The New Paltz Online Interactive Historic Property map, prepared by CRREO for the Town of New Paltz Historic Preservation Commission, is a ground breaking application and among the first of its kind in the nation. We are particularly proud of the integration of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) with the historic files, articles and public records achieved by college History and Computer Science students, working under professional direction from this office. This project maps, 1771 properties: its scale and quality would not have been achieved by any other researcher for our community, within the modest resources made available by the state from federal sources. This is not just our opinion. We urge that those interested ask town officials about their level of satisfaction with the results of this effort.
We were under no illusion as the project unfolded, nor are we now, that we achieved perfection. That is why we built into its design an opportunity after its launch for users to bring needed changes to the attention of the Town Historic Preservation Commission. In fact, this project includes an editing interface, so that commissioners may edit the website to add to property descriptions and/or photographs, or change any of the information presented regarding any included properties. We even went so far as to create a tool that allows the commission to add or delete properties from the map in a simple point and click manner; it also automatically generates a blank web page so that information may be added, and links it on the site. The goal was and is a dynamic application that is designed for perpetual addition and revision, so as to engage the community in a dialog about our historic heritage, and in this matter to encourage the preservation of our history.
Ample opportunity was provided for interested community members to bring concerns, comments or criticisms to any of the New Paltz Town Historic Preservation Commission’s monthly public meetings during the year and a half course of this project. Ms. Carol Johnson attended none of these. Both common courtesy and a commitment to accuracy suggest that the best way to correct an alleged mistake is to discuss it with persons best situated to do something about it. It is regrettable that Ms. Carol Johnson has ignored the opportunity now, as she has in the past, and rather has chosen the less productive path of criticism – in this case largely misplaced – in a public forum.
In fact, our work for the mapping project was based upon data generated by previously contracted surveys commissioned by the Town Historic Preservation Commission. There were inaccuracies in these surveys. When Ms. Johnson initially expressed concerns regarding these, again not directly but in a letter to the Editor of a local weekly, we took note. Although it was entirely outside of the scope of the work to which we were contractually committed, we spent considerable time utilizing information at the Elting Memorial Library to verify this data, and where possible, to correct errors regarding dates of construction and other details. Ms. Johnson knows this, as it was done with her cooperation. For the errors that she says remain, if Ms. Johnson is truly interested in accuracy, she is welcome to work with the Town Historic Preservation Commission to use the method made available through the project (and described above) to correct the record.
We look forward to continuing collaborative work with the Town and Village of New Paltz Historic Preservation Commissions, the Elting Memorial Library, and the community as a whole in highlighting, celebrating and preserving our historic heritage.
Yours very truly,
Gerald Benjamin, Associate Vice President – Regional Engagement Director – CRREO
Joshua Simons, Research Associate – CRREO