The Stony Brook Press
Caitlin Fisher-Reid is a PhD stu-dent at Stony Brook in the departmentof Ecology & Evolution. The subject of her dissertation research has been thebehavior of indigenous salamanders onLong Island, from the red variety in thewest near Oyster Bay, to the black vari-ety in the east near the Pine Barrens.Right in front of the Main Entrance tothe University, in an 11-acre stretch of forest, is a rare place where both vari-eties are numerous and active. “It’s oneof my best sites,” she said. Unfortu-nately, all of that will be destroyed withthe planned construction of the newhotel in that forest.The controversy surrounding theplans for a hotel on campus have at-tracted a much larger audience than theUniversity Senate had originally antici-pated. The Town Hall meeting held Fri-day, December 4, had more attendeesthan could fit in the originally sched-uled SAC 302. The SAC auditoriumheld over 150 members of the univer-sity and surrounding community, many of them outspoken in their opinion onthe new Hotel’s plans.The Town Hall meeting, moderatedby Michael Schwartz, President of theUniversity Senate, consisted of a debatebetween Barbara Chernow, Vice Presi-dent of Facilities & Services, and Mal-colm Bowman, a Professor in theSchool of Atmospheric and Marine Sci-ences and president of the Stony Brook Environmental Conservancy, followedby comments and questions from theaudience.The primary issue at stake is thetract of land on which the hotel is set tobe built. The 11 acre stretch of forest infront of the main entrance is a smallpart of the Green Belt, the area of forestsurrounding the university that acts as abuffer it from the surrounding commu-nity. It is by no means an insignificantpart of the green belt, however. In addi-tion to creating a buffer, the forest en-forces Nicolls Road’s tradition as anon-commercial area. “It was designedthat way,” explained Bowman. “FromHighway 25A to Route 347, there areplaces of worship, of school administra-tion, a firehouse, but there are no com-mercial properties.”The forest acts as an educationalarea for biology undergraduates as well.Fisher-Reid, who also teaches biology undergrads, remarked that students aresurprised that she works so locally. “ I’mable to include more undergrads in my research because I have a campus fieldsite,” she said. “Many students tell methat they didn’t even know salamanderswere on Long Island, let alone Stony Brook.” The area is also used by otherbiology labs, such as BIO 352. MarvinO’Neal, course director for the Biology Department, urged the Administrationto reevaluate their priorities. “I encour-age Stony Brook to invest our currentresources into educating our studentsand supporting the teaching mission of our institution,” O’Neal said.Other professors have attributedthis controversy to the administration,their priorities and practices. Jeffery Levinton, distinguished Professor in theEcology & Evolution department,claimed that this has been a problemsince the previous administration.“Over the past 15 years, with regards tosustainability, landscape considerations,and even ecology education on campus,our administration has ignored twobasic actions: ask and listen,” explainedLevinton. Bowman and others have alsobeen actively involved with preservingthat area and the rest of the Green Beltfor nearly 10 years. A motion passed by the University Senate in 2001, denotesthe forests around campus as
, and resolves that theUniversity President must comply withthe State Environment Quality ReviewAct. SEQRA requires an environmentalimpact assessment before a state agency can proceed with any planned projectsor activities. Chernow asserted that theuniversity has so far complied withSEQRA, and will continue to do so.Construction has yet to be under-taken until SEQRA is complete, butChernow has stated that ground testsneed to be made beforehand. Bowman,however, began and ended his presen-tation with the claim that
action may be taken before the SEQRA is complete.According to SEQRA’s rules and regu-lations, “A project sponsor may notcommence any physical alteration re-lated to an action until the provisions of SEQRA have been complied with.”Other concerns include the envi-ronmental impact to the area, and Stony Brook’s perceived commitment to sus-tainability. Chernow asserted that thefootprint to the area will be minimal.Only 3.7 acres of the 11 are to be usedfor the hotel. The rest will be kept tomaintain the buffer, which will be aminimum of 175 feet from NicollsRoad. Several Biology and Ecology pro-fessors insisted that the impact wouldbe greater than just the amount of forestcleared. “It’s not just the footprint thatmatters...it’s the spillover,” described Jef-frey Levinton. “If you would have askeda single ecologist on campus we wouldhave told you, it’s not just a spot you canclear out that has the effect, but it’s theeffect of noise pollution and distur-bance of the things surrounding it.”Others brought up the questionableaction of the university in promoting it-self as a sustainable university—by evengoing so far as to open an sustainablecampus at Southampton—but not act-ing on it. Michelle Pizer, a senior atStony Brook and president of the Envi-ronmental Club on campus, was thefirst of several students to express con-cerns about the university’s preroga-tives. “As a school that claims to be partof the solution, why are we contributingto the problem?” Pizer asked. “Stony Brook should stop thinking green...andreally act green.” Levinton also men-tioned the hypocrisy involved withStony Brook and Southampton. “MaybeSouthapmton will be Dorian Gray, andwe will be the portrait that will gradu-ally deteriorate,” he quipped.Not every speaker spoke out againstthe plans, however. Representatives andheads of the University Hospital, theLong Island State Veteran’s Home, thesports department, and the Center forExcellence in Wireless and InformationTechnology all spoke of the hotel’s ne-cessity for visitors to the campus. Eventhose against it all recognized the hotel’simportance to the University, given thecurrent economic crisis. The hastinesswith which the plan has proceeded andthe unfortunate location are the com-plaints brought up by those who spokeout against it. Several alternatives havebeen explored by members of the Uni- versity Senate and the Stony Brook En- vironmental Conservancy. Some of these alternative locations were evenproposed by a few speakers, includingseveral parking lots around campus,with displaced parking being made upfor with a new parking garage or un-derground parking. Levinton, to muchapplause from the audience, proposedbuilding the hotel near the train station,to encourage the use of mass transit.The location, however, is where theultimate problem lies. The ground lease,acquired 20 years ago by the university,specifies the 11-acre woods. Both Cher-now and University President Stanley have asserted that it would be virtually impossible. The current climate of thestate legislature, according to Chernow,would never allow for a new groundlease somewhere else. Bowman, on theother hand, insisted that, according toSenator Kenneth LaValle, instead of ac-quiring a new ground lease, the currentground lease could be relocated withrelative ease. Any further action shouldbe held off until all the options havebeen sufficiently explored, according toBowman.“If we walk away from this devel-oper, what we are saying is there is notgoing to be a hotel,” Chernow said. “Be-cause they’re not going to wait many many years after we have to wait many many years for a new ground lease.”Stanley has said that he remains com-mitted to moving forward with theproject. Bowman and others remaincommitted to convincing them thatthere are feasible and suitable alterna-tives, and have sent a letter signed by 43professors sent to the president.In the meantime, the red and black Salamanders await their fate.
Will ere be Continental Breakfast?
By Andrew Fraley
The red tailed hawks, which reside in the forest, will soar no more once the area’s integrity is destroyed.