Sunset Avenue: A Street On The Brink
Six years ago in testimony before our Zoning Board on a hearing to allow a house to become a fraternity, neighbors described Phillips Street, the street contiguous with our number one employer UMass, as being at a "tipping point", with almost half the homes on the street owned by absentee landlords renting mostly to students.
Today eight-out-of-nine houses are non owner occupied, and Phillips Street is the slum capital of Amherst.
So I hate it when residents of nearby Lincoln Avenue and Sunset Avenue describe their bucolic residential neighborhood as being at a "tipping point," which indeed they are. And I fear that they too will go the way of Phillips Street.
While enforcement of nuisance house bylaws is only one component of the "safe and healthy neighborhood" initiative, it is a vital one. And I firmly believe it is making a difference.
But everyone needs to do their part. As with the war on terror: if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.
#####Dear Resident of Sunset Avenue,
I graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in May 2012. While a student at UMass I lived at 164 Sunset Avenue during the fall of 2011.
I am writing to you to apologize for my role in the public disruptions that came from my house last fall, and the ensuing problems they may have caused you and your family.
To give you some background, I moved into 164 Sunset Avenue because it was the most affordable off-campus living option I could find at the time ($350/month). As someone who financed their own education, I did not have many economically feasible options for off-campus housing.
Moreover, as someone who did not own a car, the house’s location and its proximity to campus was appealing to me. Unfortunately, I only knew one resident in the house before I moved in, and I soon learned that it was a “party house.”
My decision to move into this house still pains me to this day. Most notably, because of the night I was arrested. On this night, I was in my bedroom in the basement watching a movie with a friend. Upstairs, my roommates had company (as they usually did) and were playing loud music.
While in my bedroom I heard a knock at the backdoor. This person turned out to be a police officer. He asked me if I lived in the house, to which I responded yes. He then requested that I step outside to speak to him. I obliged, not entirely sure of what was going on. Immediately, he arrested me for a noise violation.
After my arrest, I was so worried that I could again get in trouble for something my roommates did that I slept on a friend’s futon for the remainder of the semester, in order to avoid any possible future problems. When the fall semester I ended, I immediately found someone to sublet my room to, and I finished my senior year in a dorm on campus.
I am writing to you over a year after the incident occurred because time passed has provided time for reflection. Despite not playing an active role in the partying that came from my house, I did not play an active role in stopping it. Perhaps if I did, I would not have been arrested, and you would have had a quieter street.
Moreover, as a resident of 164 Sunset I was equally responsible for what took place inside my house, and because of this I owe you and your family an apology.
I hope you accept this letter of apology on behalf of my roommates and I, and I wish you the best as Amherst Police continue their crackdown on rowdiness. As someone who lived on Sunset Avenue I know how difficult it can be.
Hopefully, my letter of apology offers some kind of solace or at the very least an empathetic perspective from a former UMass student.
Former Resident of 164 Sunset Avenue
164 Sunset Avenue, in the shadow of UMass