Rockland teens plan for county’s future land use

BY KATHY KAHN

Rockland high school seniors show conceptual plan for the 200 acres Industrial Realty Group purchased from Pfizer in 2015. (Photo-Kathy Kahn)

Put 150 science seniors on a mission, and they are bound to come back with some innovative ideas to revitalize Rockland’s land use.

The seniors from nine local high schools picked sites in the county that need a boost and worked with mentors from their schools, their community leaders and local elected officials to achieve a plan to make the county more user-friendly and ecologically sustainable.

Among the sites studied: New City’s Sain Building (revamped into affordable housing); Patrick Farm (making it more user friendly and a teaching hub for farming and ecology); the Nanuet train station (creating a walkable community with easy access to transit); and the 200 acres IRG purchased from Pfizer in 2015 (creating stores, a library, restaurants, a walking path and access to transportation via the railroad running alongside the 400-acre campus.)

Rockland P.L.U.S. (Planning Land Use With Students) was created five years ago, a partnership with Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Keep Rockland Beautiful and the Rockland Conversation and Service Corps. It was the first time the students gathered outside the classroom at HNA Palisades Center, where dozens of mentors—teachers, community leaders and elected officials—joined with students in breakout sessions to come up with plans for sites across the county.

Founders of Rockland P.L.U.S. shown left to right: Kathy Galione, Rockland Youth Coordinator; Sonia Cairo, Rockland Conversation and Service Corps; and Margie Turin, Columbia University Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (Photo-Kathy Kahn)

Shawn Kapusinksy, who has taught Environmental Science at Spring Valley High School for 25 years, acted as a mentor and praised the program. “It’s an opportunity for students to look at Rockland and see what we can do to make it a better place to live and work in…they’ve gotten to work with local businesses leaders and elected officials. We’d like to see them stay in Rockland once they complete their educations and add to the quality of life.”

Sponsors for this year’s event were SUEZ, Old York Foundation, People’s United Community Foundation, Rockland’s Municipal Planning Federation and the venue’s host, HNA Palisades Conference Center in Palisades.

Rockland P.L.U.S. (Social connections, Economic Opportunity and Environmental sensitivity) –invites students to S.E.E. their community in an exciting, inclusive way. To learn more: http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/edu/plus/Rockland.html.