Park Point Project Stalls In Face Of Legal Action

Photo by Lizzie Nimetz.
Photo by Lizzie Nimetz.
Photo by Lizzie Nimetz.

Right now, the New Paltz Park Point Project is waiting for lawsuits to be settled before anything else can take place.

The New Paltz Town Board is suing the Ulster County Industrial Development Agency (IDA). Wilmorite and the SUNY New Paltz Foundation are suing the New Paltz Planning Board for denying Wilmorite to build the project on the land.

New Paltz Deputy Town Supervisor Jeff Logan said the town board isn’t suing the Ulster Country IDA for monetary value, but to receive a ruling from the court that it was outside of their purview to allow the category five tax break, which Logan said was created to help Wilmorite build the project.

“There was no evidence behind any math where they got the numbers they used to develop the category five. They have nothing to support everything that they did to create the category five,” Logan said.

Town Supervisor Susan Zimet said she believes the luxuries that Park Point will have are not necessary for student housing.

“In order to basically realize the project that they want, they’re basically trying to get a tax break on the back of the New Paltz tax payers,” Zimet said. “Many of them couldn’t even afford to live in that nice of an apartment. Build a project that can pay its taxes that will be good for the college and let’s all move forward.”

SUNY New Paltz President Donald Christian said Wilmorite filed an Article 78 legal proceeding, which the SUNY New Paltz Foundation supported because they own the land.

Christian said the purpose of the Article 78 proceeding is to “get a judicial ruling on whether the planning board was within its legal purview in denying the site plan.”

Thomas W. Daniels, a senior legal counsel for Wilmorite said in a press release Friday that the land where the project has been proposed for is tax exempt, something the IDA and Park Point has nothing to do with.

“If the project is developed by the Foundation or the college, it will remain tax exempt,” Daniels said. “This is simply a statement of fact based upon New York tax law, not a take it or leave it offer as some opponents have attempted to characterize this situation.”

Last week, the New Paltz Town Board sent an open letter to Donald Christian about his comments from the State of the College address regarding Park Point.

Christian said at the State of the College address that with the tax break, Park Point will be the largest taxpayer in New Paltz and that the project is good for meeting the housing needs of the college for students, faculty and staff, opposed to alternative options the college can pursue.  He also said the benefits of Park Point “far outweigh the costs.”

In response, the letter said “SUNY New Paltz President Donald Christian would better serve our collective community by acknowledging the financial hardship facing so many of us and use his position as president of a huge tax exempt instituting to lobby the state to relieve our local community a portion of its tax burden.”

Christian declined to comment on the letter.

Logan said he hopes Christian can look at how Park Point will truly impact the community.

“Don Christian is in the top percentage of wages in the county and we don’t fault him for that whatsoever, but then look at the rest of your community and look at the people who are struggling to keep their homes, struggling to pay their bills, struggling to pay their mortgages,” Logan said. “That becomes a big part of it.”

Overall, Zimet said it’s unfortunate that the town government and the community are against each other and not working together.  Her hope is to be soon working with the college to create industry in New Paltz, so there will be jobs for students locally upon their graduation.

Christian said the college has been trying to be good citizens to the New Paltz community because there are other options they can pursue.

“One option is that the college buys the property from the foundation, figures out a different way to build it and like our new residence hall there will be no tax revenue for the community,” Christian said.

There are no court dates currently set for the lawsuits.