Pace, who owns the house, parked his pickup truck in the driveway and began putting the trash in his truck’s bed.
“I’m glad the crows didn’t get at these,” he said. “I tell students to put the bags inside the garage and I’ll take care of them, but they don’t all get the message.”
Pace said he rents that house and another one nearby to female students, investing thousands in cherry furniture and a pastel-colored decor with lace curtains and other feminine touches to discourage men from renting.
He charges about $3,000 per person per semester for these two houses. His 12 properties all offer single rooms, since he says that is what students want now.
Pace said he and many landlords think men are more likely to damage a house. The Pittsleys agreed, although Amy said there are exceptions.
“We’ve seen men that kept their place immaculate and women who caused damage,” she said.
Along with boxes that once contained beer cans or bottles, and bottles themselves, students left whiffleball bats, drinking funnels and various household items.
“You’d be amazed what they leave — I have a dictionary worth about $300 that somebody left,” Pace said.
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