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Princeton Mayor: School-and-Community Collaboration is a Must

The mayor of Princeton township – regarded as one of the finest examples of a college town – weighs in on what it takes to be one.

Location alone does not make a town with a college a "college town."

You can have the greatest university in the world, and the greatest town surrounding that university; but if you don't have true collaboration between the two, then building a truly great college town just isn't possible.

That's according to Chad Goerner, who is the mayor of a township that some say is a model for college towns: Princeton, New Jersey. It's the township to which some of Three Village's public figures have pointed during the exploratory phases of reimagining Stony Brook's downtown area.

Patch had the chance this week to chat with Goerner, who said that earnest collaboration between leaders is the key for both "town and gown" to each achieve what's in their best interest.

"I think that over the years there has been a strong, constructive relationship between the governing body and the university," he said. "We may not always see eye to eye, but we can have a professional, constructive dialogue on any issue."

In Princeton, it didn't happen overnight; Princeton the town (established 1696) and Princeton the university (established 1746) have been growing together long before Stony Brook University was established in 1957.

Goerner said there are some within the township who feel the university is a drain on the community, for instance when it comes to municipal services.

"There are concerns … that go along with tax revenue," he said. "There’s some residents [who] may feel they are subsidizing the university’s presence. We’re making progress in that area."

And as most prestigious universities tend to do, there is growth. Something Stony Brook has done rather rapidly over the past several years – and something which will continue to happen, as described in president Samuel L. Stanley Jr.'s recent "State of the University" address.

Growth is not impossible to navigate, Goerner said, but "it’s sometimes tough to get through that without having leadership on both sides."

Of course, some fundamental differences exist between Princeton University and Stony Brook University – namely in that Princeton is a private university that must pay taxes on its property holdings. As a state institution Stony Brook University is tax-exempt, a status that has caused strain in some areas of the community such as the local fire district.

Two years ago, Princeton township and Princeton University negotiated the school's first-ever voluntary financial contribution to the municipality. In 2011, not only did the university pay Princeton township $4.5 million in property and sewer taxes, but it also paid another half-million dollars in voluntary contributions.

"We have felt that they should be paying more, but we have been able to make progress in that area," Goerner said.

But put aside the differences in public and private affiliation for another moment. Goerner said there are more benefits to having a university-centered town than there are drawbacks: Crime tends to be lower; diversity tends to be richer; businesses and public schools thrive. Residents can enjoy the Princeton University Art Gallery, housing works by Monet, Manet and Van Gogh. There are parades and public events, such as "Communiversity," a giant arts festival held each spring. There's even a program through which residents can audit classes at the university.

"Having a university town does bring a lot to the community," Goerner said. "That’s one of the reasons why I chose to live here."

Stony Brook & Princeton At-a-Glance

Side-by-Side School Comparison Princeton University (private school, est. 1746) Stony Brook University (public school, est. 1957) Undergraduate Enrollment (as of fall 2011) 5,173 15,968 Graduate Enrollment 2,610 8,053 Resident/Commuter Status 98 percent residential Approximately 40 percent residential Number of Faculty 1,148 1,902 Annual Tuition $38,650 (excluding room & board)
$5,570 NYS Resident/ $16,190 Out-of-State (both excluding room & board)
Regional Economic Impact $2 billion $4.6 billion

Source: www.StonyBrook.edu and www.Princeton.edu

Census Data 2010 Princeton, N.J. Stony Brook, N.Y. Population 16,265 13,740 Area Approx. 16 square miles Approx. 5.8 square miles No. of Households 6,360 4,658 Median Household Income $107,071 $118,397 Percentage of population living below poverty line 7.7 percent 1.7 percent

Source: U.S. Census Data

Cynthia Barnes September 27, 2012 at 06:31 PM
Just a very brief note about the census data: We should be looking at the Three Village Central School District for the population census data -- that is about 21 sq miles and about 32,000 without the students (I believe). This is the immediate area that would be "college town" should we succeed in better integrating the presence of Stony Brook Univ. into the community as Princeton and other college towns have done! Most of them start with a better physical integration of the campus and community.
LivingSmall September 28, 2012 at 02:36 AM
I disagree. Folks living in So. Setauket, for example, are not at risk of losing their home to SBU for expansion. SBU's immediate impact is felt right in Stony Brook. The glaring lights of the stadium pollute our night sky, it burdens our fire department, the traffic leaving campus clog both immediate routes of southern egress from Stony Brook north of 25A. Looking at TVSCD data is disingenuous as it takes in areas such as Port Jefferson and S. Setauket; if anything, the impact of this suggested project should be viewed in terms of distance from the proposed site. The University, for the most part, sits on the far west end of the school district, meaning it's impact is first felt in the community immediately surrounding it, and fading the further one gets from it. I believe the Patch reporter correctly used the information -- unless SBU decides to take out a portion of Setauket in its college town effort.
LivingSmall September 28, 2012 at 02:36 AM
con't: "Reimagining Stony Brook's downtown area," their efforts to create a college town means one thing -- residents/property owners/businesses closest to SBU and 25A in Stony Brook need to be wary of SBU's potential to use Eminent Domain in order to create this vision of Princeton in Stony Brook. The area just north of 25A and the SB School share a history dating back to the later part of the 19th century. All the little cottages in the immediate vicinity of SBS are there because of the Stony Brook Association, which was instrumental in developing this particular pocket of Stony Brook. Prior to buying the land, the Long Island Assembly met at the Three Village Inn and built the cottages behind it. This part of Stony Brook should be considered for Historic District designation. Consider the following: http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=nys;cc=nys;idno=nys583;view=image;seq=8;size=100;page=root http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=FB0713FF3F5D14738DDDAE0894D0405B818EF1D3 http://volunteer.truist.com/me/org/16924233.html This area developed during the Chautauqua movement of the late 19th century and like SBU in some ways, sought to enlighten and educate. As a preservationist, Cynthia, you are one person I would hope can appreciate the importance of not allowing this interesting portion of Stony Brook to be compromised.

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