Frequently Asked Questions: Table of Contents
- Why do we need Park Point?
- How many SUNY campuses provide apartment-style housing options to their students?
- How will Park Point benefit new faculty and staff looking for near-campus housing?
- What is purpose-built housing?
- How can the developer legally restrict occupancy to students or faculty/staff?
- Will students be able to afford to live in Park Point apartments?
- Why does the college need to work with a private developer to build student, faculty and staff housing?
- How long has the college considered building apartment-style housing for students?
- How has the campus and the developer consulted with interested parties about this project?
- Does the project incorporate sustainability standards consistent with our campus standards and values?
- Why is Wilmorite building to National Green Building Standards instead of LEED standards, which is the standard for campus building and renovation projects?
- Where does the Campus Sustainability Committee stand on Park Point?
- Does Park Point meet sustainability standards in design and construction?
- What is Wilmorite doing about the fact that this parcel was formerly an apple orchard and pesticides used on the property are still present in the soil in the form of arsenic? How will Wilmorite ensure residents’ health?
- Will the project include a connector road between Park Point and the main campus so that traffic from Park Point does not have to use Route 32 to access campus?
- What about concerns that residents of Park Point will pay one utility fee and therefore can use energy and other resources without consequence?
- Will Wilmorite add more cars to Route 32 and will students parking at Wilmorite be able to drive to class?
- What are the benefits of Park Point to the greater New Paltz community?
FAQ about Park Point housing development for students, faculty and staff
Several questions have arisen during the public hearing phase of the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) process of the Park Point housing approval process. The SEQR process involves presentations and testimony to the New Paltz Town Planning Board (the “lead agency”) about the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). This process does not provide a venue for debate and response; as a result, some misinformation has been circulating in our community about the project. We hope the responses below help to inform members of the College community about specific details, benefits, and impacts of the project; to correct misinformation and misunderstanding; and to help interested individuals consider evidence that may inform their views about the project.
Why do we need Park Point?
Park Point has been described by President Donald Christian as critical to the future of the College and its ability to recruit and serve students consistent with our mission as a residential college.
Many years ago, a community task force asked the College to build more housing for students, and this project is an effort to address a long-recognized need. Rental housing in New Paltz is terribly competitive, which means that access is challenging, prices are high, and quality of some housing opportunities not consistent with price. Coupled with that, SUNY New Paltz has not been able to provide on-campus housing for transfer students since about 2008. In part, resident students do not move off campus because they see the great value in the residential college experience that is the special niche of New Paltz. SUNY New Paltz wants transfer students to have that experience, and we want students who are here for their entire four years to experience living and learning in an apartment housing setting without sacrificing access to a residential college experience. That’s what Park Point will do.
How many SUNY campuses provide apartment-style housing options to their students?
New Paltz is one of only five SUNY campuses that do not offer apartment- or townhouse style housing to its students, and one of those has approved plans in place. The lack of such housing is clearly a factor in the New Paltz competitive edge in student recruitment.
How will Park Point benefit new faculty and staff looking for near-campus housing?
We focus a lot on student housing, but Park Point also will provide housing for new faculty and staff with starting rents that are subsidized to match entry-level salaries. In recent years the percentage of faculty and staff living in the 12561 zip code has dropped from about 50% to about 30%. This means that fewer faculty and staff can be part of the rich cultural life of the campus or contribute to the vitality of the New Paltz community because they live elsewhere. We want to be in a position to assist new faculty and staff to settle into this community, and that’s what Park Point also will do.
What is purpose-built housing?
Purpose built student housing is a combination of design functionality and operations, and provides residents the convenience of an all-inclusive rental experience in a safe student friendly environment. The operator leases each bedroom to an individual who is directly contracted and solely responsible for fulfilling that contract. Opposed to the typical off-campus apartments where tenants rent by the unit and divide expenses the tenant is not sharing cost with other roommates and has their own private, secure space. As most young students have not yet accumulated enough furniture to fill an apartment, purpose-built student housing are designed with complete furnishings, kitchen appliances and an in-unit washer and dryer. It also provides common clubhouse space for group study areas, a fitness room and extensive outdoor recreation space. Most importantly, purpose-built student housing has a significant on-site human presence that includes a full time staff of managers, leasing agents, marketing & activity directors, maintenance and security personnel.
How can the developer legally restrict occupancy to students or faculty/staff?
Park Point will be operated in compliance with all federal, state and local laws, statutes and ordinances governing such projects, including the Fair Housing Act. More than one community leader asserted during the public hearing process that restricting the rental of these units to students or faculty and staff would constitute illegal housing discrimination, and that Park Point would necessarily become “public” housing. There are no laws prohibiting a housing project for college students and employees. Indeed, many purpose-built housing units across the nation serve college students only, senior citizens only and people over age 55, for example.
Housing laws are focused on protecting the rights of those who have historically been the victims of discrimination. Laws have been written that prohibit discrimination based upon the following factors: race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability (added in 1988), and familial status (added in 1988). “Non-student” is not a protected class. Therefore, it is legal for purpose-built housing such as Park Point to be rented only to the population that it was intended to serve.
Will students be able to afford to live in Park Point apartments?
Per person rental rates will be comparable to room rates for on-campus residence halls. Students will pay a single fee that includes rent, utilities, cable, internet, furniture, and use of in-apartment laundry facilities. As at their other college-linked housing units in Syracuse and Rochester, the developer will work with students who have verified financial aid to delay a first rent payment until aid is available. Without rental rates that are competitive with other housing options in the market, the developer would struggle to lease the project. Additionally, Wilmorite’s occupancy rate at other similar projects has consistently been above 95%, which indicates they’re able to provide a competitively priced housing option.
Why does the college need to work with a private developer to build student, faculty and staff housing?
Since about 2008, it has been clear that the College could not borrow and re-pay the debt to construct apartments as a state-funded project and complete much-needed, long-delayed major renovation of our residence halls and build another needed residence hall. Undertaking this effort as a private partnership is the only currently viable path to building apartment housing.
How long has the college considered building apartment-style housing for students?
This project in some respects dates back to 2004, when a Student Association survey reinforced the interest of students in apartment-style housing on or near the campus.
- Former SUNY New Paltz President Steve Poskanzer, and current President Donald Christian have spoken and written publicly about the plan to build housing on this Foundation-owned land since the time of its purchase in 2007 in various reports to faculty and State of the College addresses that are distributed and available on our public website.
- Since 2008-09, the developer has met with dozens of campus and community constituents to inform the development of the plan. These include:
- New Paltz Town Board,
- New Paltz Village Board,
- Village of New Paltz Department of Public Works
- New Paltz Town Zoning Board,
- New Paltz Town Building Department
- New Paltz Fire Chief
- New Paltz Town Engineer
- SUNY New Paltz students, especially during 2009-2010, when focus groups were conducted by Wilmorite
- Ulster County Planner
- New Paltz Town Wetlands Consultant
- New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC)
- Ulster County Health Department
- New Paltz Environmental Task Force – which includes substantial faculty, staff, student, and community representation
- President Christian has spoken with students about the project during his hot chocolate evening sessions in the residence halls, and has heard much excitement about the new housing options.
- Since 2010, Wilmorite has met regularly with town planning board members in work sessions and meetings open to the public and televised on public access television.
Does the project incorporate sustainability standards consistent with our campus standards and values?
The project has been developed through multi-year consultation with local, county and state agencies and officials concerned with and responsible for individual and public health and environmental safety. These include the NYS DEC, Ulster County Health Department, Town of New Paltz Engineer, and the Town of New Paltz wetlands consultant. These agencies have vetted the plans and mitigation approaches delineated in the DEIS.
Through that consultation, Wilmorite has become well acquainted with our community and values, and has adapted its site plan to preserve wetlands and improve storm drainage beyond requirements, consistent with our community’s values. In the same vein, the builder has incorporated elements of green design into this project, again, consistent with values of the College and the broader community.
Why is Wilmorite building to National Green Building Standards instead of LEED standards, which is the standard for campus building and renovation projects?
The project is to be built to National Green Building Standards (NGBS) specifications, a newer building standard than the perhaps more-familiar LEED. The two differ from each other, but many municipalities and agencies (including New York State Energy Research and Development Agency (NYSERDA)) accept either in their incentive programs. One reason that LEED was not chosen for this particular project is that it does not take into account land use factors, which NGBS does. There is every reason to regard NGBS as a fully acceptable standard to guide the construction of this residential housing complex, and President Donald Christian endorses this choice as appropriate.
Building to a stated standard and being certified at that or a higher standard are two different matters. Building to a standard is different than achieving it, an outcome that often is not known until a year or more after construction is finalized. For example, we know that Crispell Hall was built to a LEED Silver standard, consistent with SUNY guidelines, but it achieved a LEED Gold standard.
Wimorite is being very conservative at this stage in the approval process in stating that Park Point will be built to an NGBS Bronze standard. We recently heard the Town Planning Board ask a developer to propose a LOWER standard than he thought he could achieve, because if this project was not certified at the HIGHER standard, the Planning Board was concerned about its legal status in having approved a project at a level that was not realized.
The Park Point plan already includes significant additional planned costs in green building materials BEYOND the energy efficiency standards in the current building code and beyond what will achieve a Bronze standard, and includes energy standards for appliances above those required for the base NGBS certification. It is worth noting here that with LEED it is possible to “pile up” points in one or a few areas of certification to realize a higher certification level. NGBS requires meeting a higher standard in ALL areas to move to a higher certification level, and has more substantial mandatory requirements for energy efficiency for higher certification. This is in contrast to LEED, which indeed has no mandatory increase in minimum requirements for energy efficiency for certification at higher levels; both systems provide optional points for improved energy efficiency. These are among the reasons that President Christian endorses the NGBS choice for this project.
To learn more about NGBS visit: http://www.nahbgreen.org/Overview/default.aspx
Where does the Campus Sustainability Committee stand on Park Point?
The campus Sustainability Committee has endorsed this project because it will help reduce the College’s carbon footprint, and the committee co-chairs spoke in favor of it during the public hearing process. The Sustainability Committee is a governance committee, with student, faculty, staff, and administrative representation.
Does Park Point meet sustainability standards in design and construction?
Some say the Park Point project as designed is not consistent with the draft New Paltz Sustainability Plan, drafted as the college’s plan for meeting the American College and University Presidents Climate Committee (ACUPCC). President Donald Christian regards the Park Point project and the environmental benefits it will provide as fully consistent with and supportive of both the draft campus Sustainability Plan and the ACUPCC. The Sustainability Plan lays out goals for use of renewable energy, and the College is committed to implementing plans to achieve those goals over time. But realizing those goals will not be instantaneous. Constraints in technology and in financial resources will drive the pace and scale of that implementation, in ways that inevitably will frustrate and disappoint many, including campus leadership. There are no easy fixes to advance these goals.
Those same constraints apply to Park Point, if we are to be realistic about providing affordable housing to meet College needs. Solutions that leave people out of the equation are not truly sustainable. As we look to the future and the long-term implementation of the goals of the ACUPCC and our Sustainability Plan, it is possible that Park Point’s development as a non-state project may open avenues for private-private alternative energy projects that the College could not undertake. Those may not make sense right now from either technological or financial perspectives, but that assessment is almost certain to change in the future.
What is Wilmorite doing about the fact that this parcel was formerly an apple orchard and pesticides used on the poperty are still present in the soil in the form of arsenic? How will Wilmorite ensure residents’ health?
The very word arsenic evokes an emotional reaction. Soils on this site, which is former orchard land, have “elevated” levels of arsenic, a residue from years of pesticide use. Elevated is a technical category, one notch above “guidance” -- the level at which no concern or mitigation is generated. These “elevated” levels – and the minimal extent of mitigation they require - have been known since BEFORE the SUNY New Paltz Foundation bought this property, and before any planning for the development began. There is no “surprise discovery” of these statistics in the DEIS. The Foundation was confident it was purchasing a piece of land where it could build housing with full assurance of health and safety of the people who live there. They knew the arsenic levels and the mitigation they require.
The plans for mitigating these slightly elevated levels of arsenic have been developed in close consultation with the regulators and public regulatory agencies responsible for individual and public health and for environmental health and safety in this county and state. There is no need to retest the soil at this stage, as a small handful of vocal students have demanded.
It is surprising that anyone would think that a very reputable developer like Wilmorite would invest four years of its time and millions of dollars in developing a project plan without clear understanding of this dynamic, and a clear, irrefutable plan for dealing with it. And it is troubling to hear a suggestion that the Foundation and the College would have advanced a project in 2008 that would be a threat to human health, or that the government agencies responsible for overseing human health and safety would approve such a project if they were not assured on this topic.
Will the project include a connector road between Park Point and the main campus so that traffic from Park Point does not have to use Route 32 to access campus?
The connector road will accommodate pedestrian, bicycle, LOOP bus and vehicle traffic, but vehicle traffic is expected to be minimal because of the lack of parking spaces in the campus interior, and as an outgrowth of educational efforts to change behavior. The connector road will likely be used mostly by emergency vehicles.
What about concerns that residents of Park Point will pay one utility fee and therefore can use energy and other resources without consequence?
Wilmorite has said that occupants will pay a single bill that includes rent, utilities, laundry, cable, and internet. Some have taken that to mean that use of heat and electricity will be unlimited, inadvertently encouraging excessive use. Quite to the contrary, Wilmorite sets upper and lower limits on temperature controls in each unit, and has systems to monitor excessive use of heat and electricity. Their on-site personnel intervene directly to correct excessive use.
The two-bedroom apartments are planned with two bathrooms, which a small group of students claim is not consistent with our sustainability goals. But the number of showers, or hand-washings, or toilet flushes – primary drivers of environmental impact - is determined by the number of people in an apartment, not by whether they are using two as opposed to a single bathroom. The administration hears frequently about student interest in gender-neutral bathrooms and housing, and we are taking steps on the campus to respond to these interests and values to support a diverse student body. The two-bedroom, two-bath apartments would be ideal for students with such interests, as well as many non-traditional-age students including graduate students.
Will Wilmorite add more cars to Route 32 and will students parking at Wilmorite be able to drive to class?
Concern has been raised that the number of parking spaces in the complex (well below the number of beds) will spur increased vehicle traffic to and from campus on already busy and congested roads in our community. The college’s long-term plan is to relocate parking to the periphery of campus, and this is well underway. It is unreasonable to think that droves of students living at Park Point can get in their car, drive to campus, and reliably find parking any closer to their classrooms or offices. By any reasonable estimate, walking between Park Point and classrooms or offices should require no more than 15-20 minutes for most people. Changing human behavior is core to achieving sustainable ways of life, and this is a clear example of the minor adjustments in lifestyle that SUNY New Paltz – as an educational institution – must model and advance. Those are goals that concerned students and the Sustainability Committee can support.
- Housing – It has been made abundantly clear through local residents, government and SUNY, that one of the single most important problems in this community is the lack of safe, quality housing. There is an apartment vacancy rate of 0.3% in New Paltz, which compares with a threshold of 5% at which cost, availability, and quality are known to become issues. A community housing task force concluded that the college needed to help build housing to help alleviate current demand. Since then the college has built two residence halls and is working with Wilmorite to add much needed housing to the community, consistent with this call to action.
- Tax Payments via PILOT Agreement – The subject property currently does not pay taxes. Under a payment in lieu of tax (PILOT) agreement the project will make payments until the expiration of the PILOT term, at which point the property will be assessed and pay full taxes for the remainder of the lease term. This payment will be based upon an approved program offered by the Ulster County Industrial Development Agency as part of their Uniform Tax Exemption Policy; SECTION 7.C.1.e.i-v.
- Infrastructure Improvements & Preservation – Wilmorite will construct a waste water treatment plant and water supply system for this project – both key constraints in this community on future development well recognized by Town leaders and planners. This infrastructure for Park Point will be designed for future expansion to support Town growth needs. This project offers a water supply to the Town on S. Putt Corners Road for other development efforts.
- Reduced Traffic – As the traffic study details, fewer commuting cars will be on the road at peak congestion times. Fewer cars, shorter commute, lower emissions, smaller carbon footprint all will accrue.
- Wetland and Storm Water Management Improvements – Storm water discharge quality and quantity will be immediately improved as a direct result of the extensive planning and conservation that have been done in conjunction with the Town’s engineer and environmental consultants.
- Jobs – Estimated Construction: 235 jobs, Jobs Post-Construction: 10 (Direct), 63 (Indirect)
- New Annual Local Spending – Estimated sales $7.8M, Wages $2M
- Community Integration – Provides more students and faculty the opportunity to have a dynamic community experience by living close to campus and participating in local activities.
- Sustainable Enrollment – Allows SUNY New Paltz to maintain enrollment levels and compete against other SUNY schools and other colleges and universities, as quality housing is a primary factor in college selection process.