A handful of community leaders in Three Village are saying they believe the Stony Brook University administration should re-establish the "Community Advisory Council," a group launched by a former Stony Brook president.
, had brought together community leaders to improve the town-gown relationship when he became Stony Brook president in 1980 – a group which was disbanded in the mid-1990s after he stepped down.
"I think in the next five years, more than ever, we need to reconstitute the Community Advisory Council," said James Komosinski, volunteer marketing director of the Three Village Soccer Club. "If we don’t have a local voice ... we’re going to come to a place where the University is going to have a Three Village community that is going to push back against this ever expanding University that is beloved by so many that don’t live here."
In a Dec. 10 interview, Komosinski called for a new "independent local advisory board" to consist of local citizens "so that we can begin a frank dialogue with the University about Three Village community challenges such as the future University housing plans and the many potential related impacts on the community real estate market, traffic congestion issues and other related quality of life matters that everyone should be concerned with and work to address in good faith versus current state of affairs that's more likely to be adversarial."
The issue of the Community Advisory Council came up at a Nov. 26 meeting of the Three Village Soccer Club regarding the recent clash over athletic field space at the South P Lot on campus. Negotiations are ongoing.
Marburger had also established a similar Community Advisory Council in 1998 during his tenure as director of Brookhaven National Laboratory – a council that exists to this day with nearly 30 members who meet monthly to discuss specific topics. Don Garber, who previously sat on the Community Advisory Council at Stony Brook and is presently a member of the Lab's Community Advisory Council, said the Lab's council has been effective in improving relations between it and the community at large.
However, he said, the University's CAC was disbanded when Marburger's successor, Dr. Shirley Strum Kenny, arrived at Stony Brook in 1994.
Suffolk County Legis. Kara Hahn, D-Setauket, said re-establishing the CAC was one of the first things the Civic Association of the Setaukets and Stony Brook requested when current University president Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. came on board in 2009. In a recent interview, Hahn again called for the University to do so in the future, saying certain conflicts could have been dealt with earlier or avoided altogether.
"For an institution as large as our University, they need to have that," she said.
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Mitch Pally, president of the Three Village Soccer Club and a former member of the Community Advisory Council at Stony Brook, said at the Nov. 26 Three Village Soccer Club meeting that re-forming such a group would be a good move.
"I always found those meetings to be very helpful and productive," he said.
University officials did not say whether re-forming the Community Advisory Council would be considered, and did not comment on its past history. However, Elaine Crosson, the University's vice president for external relations, said in a statement to Patch that Stony Brook officials do meet on an ongoing basis with civic associations, chambers of commerce, and other community leaders.
"It is important for the University to listen to and respond to issues important to the community, and for the community to better understand the mission and the many different aspects of the University – in particular the needs of our students," she said.
Stony Brook has a state-mandated council that is required to weigh in on major University decisions, such as the reconfiguration at Stony Brook Southampton and with the campus hotel. The Stony Brook Council is made up of 10 people from various public, private and academic institutions on Long Island including Suffolk Transportation, the Long Island Housing Partnership, and the Long Island Association.
Just as President Stanley has said in the past, Crosson emphasized the University is working hard to be a good neighbor.
"We look forward to continuing a productive dialogue with community," she said. "We are open and available to meet with community leaders at their request, and we welcome their thoughts and ideas."
University officials have frequently delivered presentations at meetings of the Civic Association of the Setaukets and Stony Brook and other community events, as recently as September. Garber, also a former president of the Civic Association, said there is a benefit to that, but a new CAC would be even better.
"What has much more value and incorporates the community is if they’re interested in receiving input," he said. "Obviously, a CAC is not going to be running the University, but it would be nice if there was something at the planning stage that would try to incorporate a lot of potential input from the community."