In 1976, steady decline of the downtown Rochester area led Eastman School of Music administrators to consider moving the school to the River Campus or using $5 million to renovate the current location. After serious consideration, the administrators decided that Eastman would remain downtown and not relocate to the River Campus. They hoped that staying downtown would help counter Rochester’s steady decline.
Many Eastman students now question whether Eastman’s presence in the downtown area has helped slow the deterioration of the city. They agree, however, that there are things that the city offers them that the River Campus could not.
The New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services released crime statistics from 1994-2001 that suggest crime has significantly decreased over the years. As a whole, crime decreased 4.1 percent. There was an 11.1 decrease in vehicle theft and, according to the Rochester Police Department, there was almost a 50 percent drop in the number of burglaries. Rape and murder, however, increased.
Even with crime rates below than national trends, many Eastman students still feel unsafe in the downtown area. Although safety bulletins are a constant reminder that crime also exists on the River Campus, the lack of blue lights on the Eastman campus and near the East End Parking Garage — in which many students park their cars — make Eastman students feel like they are at a higher risk for robbery and other crimes.
“The parking garage is scary,” freshman Charlie Cardinaux said. “I wouldn’t want to park my car there or walk by there alone at night.”Additionally, many downtown businesses, including a hotel and a music store, have left the city and have been replaced with strip clubs and an off-track betting center.
Sophomore Emily Kirchoff grew up in the Rochester area. “When I was younger, there were more businesses downtown,” she said. Now there is only open space. Everything is moving away from the city and into the suburbs.”
Eastman students also face concerns that would have been solved if Eastman relocated to the River Campus. Students who take the Route 72 bus to catch classes over at the River Campus are often late to class for various reasons. This causes many students to not take classes at the River Campus.
“I took the bus, and for the most part, could get to class on time. However, one time the bus didn’t even show up,” sophomore Laurianne Fleming said. “The hassle was coming back to Eastman after class. Class ended at 7:30 p.m., and the next bus was at 8:30 p.m., so I didn’t even get back to Eastman until 9 p.m. So, to take one 75 minute class at River Campus, it took 3 and a half hours.”
In addition, the bus schedule does not always line up with many class times.
Getting simple things like cold medicine can also be difficult for Eastman students, especially those without cars. River Campus students can easily buy groceries at the Corner Store, which also carries over-the-counter medicine and similar necessities.
Eastman students must walk several blocks down Main Street in order to buy supplies at stores in Midtown Plaza, such as Rite-Aid. If Rite-Aid went out of business like many other Midtown stores have done, Eastman students without cars would be forced to walk two miles to the nearest Wegmans.
Being on the River Campus would also allow students to participate in clubs, sports and other social outlets available to other students.
On weekends, many Eastman students take the bus over to attend fraternity parties, movies or to just hang out in Wilson Commons with friends from their River Campus classes. “Last semester I would go to fraternity parties all the time,” sophomore Ian Fry said. River Campus students would benefit from an on-campus Eastman by having easier access to Eastman’s concerts and events.
However, there are many benefits to being downtown, including the close proximity to Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. Students can easily walk across Main Street to attend concerts and rehearsals. There are also several museums and activities near Eastman, including High Falls, Manhattan Square Park’s ice skating rink and several restaurants.
As freshman Audrey Snyder said, “Some of Eastman’s gems, such as the Eastman Theatre, Kilbourn Hall and Howard Hanson Hall could not be duplicated if Eastman was moved to another location.”
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