A Better Tuxedo facilitated a Community Forum on Saturday, September 19th. The meeting was conducted by Lisa Brawley, who is a Senior Lecturer of Urban Studies and Director of American Studies at Vassar College.
More than 30 individuals from the Tuxedo community represented residents from Tuxedo’s diverse neighborhoods and our community organizations, including the Northern Residents Association, Tuxedo Silver Dollars, the Ambulance Corps, Chamber of Commerce, and two members of Tuxedo’s Town Board. The goal of the meeting was to hear from the broader community, have a conversation about what needs attention in our town, and to organize like-minded individuals into action teams.
Sue Scher began the meeting, introducing the key players, and focused the group on promoting a new vision of Tuxedo. She briefly discussed the steps that led to the community coalition A Better Tuxedo, and finished with the statement: “Today is the day to hear from you.”
Lisa, who is a trained facilitator, gave an overview of the method of facilitation, called the technology of participation. Her main visual: a large, blue “sticky” wall on which the group would post their ideas for discussion and organization.
Lisa then broke the crowd into smaller groups of 5-6 individuals, and each were tasked to create a list of 5-10 items broken down into two columns: what are Tuxedo’s strengths, and what are Tuxedo’s liabilities. Each group then read, aloud to the entire audience, their list.
The similarities between the pros and cons of Tuxedo among the groups was remarkable. Each group seemed to word Tuxedo’s strengths and weaknesses in slightly different words, yet the underlying concepts were remarkably consistent. Among the positives: Tuxedo is a beautiful place to live and work, has an incredible location – surrounded by nature, yet less than an hour from New York City, it has a deep an interesting history, an established brand, caring people, excellent trails & public parks. The negatives included a small population, declining infrastructure, a lack of strategic vision, fragmented population & neighborhoods, and the lack of new businesses.
The group then discussed the strengths & liabilities of Tuxedo, in an honest and open way. Two points that stuck out from the group: Allyson Arber stated that “Our strengths are our challenges,” and vice versa, explaining that Tuxedo’s small size is something that is helpful for a small, quiet community feel, yet hurts us when it comes to attracting sustainable business. Dena Steele said that Tuxedo seems to be very reactive and is influenced heavily by outside forces, stating that “We have to take possession of our future.”
Lisa then brought the group to the next phase: focusing on what each individual would like to see happen in the next 3-5 years. “If the New York Times came to interview you then on the story of what’s happened in Tuxedo from 2015 to 2020, what would you like to tell them about?” Each group then wrote down 6-7 ideas on yellow cards, with one idea per card.
Lisa organized the cards on the blue sticky wall, and with the group’s input, organized the ideas into key themes. There were six identified: 1) “Easily Accessed Eco-Tourism In New York City’s Backyard”, 2) “A Thriving, Reinvigorated Downtown as a Center of Business & Community,” 3) “A Strategic Vision with an Open Dialogue that Promotes Engagement,” 4) “A Dynamic, Branded Marketing Campaign,” 5) A Thriving Education System as a Foundation of the Community.”
The groups then broke up, and re-formed and re-organized around the concepts that they were most interested in working towards.
The next step: each group is to identify a leader, and organize at a meeting around that group, to determine the next steps. Lisa asked each group to throw out ideas that the group can take action on, and after identifying them, rank them in order of impact vs. resources required. The easier tasks with a larger bang-for-the-buck should be executed first, followed by the more complex tasks.
Granted, the road ahead is long and some of the concepts are a lot easier to say out loud than to execute. Yet the meeting was a very important step in gathering the community together, talking to each other, and realizing that we all can and should work together to promote a shared goal of A Better Tuxedo.
Thank you to Pennings Farm & Market as well as Tuxedo’s newest businesses, Dotie Audrey’s and Keystone Hoagies, and A Better Tuxedo’s core group for sponsoring & donating to the event.
If you missed the event, but would like to participate and help move Tuxedo forward into the future, we need your help! Click here to join an Action Group and start to make it happen.
Thank you to Pennings Farm and Market as well as Pat and Jen Jenkins of Dotie Audrey’s and Keystone Hoagies for sponsoring the event with a tasty spread.