By Meghan Brink with reporting from Tatum Koster, Kendyl Hardy
Jack Besterman, Hannah Joseph, and Wyatt Gorman | September 6, 2021
Amid greater police presence, including horse mounted officers and flood lights, and multiple warnings from university officials, Pine Hills passed a quiet weekend compared to the rowdy, at times violent, crowds that brought 2,000 people into the streets in the two weekends prior.
There were no reports of violence, however 20 people were ticketed for having open containers of alcohol and unnecessary noise, according to Steve Smith, Albany Police Department public information officer. Smith could not say how many of the people ticketed were UAlbany students.
In addition to the heightened police presence, the university employed a number of measures to encourage students to stay home this weekend, including sending staff to midtown and alerting students to safety concerns in midtown before the weekend.
Throughout last week, on-campus residents were required to attend a floor meeting where safety concerns about the recent events in midtown were discussed. On Thursday evening, the Dean of Student Office sent out a variety of public service announcements reminding students of the dangers and consequences associated with attending disruptive off-campus gatherings.
The DOS also sent out emails that targeted specific students who the university suspected may have been in the downtown area over the last two weekends. The students were identified by their student ID cards, which had been used to swipe onto a CDTA bus that was either heading or returning from the downtown area the last two weekends in August, according to University Spokesperson Jordan Carleo-Evangelist
These students were sent an email because “these were the students most likely to benefit from this important safety information,” Carleo-Evangelist added.
“We are aware that you may have been in and around downtown Albany on the evenings of August 20, 21, 27 and/or 28,” said the formulaic email. “As you likely know, on these dates, large gatherings in the streets significantly disrupted the surrounding neighborhoods. Individuals in these crowds blocked traffic, consumed alcohol in public, damaged property, and engaged in fights.”
Several students who received the email said they were surprised by the message because they had not attended a large party.
“I wasn’t even downtown at night at all and I still got the email,” said John Odea, a freshman. But Odea said he did use his student ID card to take a CDTA bus to a local Mexican restaurant earlier on the Friday before the last wave of parties. He said he felt the university is “overstepping” into student privacy.
Although the DOS does have access to the data of where students use their student ID cards to swipe in, including usage in residential and dining halls, Carleo-Evangelist said this data is not routinely reviewed. He said it is only used when the DOS sees a safety concern, and he cited that the DOS has previously used this information to share important updates during snow emergencies to students who live off campus.
Carleo-Evangelist said that the university cannot and is not tracking students' exact location and those who received the email are not receiving disciplinary action from the school. Carleo-Evangelist said any communication about a disciplinary concern, such as a code of conduct violation, would come from the Office of Community Standards.
Members of the DOS office and University Police Officers were stationed in the Pine Hills area this weekend. Assistant Dean of Students Luke Rumsey, who oversees off-campus student services, said “the majority of the evening we had between four to six staff assisting in efforts to help keep our students and neighbors safe as well as mitigate disruption to the broader community.”
Those who decided to ignore the calls from the university to avoid the midtown area this weekend were met with an array of efforts by APD to crack down on partying, one of which was mounted officers on Clydesdale horses, pacing up and down Hudson Ave.
In the two weekends prior, Pine Hills has been filled with a mix of students and local residents, many of them middle aged, who have been causing loud disruptions from music and yelling, littering, and crowding. Violence has been seen as well, with APD reporting fights and gunshots last weekend. Smith said the mounted officers were an effort to avoid these safety concerns and to protect students and residents who have fallen victim to the recent parties in the area.
“Our mounting unit is great for a lot of things including crowd control,” said Smith. “They are also great because they give officers a great vantage point because they are sitting so high.”
Photos of the officers on horses became a hot topic on social media among many UAlbany students.
The APD had a detail stationed in the Pine Hills area that assisted the mounting unit, and Smith said this detail will continue to patrol the area throughout the semester.
ASP reporters on the scene this weekend reported that there were minimal crowds outside of houses on Hudson Ave., the typical hub of the parties.
One student overheard by the ASP said around midnight Friday, “I’ve never seen this place so dry.”