New Paltz: Raising the spectre of consolidating the village and the town

The possibility of “studying” the merger of the village of New Paltz with the town of New Paltz came up at last Wednesday’s village board meeting.

First question: Why was the village created out of the town in 1887 in the first place?

Probable answer: Things like street lights, sidewalks, sewers, and water mains for the concentrations of businesses and residences in the village.

The village no doubt needed these things; the farmers and other folks living out thataway didn’t. So, an “inner municipality” was created that could tax itself and make the necessary improvements without charging the farmers and other folks for them.

Has that changed? Not really. So there’s no need to evaporate the village. In fact, there’s good reason to keep it up and running.

As a villager, I don’t particularly care for the town government. It seems incapable of understanding the village and its immediate needs.

I don’t base that on my dislike of the individuals running the town government (that’s a separate issue). I mean that I don’t like the nature of the town government, per se.

This most recent interest in consolidation was stirred up by the unfortunate Jason West. It was his behavior as mayor of the village that got local grandees thinking again that the village had outlasted its usefulness. It was now susceptible to becoming the playpen of radicals. Indeed, with West the village government had become exactly a playpen.

But as much as I disliked West’s administration, for instance, I never believed that getting rid of the village was the smart move, although I more than shared the anxieties of the aforesaid local grandees.

The town government is a blunt instrument and has no experience attending to the concerns of the village. Add to it that the town is being run and will continue to be run for the foreseeable future by dullards. (With notable exceptions in the non-policy positions of town clerk and highway superintendant.)

Case in point: The town supervisor and the board recently voted to give a committee the power to negotiate and enter into a lease for a building on South Putt Corners Road so that the New Paltz police can be moved out there. How exactly does it benefit the village to have the police suddenly TWO MILES from the downtown center? But nowhere around this proposed move is found any serious discussion of the distance. Instead, we have one of the members of the board declaring the usual “crisis” regarding the police and their headquarters, which is 100 yards up Plattekill from the vortex of New Paltz, where the police are most instantly needed.

Another case in point: When the supervisor comes to the village board to make a presentation about implementation of the traffic study she talks seriously about putting a traffic roundabout (a modified traffic circle) in place of the downtown traffic light where Main Street meets 32 North and 208 South. This will, in her mind, speed traffic along. She glibly throws out that the building on the southwest corner (which now houses the souvenir shop next to Beso) will have to be torn down. Hello?

Might it be too much to also glibly explain how a pedestrian would go about crossing that intersection (or any intersection with a roundabout) in this “let’s please walk everywhere everyone” village? Then the supervisor shows that she doesn’t even know the names of the streets in the village, pointing out that uptown traffic will proceed one-way up “Mohonk Avenue.” No, that’s Hasbrouck, madam.

It’s just too much to expect a town government, after 120 years of separation, and prejudiced in favor of everything outside of the village, to come around to understanding what the village really is and why it even exists in the first place. The town government has become an insensate bureaucracy, and is by its very nature and despite its larger budget less important and inferior to the village government.

That brings the issue back to Jason West. It was his grandiose design to match the grandness of the village government to his own sense of grandiosity that disturbed the balance between the municipalities. The village government needs to be small, taut, and focused on its mundane tasks and the integrity of the village as a vibrant and historical locale. The village did not need to be the grand exemplar of radical Green Party government in the United States. But that doesn’t imply that the village board should now swing the other way and think of itself as expendable.

I would hate to see the affairs of the village in the hands of the town government, and that goes well beyond my aversion to the strange personalities and their cronies who now seem to wind up running the town.

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