Updated: Usdan summer camp on Monday withdrew its proposal to allow overnight camping, after strong neighborhood opposition.
The summer camp had wanted to allow “glamping,” that would have brought adults to the wooded campus in Wheatley Heights, which neighborhoods predicted could lead to adult motels, bad behavior, safety problems and more. One neighbor said she suspected the camp would have drawn refugees and immigrants.
“After much thought & reflection, Usdan Summer Camp for the Arts has decided to withdraw its application for a special use permit, which would have allowed for ‘glamping’ within the woods of the campus,” Executive Director Lauren Brandt Schloss, said in a statement issued Monday afternoon. “Ultimately, it’s more important for us to preserve our 55 year relationship with the neighboring communities. Usdan provides and will continue to provide an immersive and transformational arts experience for all,”
A former Usdan employee told HuntingtonNow that Usdan had planned to add other events, such as corporate retreats, to the site.
Michael Rosedale, a neighbor who organized the opposition to the glamping plan, said, “Our relentless efforts have paid off. Many people told us our effort was futile, that it was a done deal, and that we had no chance of stopping USDAN. But we came together as a community and have proven that at a local level, America is alive and well – that when something is not right – that if you speak up, you can make a difference. So, thank you all for helping with this.
“My hope is that now USDAN and the community will move forward, working together as a team. I have recommended to UJA that a resident from the community should be added to their Board, or at the very least, a committee of residents be established to work with them. Over the next few weeks, I would expect that USDAN will be reaching out to us.”
Earlier in the day, Supervisor Ed Smyth, who ran for office on a platform opposing overdevelopment, reminded Huntington residents Monday of his continued opposition to zone changes and overdevelopment. Social media has been abuzz lately with complaints, some of it aimed at Smyth, about a variety of projects, including proposals at Indian Hills and Villadom.
“I campaigned for the Supervisor’s office on many issues, including stopping the overdevelopment of Huntington. In 2020, I co-sponsored a measure limiting the expansion of multi-story apartment development in our downtown areas. We now have a public hearing scheduled for May 10 considering closing a loophole that could be exploited by developers to advance inappropriate projects.
“The Town cannot stop property owners from asking for a zoning change or a new use for their property, however the Town has no obligation to advance any proposal.
“Unlike past administrations, I do not treat a public hearing as an obligatory nuisance. Our residents have a right to weigh in on what is being proposed for their neighborhoods for the Town Board to consider. Generally, I have a very low bar for scheduling public hearings but applicants should be forewarned: they may not like what they hear from the public.”