A Zoning Change Could Save the College

Senator Ken LaValle
Senator Ken LaValle

For quite some time now there has been an overhanging question of what may happen to the campus at Stony Brook Southampton. However, earlier this month East End lawmakers developed a plan that will keep the campus in Shinnecock Hills strictly for higher education purposes.

Recently, it was rumored that there were talks on possibly selling the land for future development.

The new plan proposing a new zoning district, aptly titled University 25, requires that at least 25 acres be reserved only for development associated with higher education, such as instructional institutes, museums, theaters, laboratories, hospitals, radio stations or other not-for-profit projects.

The Southampton plan was co-proposed by New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele, state Senator Kenneth LaValle, and Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst earlier this month. Although the plan has not been formally adopted, as it awaits final approval from the Southampton Town Board, legislators feel very confident for the future success of the plan.

“We have overwhelming support. There really is no strong opposition…local people support it and the State University supports it,” Thiele said in a phone interview.

This action was inspired by legislation enacted in Ithaca, New York at Ithaca College and Cornell University, where the city wanted to preserve its educational foundation by setting aside land strictly for educational endeavors.

The Southampton campus was purchased back in 2006 by Stony Brook University after Long Island University closed the campus down in 2005. In 2010 Stony Brook University rerouted many of the classes offered at the campus to its main campus due to budget restraints. Many feared that SUNY was considering abandoning the Southampton campus and selling the land off for a housing development. The new University 25 zoning classification will ensure that the campus is always dedicated to higher education.

“It’s like a cat (the campus) in terms of its nine lives,” says Thiele. “It looked like it may close for good several times, at least twice for sure.”

However, to coincide with the University 25 legislation, the University plans on reenergizing the campus with new buildings and an expanded curriculum.

“The University supports the concept of maintaining the academic use of the land,” says Lauren Sheprow, a media relations officer with Stony Brook University, in an interview. The University continues to be “working on program building and expansion through its new Semester by the Sea programs in marine science,” she adds.

The University plans to continue the education tradition in Southampton by building a $7 million marine science building, beginning construction this summer. Additional plans include offering an oceanography program this summer for high school students and reopening dormitories as early as September for students enrolled in the marine science program.

“The college has been a fabric of the South Fork for over 50 years,” informs Thiele. “Not just because of the education if affords to locals residents, but what it means for the local economy.”

Stony Brook also anticipates offering more graduate programs at the local campus as well.

“There is a commitment to a college at this site. It has been zoned for a college, let us keep the college,” concludes Thiele.

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