If residents or commercial property owners in Sennett ever want to build a multi-million dollar facility on their land, they would have to provide substantial information to the town government and go through a rigorous public review process.
The same is true in just about any other New York state municipality. That’s a fact everyone understands, and most agree the process is a necessary part of smart and fair development policy.
But it seems there’s a big exception to the rule that Sennett residents and town leaders have experienced the past couple of years. If New York state owns land and wants to do a big project that clearly affects a neighborhood, it can just go forward with little or no involvement of local government and the public.
Two major state projects in Sennett have progressed recently with minimal outreach to Sennett officials and neighbors.
After a few years of silence on the project, the Department of Corrections and Community Sup…
One is the secured juvenile detention facility opened last year on Pine Ridge Road in a long-vacant former at-risk youth residential center.
More recently is the emergence of documentation that shows the state is moving ahead with a controversial shooting range project on Franklin Street Road for corrections officers. The state is actively soliciting bids for the project, yet it has not communicated with town leaders about what’s going on.
The shooting range project surfaced several years ago but was put on hold after public concerns about the impact on the neighborhood. Now, with little notice, it’s back on.
The good news for residents is that the project appears to have been revised to mitigate concerns about noise and safety. But it would still be better practice for the state to be more proactive in notifying the community that the project has been revived.
This situation presents an early challenge for new state legislators representing Sennett: Sen. Bob Antonacci and Assemblyman Brian Manktelow. They need to demand answers and better outreach from the state.
It’s unrealistic to expect either legislator can get this project stopped, but both should push the state to hold an open forum for the community to explain the project and answer questions. Online communication is ideal, too — perhaps a website page that explains the project and invites questions or comments. State officials might even get some feedback that could result in changes to further address concerns. It would also be beneficial to have a forum and website page on the youth detention facility, too.
After being closed for seven years, the Harriet Tubman Residential Center in Sennett has reopened.
Ultimately, New York state can legally do what it wants without involving the community. But if it wants to be a good neighbor, it will do the right thing and improve the lines of communication.
The Citizen editorial board includes publisher Rob Forcey, executive editor Jeremy Boyer and managing editor Mike Dowd.