Senior David Hershey was elected to the Trinity Heights Neighborhood Association board Saturday evening. Hershey is the second student to serve on the board in the past two years.
Strained relations between some students and others living in the neighborhood came to a head in February, when the Trinity Heights Action Committee sent a report to Duke and Durham officials expressing frustration with student-occupied “party houses.” Amid the tension, Joe Meyerowitz, Pratt ’09, was elected in April to the THNA board, in hopes of improving relations between students and residents. Hershey said he hopes to achieve similar goals.
“I just want to create a relationship with my neighborhood,” Hershey said.
The election took place at 6 p.m. in the Trinity Heights pocket park during a neighborhood potluck picnic. Attendees included student and non-student residents and several Duke Student Government representatives. This was the first year THNA held elections in the fall rather than the spring, a change made to ensure students interested in running for a board position have the opportunity to serve for an entire term.
Hershey said he wants to reduce any problems with “party houses” and promote a better neighborhood environment.
Students, including some affiliated with fraternities and other groups, began moving to Trinity Heights after Duke purchased twelve houses that had been rented to students on Buchanan Boulevard and neighboring streets in February 2006.
THNA President Christine Westfall, who noted that she used to live between two off-campus fraternity houses, said she was directly affected by the excess noise and scattered trash caused by her neighbors’ late-night parties.
“Most students have been great neighbors, but that particular culture isn’t the best fit for a residential neighborhood,” she added. “However, the student awareness is certainly helping this year.”
Several Trinity Heights residents said they were receptive to having a student serve on their neighborhood association board.
“I think that it’s a great idea, and given the number of students who live in the neighborhood, I think it’s the right thing to do and the fair thing to do,” nine-year resident Sabrina Lamar said.
Lamar said she and her husband have embraced the increased student presence, utilizing student residents as babysitters for their three young children. Lamar added that she hopes Hershey’s presence on the board will help build respect for the community.
Junior Will Passo, vice president for Durham and regional affairs, said he hopes Hershey will serve as a liaison between students and neighbors.
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Passo said he has put many hours into the Trinity Heights situation, speaking with residents and targeting their specific issues and requests. He said he believes that by taking a more “grassroots approach,” the relationship between students and other residents can be improved.
“You always read about the bad things, but this is a good thing that’s happening,” Passo said. “This is the model for what we want to happen.”