Touro College head explains aspirations for Warwick site

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:49

    WARWICK-Touro College has 29 campuses throughout the world with 20,000 students. If Dr. Bernard Lander, president and founder of Touro College, has his way, a new campus of Touro College will be coming to Warwick. Lander participated in an informational meeting for town residents last month to discuss the impacts of the Touro College Learning Community on the town and the Tuxedo School District. The learning community is being proposed at the former Kings College site, off Long Meadow Road in the southeast section of the Town of Warwick. Lander discussed the institution's history and educational offerings, which include a variety of disciplines including medicine, business, law, Jewish studies, general liberal arts and sciences. Lander's vision for the Learning Community is to create an educational and Jewish life-style community designed to foster and create opportunities for life-long learning. Course offerings will include both religious and secular educational programs. A general studies program is being designed specifically to cater to the needs of students from the Hudson Valley who currently attend local community colleges, according to Lander. The Learning Community will also offer an intensive program in Jewish religion and culture and include a faith-based elementary school, a house of worship, student housing for the Jewish studies participants, and 150 residences that will house faculty and other Learning Community members. These residences would remain on the tax rolls; only the college would be tax exempt. All of the Kings College property would have been taken off the tax rolls. The Tuxedo School district would also be positively affected, Lander said, because the Learning Community plans to sponsor its own elementary school, with older students attending private religious schools in the region. Touro College plans to develop 30 percent of the land it owns, leaving 70 percent or over 175 of its 254 acres permanently protected from any future development. The community is being designed to reduce the need for municipal services. All roads will be privately owned and maintained and the college will hire its own security force, Lander said. After nine years of planning, the town Planning Board approved the first phase of Kings College in 2000, a proposed $30 million project that would bring the private liberal arts college to Warwick. The project was to be completed in seven phases, the first phase costing $6.5 million and including the building of a new sewage treatment plant for the planned 1,500 students. Kings College still owns the property. Town Supervisor Michael Sweeton said Touro College is just at the discussion stage. "They must apply to the town to get incentive zoning to allow them to do what they want to do," Sweeton said. "Then they go to the Planning Board." Under New York State law, municipalities may grant density bonuses in exchange for a project that provides for the common good of the community. As it stands now, the applicant could build 30 single family homes on the site or the college with no substantial housing. The process can be time consuming, considering how long the Kings College plan took. But, Sweeton said, it could move along smoothly and not take nearly as much time. "Some applicants take six years, others take one and a half," he said. "It depends on how they do it and if they do it right." So far, Sweeton said, they have done it right. "They have met with the Palisades, the Tuxedo School District, the Town of Tuxedo, and the Town of Warwick," he said. "They are not short-cutting things." Their intent, Sweeton said, would be less intense in terms of the number of people and the site coverage than the Kings College plan, noting that 70 percent of the land would remain open space.