GENESEO – Neighbors of the Phi Sigma Xi, or ‘PHIG’ fraternity house at 72 Center Street are saying that criminal activity and public menace at the house, which within the past five years include multiple drug charges from a successful drug raid, the death of a student member, and now the alcohol poisoning of an underage girl, have not only hurt multiple students, but also members of the local community.
Mary Cooke, single mother of three, realtor for Nothnagle Realty on Main Street, and 11-year resident at 68 Center Street says that living next door to the frat has been nothing but a battle and outright danger since she moved there in July 2003.
“That fraternity has a history, a dark history, that everyone in the neighborhood knows and doesn’t always get reported,” said Cooke. “For example, one of their brothers broke into my house at about 9:15 p.m. in October 2008 and attacked my daughter. She was home from UB writing a paper and suddenly had to fight him off through the living room, the kitchen, and out the back door, and keep him from coming back in the front until the police came and held him at gunpoint.”
Cooke says that she is herself a SUNY Geneseo alum and feels very connected to the college, which makes her day-to-day struggles with the fraternity all the more upsetting.
“I love the college. I’m from Perry, and went to SUNY Geneseo, undergrad and grad, and now I teach high school in Perry,” added Cooke. “Any mom or teacher out there will tell you that I wouldn’t have been teaching high school for 27 years if I didn’t love kids, no matter how difficult they are. But to see kids come here from high school and ruin their lives, to get so sick over there every Thursday, Friday, Saturday, sometimes even Sunday night, and for us to come home to ambulance crews with pain in their eyes and a beautiful boy dead…you can’t say that doesn’t affect us.”
Cooke added that the death of Alex Davis, 20, in May 2014 is still heavy on the minds of her neighbors and herself.
“The day of Davis’ death was such a heavy feeling, it’s not a feeling you can forget easily,” said Cooke. “I think about Alex’s poor mom every day, about how just a few days after his death was her first Mother’s Day without her son, and then their first Father’s Day without him. I can’t imagine losing one of my children.”
Cooke described the 2008 break-in by an 18-year-old member of the fraternity, which resulted in his expulsion from SUNY for two years, and the effect this and other incidents have on the neighborhood.
“The kid was 18, and staggered into the house without ever acknowledging me,” recalled Cooke. “He just walked toward my daughter with his arms stretched out, and my daughter had to fight him off. People are moving away from the frat house because of incidents like this. A friend of mine came by and was very interested in the house next to mine. She asked if it was true that a student died of a drug overdose in the frat house, and I had to answer yes. In the end she refused to move into a neighborhood where that happens.”
Cooke said that this dangerous activity is not only a public menace but a poor environment for students, and the consensus of longtime residents is that the frat has to go.
“This is not a good environment for these kids, it’s a hellhole, and those are my words,” said Cooke. “These kids need direction, and they’re not getting it. The college is right, it is important to protect the rights of the students, and their safety. And what about the elderly people across the street from them? What about us? What about the noise, the break-ins, the cops coming to the house every weekend? We pay taxes here, we all work. Don’t we have rights?”
Cooke added that given their history and impact on the community, it is more than appropriate that the PHIGS be shut down for good.
“I always said that it was going to take a death to shut them down,” said Cooke. “I was wrong. All I can think of is how that beautiful, talented, smart, intelligent boy, with so much potential, lying dead in that hellhole alone, without anyone to be there for him, no real family there, and how close that poor girl came to dying herself. They don’t belong here. Maybe they did back in the day, but they do not belong in the Village of Geneseo.”
PHOTO CAPTION: Rear entrance of the ‘PHIG’ house on Center Street. (Photo/Josh Williams)
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