Tide turned? Beach residents hope for better relations with student renters
Updated 7:39 pm, Thursday, September 6, 2012
Paige Herman is hopeful the days of frequent loud parties and alcohol-fueled rowdiness in her Fairfield Beach neighborhood remain a thing of the past.
"I'm always hopeful. I would have been gone a long time ago if I wasn't hopeful," she said after the Fairfield Beach Residents Association held its annual meeting at Penfield Pavilion on Wednesday night.
About 317 Fairfield University students moved into rental houses in the Fairfield Beach neighborhood earlier this week, and Police Chief Gary MacNamara, who spoke at the FBRA meeting, was likewise optimistic about the potential for improved relationships between year-round residents and student renters.
"It's great to see Fairfield University students and Fairfield University at the meeting. It tells me we may have a different year. I think we may be trending toward a different year," the chief said. "This year, I would like to look to build relationships between students and full-time residents."
MacNamara asked about three dozen people in the audience why their relationships with other full-time residents were not the same as their relationships with student renters.
"They're sober," a woman from the audience called out.
MacNamara said, "Why else? Because you have respect for each other, understanding with each other and a relationship. One of the things I think we should do is to move to establishing better relationships between students and residents.
"It's through cooperation and better communication that I think we're going to be more successful than years past," he said.
Alaina Andreozzi, a Fairfield University senior who lives on Fairfield Beach Road, said she understood concerns of year-round residents. "I think they're valid concerns. There's room for improvement, I think, on both sides," she said after the meeting.
Andreozzi said student renters have to "step up their game" by being more aware of year-round residents' concerns with loud parties and rowdy behavior and that students and year-round residents needed to communicate more. "Sometimes, the only facet of the communication is the police, which I think is unfortunate," she said.
Herman, the FBRA's president, said Fairfield University is sponsoring a hot dog truck at Fairfield Beach at 5 p.m. Sept. 16 and that anyone in the neighborhood is welcome to stop by and meet students for an hour or so.
Nathan Lubich, assistant director of residence life at Fairfield U., said he, or someone from his office, will travel around the Fairfield Beach neighborhood on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights in the fall and spring to try to prevent parties from spiraling out of control. "We hire an off-duty police officer to be down here and they ride with us. They're patrolling," he said.
Lubich said the idea was to address potential problems ahead of time and to save the Police Department from having to devote a lot of resources to one neighborhood in town. He said tonight would be the first night of the patrol.
Herman liked the idea. "One of the best things that's happened in recent years is now we have somebody at the university to reach out to," she said.
Herman said the Police Department also had "stepped up and provided us with the kind of enforcement that we need."
MacNamara said his vision regarding Fairfield Beach remains the same: "The vision is that we live in harmony ... and transition from a summer neighborhood to a winter neighborhood without a lot of controversy," he said. "This year, as students moved in, we realized we had to have a presence at the beach for move-in weekend."
MacNamara added that police last spring decided to "over manage" what used to be known as "Clam Jam," an annual beach bash held by students in late April. "By over managing it, we hoped it wouldn't escalate to the point where we couldn't manage it," he said. "Our approach is always going to be to over manage it or it may go back to the years of thousands of kids."
Complaints aired by year-round beach neighborhood residents at Wednesday night's meeting included students walking in the middle of Fairfield Beach Road at night, speeding on Reef Road and a home where music with obscene lyrics was played loudly.