New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. (D-Sag Harbor) today charged that Stony Brook University (SBU), due to its failure to keep its commitments as the stewards of the Southampton campus, has become the biggest slumlord on the East End.
Thiele stated, “Thanks to the teamwork of Senator Ken LaValle and me, the Southampton College campus was acquired by the State University of New York in 2006. Since then, Stony Brook University has had a checkered record as the steward of the campus.” First, SBU abandoned its fledging undergraduate sustainability program at the campus in 2009 in an attempt to close the campus. Only when Thiele and Southampton students successfully sued Stony Brook University, did they reverse course and renew efforts to grow programming at the campus as a graduate center.
Thiele explained, “At that time, the University put Vice President for Strategic Initiatives Matthew Whelan in charge for planning at the campus. During his tenure we saw sustained progress at the campus, including the construction of the new Marines Sciences Building and the establishment of several graduate health sciences programs at Southampton. Coupled with the continued growth of the well-established Fine Arts Program at the campus under the leadership of Robert Reeves, enrollment for the campus grew to 800 students per year at Southampton.”
At the same time, Southampton Hospital completed its affiliation agreement with Stony Brook University Hospital, including plans to build a new state of the art hospital at the campus. Thiele added that “the future of the campus was bright.”
The next step in the renaissance of the campus was to be the rehabilitation of Southampton Hall (photo attached) which had always anchored campus activities. In 2018–2019, Stony Brook University, in a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by the President of SBU, committed an initial $5 million capital appropriation to Southampton Hall and undertook a comprehensive feasibility study at a cost of $200,000.
Since that study, nothing has happened at the campus, and no one was assigned Whelan’s duties. No action has been taken regarding Southampton Hall. There is no long-term plan in place for the future of the campus. Instead the campus is again languishing from inattention (building condemnation notice attached).
In July 2022, Thiele and State Senator Anthony Palumbo urged the President of Stony Brook University to seek funding for Southampton Hall from the Long Island Investment Fund $350 million established by the State Legislature (see attached letter). The University failed to even apply and has taken no other actions to improve the Southampton campus.
Thiele explained, “The Southampton campus can be one of Stony Brook University’s greatest assets. Yet, it is wasting away. The University has had stewardship of the property for 17 years. Their lack of action over the last four years is inexcusable and can no longer be tolerated. Not only is Southampton Hall a potential economic engine for eastern Long Island as a center of arts and culture, but the abandoned residential dormitory complex possesses a great opportunity for community housing.”
Thiele concluded by proposing a 3-point plan for the future of the Southampton campus:
- Appointment of a senior executive member of the University administration to again take responsibility for the campus, and
- An immediate plan from the University to keep its commitment to renovate Southampton Hall, and
- Establishment of a Comprehensive Plan Committee to develop a 5-year plan for the remainder of the campus, including community housing opportunities where the dormitories are now located.
Thiele stated, “Friends of the Southampton campus have waited long enough for Stony Brook University to fulfill its responsibility to Southampton. We will wait no longer.”