Before he was a champion boxer, Floyd Patterson was a troubled kid who was sent upstate to the Wiltwyck School for Boys. That decision turned his life around. Seventy years after Patterson’s reform-school experience began, the owner of his former home in New Paltz apparently hopes to again associate his name with giving help to young people. Neighbors near the Springtown Road property have received an invitation to an open house on September 9 to kick off the “Home of Champions,” and some of them have questions.
Manhattanite Judith Halbreich hopes to transform Patterson’s four-bedroom house into a “home base” for a program to help foster kids and those aging out of that system get a leg up by honing their leadership skills. Spending years bouncing from home to home, these young adults often miss the opportunities others have had growing up to hone those skills. According to media reports, Halbreich wants to begin the program with eight young people, comprised of teens from the Hudson Valley and young adults aged 18-24 from New York City. In time, she hopes 40 people at a time will participate.
Rather than wait for the open house to ask questions, Kristin and Timothy Kay brought their concerns to the August 3 New Paltz Town Council meeting. Board members were unfamiliar with the project, which would be taking place, as Timothy told them more than once, “right in our back yard,” as they live directly behind the Patterson estate. Other neighbors, they advised, had contacted building and planning officials and determined that they were also unfamiliar with these plans.
Characterizing the project as an “orphanage,” the Kays told board members they were concerned about inner-city youth wandering the neighborhood. “No one’s ever loved them,” Timothy said of the potential clients, and with the thought of them living so close, “I don’t feel safe,” particularly with two young children of their own.
Their questions included what kind of training would be provided to staff members, and what steps would be taken to keep these “inner city kids” from “ending up in my back yard” in this “very safe neighborhood.” Would it be possible to at least require a fence be built between the properties, they wondered, and what kind of traffic impact would all those staff members cause west of the Wallkill?
Board members recommended contacting Stacy Delarede, one of the town’s two building inspectors, to determine if any local approval is required.