by Eileen Gallagher
THE place to be on Wednesday evening was Bell, as a large crowd of residents came together with at least one thing in common: their love of New Castle. Likened to a traditional “town hall” gathering by one of the attendees, this public outreach event had both new and seasoned community members coming together with a united goal– to make New Castle the best town it can be.
“Why Do You Love New Castle,” set on a colorful display in the middle school’s auditorium, invited residents to brag about their town via “Post-it” note comments. “Great schools,” “small town feeling,” “friendly community,” and “involved citizenry” were among several observations conveying the pride and affection felt by many.
This first of four sessions officially kicked off the master plan undertaking, an 18-24 month process, and appeared well received by the 75 or so participants. As both new and seasoned residents checked in (no pre-registration required), they were given an agenda with one of five random group assignments.
Tiffany Zezula of the Pace Land Use Law Center opened the evening with a brief orientation, setting out the “ground rules” of group discussion. In order to accurately record everyone’s responses which will be compiled by Pace and submitted as a report to the town, Zezula encouraged creativity, courtesy, patience, and open mindedness. The groups gladly complied.
Zezula, John Nolon, and three other Pace staff members each filled several easel pages with the attributes, negatives, and suggestions for improvement regarding the environment, housing, infrastructure, public service, and commercial development of New Castle. Residents across the board had both praise and criticism, and, as observed in one group, benefited a great deal from the experience of those living in town as long as 60 years. Sabrina Charney Hull, the town planner, and board members Adam Brodsky, Jason Chapin, Lisa Katz, and Supervisor Rob Greenstein individually observed a sampling of each room’s discussions.
As the evening wound down, Maud Bailey of the steering committee remarked, “Tonight was about visions, not necessarily where the barriers are — it’s all about the big picture.” Pleased with the success of the event, Greenstein observed the “incredible display of community engagement.” Praising the experience of Pace, he concluded, “they lived up to their reputation.”