BY RISHA INAGANTI
For years, Cleveland Avenue has been home to a number of unofficial fraternity chapter houses. The collection of homes that are more commonly referred to as “the Row” is known for its weekly parties and gatherings. Any individual looking to spend their weekends socializing amongst large crowds knows to look no further than “the Row.” However, the lively, crowd-filled, care-free atmosphere that students have spent years enjoying, is about to look vastly different.
Over this past summer, the Newark City Council spent time working toward making adjustments to laws in hopes of creating a safer environment for the city’s community.
According to Andrew Rubin, a lieutenant who serves as the Newark Police Department’s public information officer, “previous laws allowed for things to become disorderly and out of hand.”
After careful deliberation by Newark City Council members, it was decided that various changes would be made to old legislation. These new laws directly impact those who opted for off-campus housing and will change what had become a norm at fraternity houses.
On July 11 in a 6-0 ruling, the council officially passed a law that changes the rules for social gatherings. What previously accounted for people per property, now limits crowd sizes to people per gathering.
“The Row” is notoriously known for throwing joint parties that span across all of its connected backyards. While before residents were allowed 150 people per property, they are now only allowed to have 150 people present at all their houses combined.
“Honestly I was shocked,” Joey Gonzalez, a senior who is serving his second year as Interfraternity Council (IFC) president, said. “It kinda hit everyone by surprise since we had been working with Newark to keep things safe.”
According to Newark City Council, this decision was made based on the desire to make gatherings safer and easier to control. Fines for those who break this law have been increased to $400 for the first offense and $1,000 for the second offense.
Students questioned this judgment, pointing out that the new law likely will not limit parties, rather just lead to them becoming more spread out and secretive, which in turn can be less safe.
“I’m not trying to come across as pro-partying or even stand up for partying, but I know that college students are going to party regardless and I’d rather them do it safely than get themselves hurt or into trouble,” Gonzalez said.
During the previous school year, the university faced a variety of issues at night, including frequent BB gun and water pellet shootings, cases of theft and the alleged sexual assault of a girl trying to get home.
“With all the wacky things that have been going on in Newark, you never know what’s going to happen,” Gonzalez said. “Walking alone at night can be scary, so it’s better to keep parties in a centralized place that’s open, protected and secluded.”
In addition to social gathering changes, we can expect to see differences in how students living in off-campus properties relax in the day.
After a complaint from a Newark resident about inflatable pools in regards to child safety, the Newark City Council decided to pass what became known as the “inflatable pool ordinance,” a law that prohibits inflatable pools from being set up in front yards.
The council understood that a child walking on the sidewalk could get injured or even drown in one of the pools. Additionally, its members realized that if these pools are not drained, mosquitoes and other insects can breed in them.
“When we do things related to property maintenance we have to do it universally throughout the city,” Renee Bensley, director of planning and development for the city of Newark, said. “So we can’t just say it only applies to the neighborhood of the concerned resident, we had to put an ordinance that applies to all of Newark.”
Despite the unofficial name, the inflatable pool ordinance covers a lot more than just pools. It also restricts temporary storage containers such as Portable On Demand Storage from staying at a property for more than 14 days and bans indoor furniture such as sofas from being kept outside.
Students have found it unfair, claiming that if they are paying rent for the property, they should be able to use it all how they want to.
“We encourage students to get involved in the legislative process in the city,” Bensley said. “Stay up to date, if there’s something you are interested in or concerned about please come speak to us because you are residents too.”
IFC is working with the Student Government Association and the Panhellenic Council to try coming to a compromise with the city. Whether it be a change in number of people allowed or even just permits for certain nights, they are staying hopeful for some form of agreement.
“Two laws passed this summer that blatantly target college students,” Gonzalez said. “It’s just disappointing.”