Although the political climate continues to heat up throughout the region and the globe, in New Paltz, there are two candidates running unopposed on the ballot for two available seats on the New Paltz Town Board.
One of these is Democratic incumbent Julie Seyfert-Lillis, who believes that the town is making “huge strides in alternate ways to bike, walk and run in and out of the village.” She said that after four years serving as a councilperson, she feels that the steep learning curve has leveled out and she can now home in on issues that she feels passionate about — like alternative transportation, climate change, environmental preservation and mental health programs and education.
One challenge she feels the town is facing is the local effort to combat climate change: “A hurdle the board is now facing is how to structure a municipal solar project. I’m very much in favor, but the current proposal involves cutting 17 to 20 acres of forested land. The land is a wildlife corridor. As a board, we need to take a closer look at the impacts of this proposal.” She noted that she’d be in favor of looking at other proposals that did not require clearcutting, and of changing the town code to have “stricter energy requirements, specifically when it comes to lighting.” Seyfert-Lillis said that she would like to see the town become a banner for alternate energy sources.
The councilwoman also believes that “mental health issues such as anxiety and depression among youth need more attention,” and she supports the Town Board’s effort to budge “more money into the Youth Center,” but also believes that “a broader effort, including bringing the community together to support and educate, would be a crucial step in the right direction.”
One area she’d like to focus her efforts on is mitigating air pollution. “Thanks to Jason West’s study, it is abundantly clear we are being besieged by emissions from both cars that get caught up in traffic on streets and the Thruway,” she said. “I think we can do a better job enforcing idling laws, and making sure the impact from pollution from the Thruway is mitigated by a buffer of trees. I’d like to see studies done that look at ways to help protect residents’ health in this and other areas. For the past five years I have devoted hundreds of volunteer hours to make the Millbrook Preserve a convenient in-town escape into nature, because I believe it can have a very positive impact on the lives of residents. Regular time in nature destresses, and cardiovascular exercise has obvious benefits.”
Alexandria Baer said that she was inspired to run for office by Seyfert-Lillis, who is “a good friend of mine and someone who is an inspiration with her commitment to representing the interests of our community,” she said. “As executive director at Unison Arts Center, I have worked with many members of our community and gather a lot of different opinions as to how to work on infrastructure, building, transportation and tourism problems in New Paltz.” If elected, she said that she looks “forward to working with the rest of the Town Board to work on all and any of these aspects of our town’s growth.”
As for what challenges she believes the town is facing right now, Baer cited traffic, “empty buildings and lost businesses” and safer pedestrian walkways. “Last, but certainly not least, I feel that New Paltz needs to make the walking paths on Main Street safer for pedestrians, from the bridge over the Thruway all the way to the bridge over the Wallkill River. This past year alone, there have been multiple pedestrian accidents involving cars, and we need to create walkways all the way up Main Street and better signaling on turns in every crosswalk, so that pedestrians are safe at every part of the town.”