‘Su­per par­ties’ prompt con­cerns

Old Ne­wark res­i­dents ask city to crack down on large stu­dent gath­er­ings

Newark Post - - FRONT PAGE - By JOSH SHAN­NON jshan­[email protected]­pub.com

Be­lea­guered by large gath­er­ings of drunken stu­dents in their neigh­bor­hood, res­i­dents of Old Ne­wark are pe­ti­tion­ing city coun­cil to pass new laws to crack down on what they de­scribe as “su­per par­ties.”

“Su­per par­ties are one of the ar­eas that make liv­ing in Old Ne­wark a chal­lenge,” said Amy Roe, a leader of the Old Ne­wark Civic As­so­ci­a­tion, not­ing that the Prince­ton Re­view re­cently named the Uni­ver­sity of Delaware the na­tion’s top party school. “Large par­ties get out of con­trol and, un­for­tu­nately, the po­lice do not have the tools they need to ad­dress the prob­lem be­fore it ruins our night.”

The civic as­so­ci­a­tion, which was res­ur­rected last sum­mer, has been meet­ing with po­lice of­fi­cers and city of­fi­cials to dis­cuss pos­si­ble so­lu­tions to grow­ing con­cerns over the party scene in Old Ne­wark, the res­i­den­tial area that runs north of the Am­trak line, east of Ap­ple Road, south of Delaware Av­enue and west of Chapel Street.

“I can safely say I be­lieve it gets worse, it gets worse and it gets worse. There is no doubt in my mind it’s at an all-time high,” Ron Walker, who has lived on Kells Av­enue for 50 years, told city coun­cil last month. “You’re driv­ing good home­own­ers out of our part of the city be­cause you won’t ag­gres­sively ad­dress the

is­sue of par­ty­ing in this city.”

The civic as­so­ci­a­tion asked coun­cil to amend the law govern­ing pri­vate so­cial gath­er­ings. Cur­rently, any pri­vate party ex­pected to draw more than 150 peo­ple re­quires a spe­cial event per­mit from the city. Ap­pli­cants must ap­ply 45 days in ad­vance, pay a $100 ap­pli­ca­tion fee and show proof of at least $1 mil­lion in in­sur­ance, ac­cord­ing to Lt. An­drew Ru­bin, a spokesman for the Ne­wark Po­lice De­part­ment.

The group pro­posed low­er­ing the thresh­old to 50 peo­ple, which Roe ar­gued would al­low po­lice to break up un­per­mit­ted gath­er­ings ear­lier, be­fore they grow out of hand.

Ru­bin de­clined to com­ment di­rectly on Roe’s pro­posal, but he noted that po­lice usu­ally break up par­ties us­ing the noise or­di­nance or dis­or­derly premise law, which are not af­fected by how many peo­ple are at the party.

The pri­vate so­cial gath­er­ing law is dif­fi­cult to en­force be­cause po­lice must prove the res­i­dent had a rea­son­able ex­pec­ta­tion that more than 150 peo­ple would show up.

Roe sug­gested that coun­cil could ex­empt churches from the pri­vate so­cial gath­er­ing law, but low­er­ing the thresh­old could still have an im­pact on non­stu­dent res­i­dents, such as those plan­ning a back­yard wed­ding or other large fam­ily gath­er­ing.

The civic as­so­ci­a­tion also called for re­quir­ing ev­ery­one on the lease of a prop­erty to be held re­spon­si­ble for par­ties there and said the city should con­sider in­creas­ing the fine for hold­ing an un­per­mit­ted party and also man­date those con­victed per­form com­mu­nity ser­vice.

The cur­rent fine — $200 for a first of­fense and $400 for sub­se­quent of­fenses – is not enough to de­ter stu­dents, Roe ar­gued.

“We think su­per par­ties are ac­cept­ing money at the door for booze but also to cover the fines,” she said. “They’re work­ing the fines into the cost of the party, and it’s not a deter­rent.”

Roe also sug­gested the po­lice de­part­ment park its mo­bile com­mand cen­ter near party lo­ca­tions to use as a mo­bile book­ing sta­tion, which would ex­pe­dite ar­rest pro­cess­ing and serve as a deter­rent.

“Wouldn’t it be awe­some if they parked that bad boy on East Park Place?” she said.

Kevin May­hew, pres­i­dent of the Ne­wark Land­lord As­so­ci­a­tion, said he and a few other land­lords met with the civic as­so­ci­a­tion and voiced sup­port for low­er­ing the pub­lic gath­er­ing thresh­old and man­dat­ing com­mu­nity ser­vice for vi­o­la­tors.

“No­body wants to see rowdy par­ties,” said May­hew, who owns stu­dent apart­ment com­plexes on New Lon­don Road and Delaware Av­enue. “Hope­fully, we can work to­gether to come up some so­lu­tions.”

Coun­cil­man Chris Hamil­ton, who rep­re­sents Old Ne­wark, lauded the civic as­so­ci­a­tion to com­ing for­ward with the pro­posal.

“I like when peo­ple get to­gether and think up so­lu­tions,” Hamil­ton said.

He said he hopes to for­mally dis­cuss the is­sue at an up­com­ing coun­cil meet­ing and added that he has been work­ing on a sim­i­lar un­law­ful gath­er­ing or­di­nance, though he de­clined to share specifics un­til a le­gal re­view of the pro­posal is com­plete.

“We’d rather nip it in the bud,” he said. “No­body minds kids par­ty­ing as long as they are re­spon­si­ble. With peo­ple get­ting ab­so­lutely schnock­ered, bad de­ci­sions are made.”

Hamil­ton said par­ty­ing is par­tic­u­larly bad along South Col­lege Av­enue, Wol­las­ton Av­enue and Kells Av­enue. Stu­dents use text mes­sages and so­cial me­dia to quickly spread the word, and many ar­rive at the par­ties by Uber, he added.

“I used to party along Academy Street, but I don’t ever re­mem­ber the par­ties get­ting so big so fast as they do now,” Hamil­ton said.

Sal Deside­rio, who has lived on Rit­ter Lane for 18 years, lamented the changes he has seen in the neigh­bor­hood.

“It was a fam­ily street that I lived on with chil­dren,” Deside­rio said. “It was a nice area to live in. Grad­u­ally those fam­i­lies were mov­ing out be­cause of the num­ber of par­ties and what was go­ing on at these par­ties. As they moved out, we be­came more and more of a rental area.”

Now, he’s afraid to let his grand­daugh­ter play in his yard due to rowdy stu­dents tres­pass­ing on his prop­erty.

“I’ve had peo­ple for­ni­cat­ing on my lawn,” he said, adding that on nice days, stu­dents also block traf­fic on South Col­lege Av­enue by play­ing foot­ball in the street.

Matt Gerike, who lives on Kells Av­enue, fears his prop­erty value will go down.

“It’s not very at­trac­tive to fam­i­lies who are look­ing to pur­chase houses, and they will not be at­tracted to a house that’s for sale next to a party house or fra­ter­nity house,” Gerike told city coun­cil last month.

The res­i­dents drew some sym­pa­thy from two stu­dents who were in at­ten­dance at the Dec. 10 coun­cil meet­ing.

“It’s not the ma­jor­ity of the stu­dent body,” said Meghan Mul­len­nix, the stu­dent gov­ern­ment’s li­ai­son to city coun­cil. “Most of us re­ally do feel for you in those sit­u­a­tions. Hope­fully we can work to­gether.”

Trevor Nix, a UD stu­dent who lives on West Main Street, said some stu­dents aren’t aware they are caus­ing a prob­lem.

“We don’t re­ally mean to dis­turb you as res­i­dents. We may not be cog­nizant of it,” Nix said. “Go­ing over and hav­ing a solid dis­cus­sion on how they can help not bother you would def­i­nitely be a re­ally good thing that you can do. At the end of the day, we’re all peo­ple. We un­der­stand you’re peo­ple too. We all want to live in a good com­mu­nity to­gether.”

He later sug­gested the res­i­dents both­ered by par­ty­ing should con­sider sell­ing their homes.

“You men­tioned prop­erty val­ues. If you want to talk to me, I think I may have an eco­nomic so­lu­tion for you,” he said. “You could get to move to the beach and have it paid for by us.”

Roe, who said she and her neigh­bors have been con­tacted by in­vestors look­ing to buy their homes to use as stu­dent rentals, took um­brage at that sug­ges­tion.

“Some peo­ple think we should not de­fend our neigh­bor­hood and we should just leave or give up,” she said. “But we’re a com­mu­nity here. We have roots here.”

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