This week I was presented with a suggestion for my column, one I chose to accept. Using last week as a jumping off point, my task was to figure out what it is that residents of New Paltz would like to see in our town.
Now, I’m no journalist. I have little to no desire to approach strangers on the street, even most non-strangers, for the sake of a “story.” So, like any other young adult with social anxiety would do, I took to the Internet.
My Facebook audience is relatively wide-ranging as far as the New Paltz populous goes. I’ve got friends from school, friends who have lived here their entire lives, some that have only been here a few, etc. Up the status went, “What do you wish New Paltz had that it doesn’t already?”
Here’s the thing, I should have known better. Something I appreciate about the people I know and call friends is their sense of humor. I should have expected the sarcastic answers (a monorail, for instance), but after a little steering, I was able to gather some ideas.
It seems that overall, the younger (let’s say, under 35) adult crowd, my core demographic, is looking for these things: community-dedicated spaces, better mass transit, more dining options and more in-town attractions that aren’t dedicated to alcohol.
The reality is, New Paltz does have some nice community spaces, places to “hang out.” The issue is that there are just too many people for these spaces and most of them can only be utilized during nice weather. I’ve heard several requests for nicer parks, more relaxed spaces (think Cafeteria-ish), more outdoor seating around town and most importantly, a large venue.
The college being right in town is probably the most reasonable location for this. New Paltz really doesn’t have a venue in or around the village (there’s the fairgrounds, again, outdoors) that could host a somewhat large-scale event. This would generate revenue and perhaps more interest in a local music scene (I’ve heard a few cries for a return of the 90’s punk scene that once held fast here).
On the note of entertainment, people would also like to see an independent movie theater, or perhaps to have the New Paltz theater dedicate time bi-monthly to showing independent films. I know there was talk of this once and it’d be a nice addition to our town.
One of the main issues surrounding New Paltz and the fact that we don’t have certain things located directly in town is our mass transit system. There’s The Loop, but let’s be honest, I’ve lived here since that thing was started and I still can’t figure out the schedule and the stops.
While I was a student and didn’t have a car, it was near impossible to get around, let alone out of town. While the idea of The Loop is great, the general consensus is that it could be improved. Last week I mentioned bike lanes. I have given up biking in this town because I’m scared. I worry about friends, some who have even gotten hit and been hospitalized, riding on our roads, both in and surrounding the village.
Now, onto food. This is one that is close to my fellow vegans and me. Sure, there are vegan options in town. But that’s it, options — that doesn’t mean that they’re delicious. Along with that, a lot of my responders suggested more diverse restaurants. For a town that has over five pizza places in a two-mile radius, it’s a valid request. Things that were mentioned were soul food, Vietnamese, Mexican, Ethiopian and food trucks. This last one in particular is something I’d love to see, particularly when I’m walking home at 3 a.m.
Finally, we have basic attractions that, in my humble opinion, every town should have. Where is our bowling alley? Not only could it be another small business league-type sponsorship venue (think softball), but I know for a fact that college students would utilize it. I remember wanting to go bowling all the time when I was in school, but because none of us had the means to get to Poughkeepsie, it wasn’t an option.
In line with the bowling alley, I was also given requests for an arcade, a roller rink, ice skating (all things you must travel elsewhere to do) and a drive-in movie theater. It’s true that there isn’t much to do in this town, particularly when it’s cold, that doesn’t involve either buying food or alcohol (or you know, being outside).
I know there’s tons of red tape surrounding all these proposals, and while there may simply not be the room for some of these ideas in the immediate village, I’m confident that they would be positive additions to our community. If we did have attractions and venues that were say, a mile or two outside the epicenter of New Paltz, and a reliable transit system to get there, I’m absolutely positive they would be utilized and enjoyed.
So, in my 800-word allotment (which I’ve now surpassed), that is what the young folks of New Paltz want. Though, I can’t finish this without mentioning the one suggestion that got the most “likes” on my Facebook thread, something this town certainly should have: a Ludwig statue.
Marena Mitchell is a young artist and leisurely writer living in New Paltz. She graduated from SUNY New Paltz with an MFA in printmaking in 2013. You can find her other writings in her zines, on her blog marenasrants.tumblr.com.