New Paltz Village Planning Board members, during a special meeting held August 29, methodically discussed their views about the environmental impacts of the Zero Place project. The meeting, which only took about an hour, was before a crowd of more than 50 people who jammed into the large meeting room in the village hall. Supporters and detractors alike were in attendance to hear if the project would require an environmental impact statement before site plan review began.
The Zero Place proposal is for a mixed-use building to be constructed on the empty lot at the corner of Mulberry and North Chestnut streets. It would include 48 apartments over a floor of retail space; the entire structure is intended to be net-zero in regard to energy usage, hence the name. Planning board members had determined that there were four areas in particular that might result in the significant impacts which would trigger an EIS: visual and traffic impacts, those on community character, and how well the project fits into established community plans. Chairman Michael Zierler made it clear that board members would not be voting at this meeting; instead, they would relate their opinions and reasons so that board attorneys can craft a resolution which reflects their positions. Based on the comments they offered on those topics — most of which they read from prepared documents — it appears that a negative declaration of environmental significance will be in the offing.
Zierler and John Litton both feel the building is simply too big for the site, and argued that mitigation of some issues could only be accomplished by scaling it back still more, likely by removing the fourth story. Other members considered the changes already made to shrink the height and mass of the building to be sufficient. Part of what makes it difficult is that board members don’t agree on whether Zero Place should be compared to what’s in the area now, or against the neighborhood-business-residential zoning for which it is the first project. Litton noted that the zone itself is now under scrutiny because of this project, while Rich Steffens countered that the new zoning was passed without controversy in a community which is generally quite attentive to such issues.
An area where all members seemed mostly satisfied was transportation. While Zierler said that more work was needed, no one felt that the issues rose to the level of “significant impact” which would require an EIS. On other sections members varied in their views, but for each point at least three members gave reasons why they believed the impact was not significant.
In the end, Denis McGee suggested that a negative declaration be issued, and board members proceed with site plan review where many of the lingering concerns will be considered. They may take that vote on September 5, but that’s not confirmed. Attorney Richard Golden promised them a resolution by September 3, giving them two days to review it, including a holiday. If they delay, however, Litton won’t be able to vote at all because he will not be at the September 19 meeting. ++
New Paltz’s founding families were slaveholders; should their names be stricken from college buildings?
In a response to a petition calling for a change to the name of the campus dining hall to honor a long-time employee, SUNY New Paltz president Donald P. Christian said he’d ask the university’s Diversity and Inclusion Council to look at the pros and cons of retaining or replacing the names of campus buildings named for the town’s founding families, who were slaveholders.
“Some view these building names as perpetuating the legacy of slavery, and I am aware that some students, particularly students of color, have expressed their discomfort about living in halls with these names,” wrote Christian. “These issues have not been addressed fully and openly by our community to ensure that the visible symbolism of building names is culturally consistent with our values. Now is the right time to do so, when our nation is engaged in discourse about removing Confederate statues or changing building names that commemorate or memorialize the era of slavery in America.”
The petition on Change.org, signed by over 2,000, asked that Hasbrouck Dining Hall be named for Darold Thompson, who worked at the dining hall (through food-service contractor Sodexo) for 17 years. The petition did not make any reference to the building’s current namesake or the broader national conversation about renaming buildings.
After stating that he would be unable to grant the request to change the name of the dining hall, Christian brings up the wider issue of building namesakes. “This worthy effort to honor a longtime employee brings immediacy to a matter I have been thinking about for some time: initiating a community dialogue about names of the Hasbrouck Dining Hall and residence halls in that complex.”
Buildings in that part of campus, which abuts South Manheim Boulevard, include the dining hall and five residence halls: Bevier, Crispell, Deyo, DuBois and Lefevre.
“There is no question that each of these families owned slaves during the period of slavery in New York,” writes Christian. “This is a shameful and painful legacy that we must acknowledge and portray openly and honestly.”
Christian said the Council will look at the question of retaining or replacing the building names, but won’t debate alternative names. “If the Council’s work results in a recommendation to change one or more names, we will engage a further deliberative, consultative process to develop new names to recommend to the Board of Trustees; any changes must be consistent with Board of Trustees policies.”
He said the report would be made by April 15, 2018.
Solar installation assistance for low-Income homeowners
The Town of New Paltz is applying for $500,000 in Community Development Block Grant funding from the New York State Office of Housing and Community Renewal to assist a minimum of ten owner-occupied homes with housing rehabilitation within the town and village of New Paltz. This program will focus on energy efficiency upgrades including residential solar array systems. RUPCO, Inc. will administer the program.
In addition to the installation of solar array systems, eligible repairs may include: failing roofs, window replacement, mechanical systems, water systems, electrical systems, energy efficiency upgrades, structural or foundation repairs, flooring and building safety and code violations.
Interested homeowners should download, print out and fill in the letter of interest available at http://www.townofnewpaltz.org/home/news/town-applying-for-solar-installation-assistance-for-low-income-homeowners and e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or fax to RUPCO at (845) 331-9864 by September 7. The letter of interest does not commit participation, but RUPCO will keep your contact information and invite you to an informational meeting outlining the details of the program if funding is received.
Eligibility requirements: Applicants must own and occupy the home as their primary residence (homes in parks are not eligible). Applicants must meet the income thresholds stated in the letter of interest. The property must be up to date with all taxes, mortgage payments and homeowners’ insurance. For more information or assistance with filling out the form, please call 255-0604, extension 126. Hard copies of the letter of interest are also available at the town clerk’s office at town hall.