For the past four years SUNY New Paltz college president Don Christian and CRREO chief Gerry Benjamin have been making the case to our community that they desperately need ten new buildings, 732 new beds and 228 new rental ‘units’ in order for the college to survive; that by providing housing for transfer students, the for-profit rental development, Park Point, would be the salvation of our campus.
Senior SUNY administrators are now happy to announce that the college will receive over $100 million from New York State to carry out major construction projects on the campus, including the building of a new dormitory. So how does Park Point fit in? To paraphrase a line from an iconic Humphrey Bogart movie: “Park Point? We don’t need no *** Park Point!”
The college administrators have also claimed all along that providing additional housing had nothing to do with increasing student enrollment. It seems that this new influx of taxpayer dollars to the campus belies that claim, although in my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with increasing student enrollment. It is inevitable. What is wrong is not openly and honestly sharing the truth with all of us.
From a personal perspective, my wife and I live in New Paltz because I took my first job at the college, going on to become professor and chair of the psychology department. After retirement, I served as treasurer and then chair of the SUNY New Paltz Foundation. I volunteered at the welcome center. Gail Logan and I co-founded the Friends of the Sojourner Truth Library. I share this information to underscore the fact that I have always been a college booster and, while I have vigorously opposed from the outset the granting of a tax exemption for Wilmorite’s Park Point project, I have never before questioned the need for the project nor the credibility of the college’s senior administrative staff. I am now questioning both.
For the past two years the pages of this paper have included references to the childish tiffs and kerfuffles between and amongst Mayor Jason West, Supervisor Susan Zimet and Village Board member Sally Rhoads. The attacks, counterattacks and verbal assaults are an embarrassment to our community. It seems that, whatever the topic — consolidation, drinking water, sewers, conditions of employment or even meeting protocol — the personality conflicts crowd out any significant civic improvements or helpful government projects. These three elected officials might benefit from the example set last week by Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Attempting to improve the currently strained relationship between their two countries, Kerry commented in his post-meeting press conference, “Sergei Lavrov and I are old hockey players and we both know that diplomacy, like hockey, can sometimes result in the occasional collision, so we’re candid about the areas in which we agree, but also the areas in which we disagree.”
Foreign Minister Lavrov responded at his own press conference to a question about U.S.-Russia tensions. “I remember very well what he (Secretary Kerry) said when we were saying goodbye. He said, ‘Well, I believe we can make a difference in Russian-American relations. Let’s act as adults.’” Lavrov then went on to comment, “And that’s what we are trying to do. Because if small incidents become an impediment to everything else, I think it would be wrong politics and very wrong policy.”
“I’m part of the community”
So said Dennis, the driver of the familiar United Parcel Service delivery truck that rolls through our neighborhood every weekday. Before him, for over 15 years, it was Kevin we looked forward to seeing behind the wheel, hoping he would make the turn down our driveway to deliver a package, always with a warm greeting and a smile.
Having just carried two large boxes to our front door, Dennis said, “Looks like someone’s getting ready for a wedding, Paul!” I laughed and commented that there’s no keeping any secrets in New Paltz, to which he replied, “I’m part of the community.” Yes, you certainly are, Dennis, and a very welcome part at that.