The New Paltz Planning Board’s second public hearing for Park Point brought students, university officials and local residents together to voice their concerns over the community-dividing project.
However, the lack of discussion at the forum meant questions were left unanswered.
We at The New Paltz Oracle believe in the project’s importance for solving the campus’ housing crisis, but the current public hearing style is less than ideal. We think there needs to be a large Q&A-style forum opened where all of the New Paltz community can attend and have all their questions answered and issues resolved.
From a housing perspective, Park Point is necessary for our campus, but we need to better understand how a private company building on private land will serve a public institution.
Even though Park Point is not technically part of campus, it seems that only students, faculty and university employees will be given housing. How can a private apartment complex — affiliated with the campus but not technically part of it — turn away families unaffiliated with the college who want to live there?
Overall, town and village residents asked for greater transparency between the university, Wilmorite and the community.
Despite the concerns raised, we want to applaud the college administration for being transparent and attending public hearings as well as student senate and council of organizations meetings.
We appreciate their attempts to educate the campus on such a polarizing project. However, we understand that village and town residents might not know about these meetings, never mind attend them. The disconnect between the campus and greater New Paltz community, in terms of Park Point, needs to be quelled in order for anything to be accomplished.
Recently, Wilmorite released the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) on their website. We believe that the concerns raised about the arsenic levels, water wells and pesticides must be addressed by both campus administration and Wilmorite.
Some people at the hearing said these environmental issues could negatively affect New Paltz for an undetermined and extended period of time. People also expressed concern over the sustainability of the buildings and how private amenities, such as the recreation center, pool and hot tub, would promote wastefulness.
Though we understand the validity of the environmental concerns, we hope that community members can empathize with transfer students who are denied on-campus housing.
Living on campus is not a privilege and should not be based on whether you start your college career at New Paltz or not. Transfer students are justified in expressing their discontent over housing, or lack thereof.
During the hearing, one community member expressed his disappointment that there was not an open discussion. We’re happy to hear that public comment will be open until Dec. 10, but there needs to be more of an open dialogue between the community, students, college officials and Wilmorite.
In terms of public meetings, public hearings are not enough. This project, which will cost millions of dollars and significantly impact the campus community, needs a discussion where questions are directly addressed — not simply listened to by elected officials. Not only would this allow for further community input, but it would further exemplify the administration’s efforts to be transparent.
Democracy is not a one-sided dialogue, which is why we believe a public space should be opened where answers are given, not just demanded. We also urge meeting attendees to better inform themselves, and be civil and open-minded during these public hearings.