SUNY New Paltz hosts ceremony for new $30.5 million residence hall

SUNY New Paltz president Donald Christian and assemblyman Kevin Cahill at last week’s groundbreaking.

SUNY New Paltz president Donald Christian and assemblyman Kevin Cahill at last week’s groundbreaking.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held at SUNY New Paltz on Thursday, Dec. 19 for a new campus dormitory that will provide housing for 225 students.

“This new residence hall will play a critical role in meeting significant student demand for on-campus housing,” said college president Donald Christian in his opening remarks, noting that New Paltz has the smallest residence hall capacity among all SUNY campuses statewide.

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There are currently 45 on-site beds per 100 students in New Paltz; the construction of the new residence hall will increase that figure to 49 beds per 100 students.

And while that number is still lower than the SUNY average of 59 beds per 100 students, the ability to house more students on campus “will help them become much more involved in campus life, which is a vital part of their educational experience here,” Christian said. “Continued progress on building and improving our physical environment is critical to our ability to serve current and future students with the high-quality programs and opportunities they deserve.”

He cited the advocacy of Assemblyman Kevin Cahill (D-Kingston) and state Sen. John Bonacic as instrumental in the college achieving the go-ahead on the building project. “Both of these dedicated officials worked with their colleagues in state government to remove residence hall bonding caps from the overall state bond limits, which resulted in the college’s ability to move forward with this project,” Christian said.

Bonacic was represented at the groundbreaking by legislative liaison Joann Drake.

Cahill, an alumni of SUNY New Paltz, class of ’77, told those gathered near the enormous excavation site that the black dirt unearthed there, so indicative of this region of the Hudson Valley, could be seen as representing “what this campus is all about,” in that SUNY New Paltz “is the campus that serves the greater metropolitan area but still allows the families to recognize that they’re sending their kids off to the countryside.”

And while the region may be a factor for those families in considering the college to begin with, “it’s the commitment that the college has had to excellence that ‘closes the deal,'” Cahill said. “And excellence in education,” he added, “we think generally of classrooms, we think generally of teachers; but it is part of an overall living arrangement that these young people go through for the four, or sometimes more years that they are here on this campus to get that education.”

The project was bonded at $30.5 million. Funding for the project, which has been in the planning stages since 2008, was approved earlier this year by the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY) under Governor Cuomo.

DASNY provides construction services and financing to public and private universities, nonprofit healthcare facilities and other institutions that serve the public good.

The three-story, 69,000-square-foot building will include air conditioning, designated quiet study lounges, Skype rooms and electronic seminar rooms. “It will be a testimony to the changing nature of how students learn today,” said L. David Rooney, vice president of student affairs. “It’s amazing how much the way students live and learn has changed [over time], and we want to incorporate many of those changes in the building. When the new residence hall is finished, it will provide students with a modern, comfortable living and learning environment.”

The building will also include a café, something that will also benefit students living in the two residence halls nearby, who currently have to go to the other side of the campus for meals. “It will allow the students to eat where they live,” said Rooney, “and I know they’ll appreciate that very much, especially on cold mornings like today.”

By incorporating energy efficient and sustainable concepts into the design of the building, the project is on track to reach a certification of Silver from the U.S. Green Building Council; the national green building standard that, according to Rooney, SUNY has pledged to reach in all of their new buildings in New York.

The residence hall is slated for completion by August of 2015.

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