Nets go up, but uncertainty remains
After years of heated debate, the fences on Ithaca bridges aimed at preventing suicides will come down and nets will go up. But as our Tamara Lindstrom tells us, as the project gets underway, some concerns remain.
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ITHACA, N.Y. -- It was a triple tragedy that led to the installation of tall fences bordering Ithaca bridges.
"Things came to a head in February and March of 2010 when three students jumped off the bridge," said Ithaca Common Council member Ellen McCollister.
Now, after more than two years of debate and planning, the fences are coming down, and nets are going up in the hope of preventing future suicides. Four Cornell University bridges, and three on city property, will get the nets. But expectations are mixed.
"I'll have to see when it's terminated. It definitely looks less warming, but it could be for a good purpose," said Ithaca resident Fabienne Davis.
"Some students are pretty concerned you have this natural area back here, and putting up these giant nets will take away from that," said Cornell graduate student Jesse Capecelatro. "Cornell has a really big issue with suicides, but I think if someone is committed to doing this, they're going to do it."
The university is footing the bill for the construction and maintenance for ten years.
"This is a compromise solution," McCollister said. "It's more expensive for Cornell, but the visual impact will be lower. However, we still don't know who and what objects are going to be thrown into the nets."
And the big question is whether or not the nets will prevent suicides, or address the root cause.
"I still think it's important for people to think about is this going to make a difference long term in our suicide rates from all sources? Was this the best allocation of resources that will make a big difference in the life of students, of the Cornell community, and the Ithaca community?" said McCollister.
This is just the first phase of the project, which is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year. And while many questions remained unanswered, one thing is for certain.
"This is going to be a huge test case for a number of researchers," McCollister said. "And whether that's under the auspices of Cornell or independent studies, people who see this as a real opportunity to learn about suicide and really be able to measure the rates. Because this is going to be a first."
A first for the city, and the first effort of its kind at an American university.
Cornell University officials were unavailable for comment. The project may tie up traffic, but will not close down more than one bridge over a single creek at the same time.