Some residents who live near 34th and Davenport Streets say they’ve endured a lot of wild parties in their neighborhood, and Friday night they lived through another.
A new fall semester of college has begun, and with it the parties in the Gifford Park neighborhood have begun.
Neighbors say an astonishingly big party Friday night at one house and at adjacent properties on both sides is emblematic of what they’ve put up with for years and what they fear will continue.
Estimates are that 200 young people, or even hundreds more, congregated behind those houses to drink and celebrate a new semester with something that has come to be known as the Denim Party.
A young woman who lives at the house admitted that the party grew “out of hand” in size and noise.
“I would just say I understand their complaints,” she said Monday night. “That will never happen again.”
She said the house in which she lives is known as the Denim House and that the party has taken place there annually for a while.
She declined to give her name but said she was a Creighton University junior in journalism. She and some other young people interviewed on the block said many Creighton students live in rental houses in the Gifford Park neighborhood.
Some young men interviewed said there also are University of Nebraska at Omaha students in the area. The young men, too, declined to give their names and did not say where they go to school.
“Yeah, it was pretty good,” one of them said of the party.
“I wouldn’t describe it as chaotic,” said another.
“It turned into sheer chaos when the cops got here,” said another young woman, who said she was a Creighton student.
Police were sent to the scene at 10:35 p.m. Friday.
“There were not any citations issued that night,” Omaha Police Lt. Sherie Thomas said. The department, she said, “is working with Creighton” on the matter.
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Chris Foster of the Gifford Park Neighborhood Association said he drove through the area late Friday. It was hard to get through on 34th Street because there were so many partyers and cars in the way, he said.
Several neighbors said the Denim Party is only one of a variety of parties in the area through the school year. St. Patrick’s Day is intense, they said, and so are parties accompanying some Creighton basketball games.
Foster and Anna Deal, who also is on the Gifford Park neighborhood board, said some of the college students add vitality to the area. They said the young people participate in neighborhood cleanups, help run a children’s Halloween party at the park and do other volunteer work.
They also said they know college kids will throw parties. That doesn’t excuse parties involving hundreds of kids packed into a concentrated area, they said. Those parties, they said, can be a safety concern.
“We’re a super diverse, super active neighborhood, and a lot of people care deeply about the neighborhood being a pleasant, vibrant and interesting place to live,” Deal said.
Creighton spokeswoman Cindy Workman said her university has informed students for several years that they have “personal responsibility and accountability when living off campus.”
Whether on campus or off, she said, the students must adhere to Creighton community standards. Students who oversee “house parties” that disturb neighbors are subject to review and may be referred, Workman said, to the Creighton Office of Community Standards and Wellbeing.
Another resident of the neighborhood said he and his family have lived there for 41 years. He called the rental units “the Creighton invasion.” The man, Mike Caban, said the students “do things in the neighborhood that they wouldn’t do at home, in Mommy and Daddy’s backyard.”
Caban said that years ago the residents worried about drug dealers in the area. That problem was largely conquered, he said. But increasingly, landlords have bought homes there and packed college kids into them, he said.
The owner of the house where the party was centered is TAB LLC, whose registered agent is Terry Penke.
Penke owns multiple properties in the area, and Foster said he has done a nice job of improving and making those houses more physically attractive. Foster also said Penke has attended at least one meeting involving residents, landlords and Creighton, to show concern.
Penke didn’t return phone calls Tuesday.
Somebody — landlords, Creighton, the police — must do a better job of tenant control, neighbors said. Some said they have seen young people urinating in public during the parties.
One neighbor, Bob Benzel, credited the party-throwers with cleaning up the area Saturday morning. That was one of the few positive things he and Gerry Sullivan, with whom Benzel lives, had to say.
“It’s a big problem,” Benzel said.
“It’s the same problem every year,” Sullivan said. “It just gets worse and worse from year to year.”
Another woman who said she attends Creighton said parties on that block have “been going on for decades” and that Benzel apparently “didn’t know what he signed up for” when he and Sullivan moved in about seven years ago.
As it happened, members of the Gifford Park Neighborhood Association had scheduled a “meet-and-greet” session Saturday with the new renters from college. Coffee and doughnuts were served.
A police lieutenant showed up and gave advice on landlord-tenant issues and suggested that the neighborhood association research how other cities handle the problem.
The young woman at the house said Monday night that she felt bad about the huge Denim Party.
She added that two surprising guests showed up for the party — her mother and her 95-year-old grandmother.
“They’re like, ‘This is crazy,’ ” the young woman said. Her grandmother didn’t get a full view of the scene. She stayed in the car.