ITHACA, NY – By giving $1,000 to each of the families that will be displaced by its development project on Meadow St., Elmira Savings Bank hopes to prove its intention of being a “good corporate citizen” in Ithaca.

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Related: Elmira Savings Bank serves eviction notices to 3 low-income Ithaca families

The $1,000 is intended to help the families cover their moving costs.

Once the news of the pending evictions broke, collaboration between the bank and city officials helped to at least soften the blow of the seemingly sudden eviction notices. Elmira Savings Bank President and CEO Tom Carr says were presented on the 15th of December, not the 23rd as originally reported.

“We felt that helping those folks was the right thing to do,” Carr said. As mentioned in our previous report, the bank also extended the time to vacate from 30 days do 90 days, giving tenants until the end of March to find new housing.

Carr said that bank has a good reputation in Elmira, and wanted to foster that in Ithaca as they continue to do business here.

Carr also noted that two of the residents were living on a month-to-month basis, and the third’s lease ended in December. This information is contrary to the open letter and petition that had been circulating, stating that one of the tenants still had 9 months left on their lease.

“An anomaly”

Mayor Svante Myrick said that the city is urging the bank to give the tenants as long as possible, though only the 90 day extension has been set in stone. It is unlikely that any projects will begin there immediately, as the bank only had specific intentions for one of the properties in the lot.

He said that this situation was “an anomaly,” explaining that the bank had only wanted the old restaurant property, but the previous owner was only selling it in a lot with the three rental properties and a few others. The bank, not interested in the business of being landlords, choose to remove the tenants, and were within their rights to do so as they had been renting month-to-month.

Myrick also noted that he has been careful to only approve developments that ultimately add housing, not subtract it. He pointed out that many recent developments have tried to avoid demolition, using vacant lots or building on top of existing properties.

The real displacement

In an earlier conversation, Myrick expressed frustration that people express outrage at a story like this, but those same people “sit on sidelines when we try to build more homes on Hancock.”

Myrick put the issue in a different perspective, saying, “The real displacement happens at lease time. When it comes time to renew their leases, people get priced out of the city, pushed further away. That never makes the news, but it should. It’s sad and outrageous and it robs us of diversity.”

The way to counter that, he concluded, is to actively support more affordable housing.

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Michael Smith

Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at msmith@ithacavoice.com, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.