Friday, December 9, 2022

Late Night for the Planet returns

By Sydney Hakes

 Music could be heard echoing up the sidewalk before reaching the door of Olive Ridleys Tuesday, Sept. 20. It was local band The Gallery, opening for the main event of the night, Late Night for the Planet.

 The first one of the fall semester, Late Night for the Planet is a monthly event hosted by the Center for Earth & Environmental Sciences department at SUNY Plattsburgh. Future dates can be found on the Late Night for the Planet Facebook page.

Founded by Associate Professor of Environmental Science Curt Gervich in 2018, Late Night is “Plattsburgh’s first and only late night talk show about our community and environment. It is written and hosted by students and features local guests, commentary and games,” according to the late Night for the Planet Facebook page.

September’s guests were Jennifer Perry of Compost for Good and Steve Peters of Adirondack Coast Sports. Perry talked about her company’s involvement in local composting, informing the audience of what composting can look like on a large or small scale. Peters covered a few topics, the most notable being the future of the Crete Memorial Civic Center, a hot topic among Plattsburgh locals.

First on the stage, Perry talked a little about what composting is, the different ways it can be done and the benefits. Compost for Good focuses on community-scale composting, where individuals can bring buckets of food scraps to a composting site. 

“As a community, we want healthy soil fertility, for our food, for our water,” Perry said. “Food put into a landfill, piled under trash will become anaerobic, rotting and producing methane gas which then will run-off into fertilizer. The nutrients that could have been reused are lost.” 

A small operation of about three people, Compost for Good has six community-scale composting sites in the North Country. Two spots in the city are behind the North Country Co-op on Bridge Street and at the Saturday farmers market on Green Street. More information can be found on the Compost for Good Facebook page, or adkaction.org. 

After her panel, a game determining what’s trash and what’s compost was played. Audience members were invited to the stage to make their best guesses. 

At 8:30 p.m., Peters was welcomed to the stage. He began by giving a background of the Crete Center, with its completion in 1974 by the Crete brothers as an ice rink and event space. A turf was added in 2001 and has been a location for youth and adult sports leagues since then.

Although seen as a community staple with many supporters, money was inconsistently invested into the center. Peters said there were many reasons behind that.

“The city always said there was something else that needed funding first or it was an election year or the budget was too tight,” Peters said. “The center was also not getting enough use. It was too small to be a destination for outside sports events, and too big for local events. On top of that, the economic toll of COVID-19 led to the previous mayor killing recreational programs.”

Not even 50 years old, the Crete Center is falling apart. From the outside, it looks abandoned. The parking lot is filled with weeds peeking through the cracks and the white lettering has stained the dark siding. However, the more serious issues lie within the walls. There is no insulation, structural issues and sewage issues, among many others.

The question plaguing the community and local government is to short-term renovate to keep the center up for another season or tear down. 

Peters, who has been running the recreation department for 10 years, said the future of the center is uncertain. He wants to do what’s best for the kids and community, whatever that may be.

“Regardless of the Crete Civic Center, there should be a focus on building community through sports,” Peters said. “We need to look at world class parks, beaches and centers and think ‘what are those cities doing right?’”

The topic turned to his company, Adirondack Coast Sports, and his passion for providing sports opportunities to youth and adults in the North Country. 

The game following his panel was a version of “Family Feud.” Audience members were pitted against one another, competing to answer questions about the most popular youth sports and top environmental concerns. 

This Late Night was a standout from ones in the past. The turnout was double than previous Late Nights, one of the two hosts, Devan Bushey, speculated. She credits that to the band playing before and after the panels. 

The Gallery is made up of SUNY Plattsburgh students Billy Gagnon, Zach Niles, Stephen Geiling and Logan Van Buren. They’ve played Late Night before and seemed to have many friends in the crowd. First-year Athena Pinelli said she came to see the band, but stuck around to watch the panels.

“I’m friends with some people in the band, but I found the event really informational,” Pinelli said. “It was fun to watch the games, and I got to meet some new people.”

Like many younger students who find themselves stuck in the bubble of campus life, Pinelli said this was one of the first times coming to an event downtown. Late Night hopes to keep connecting the college community with the local community.

“A lot of the time, students don’t know the community, but that doesn’t mean they’re not a part of it,” Bushey said. “The things we talk about here are things we need to talk about. It will affect all of us living in Plattsburgh.”

This was Bushey’s, and her co-host McKenna Kaleta, first time hosting Late Night. Many of the students involved last semester graduated, almost all of the current staff were new. 

While Bushey calls Gervich the heart of Late Night, it’s a student run event.

“Curt [Gervich] plants the seeds, we run with it,” Bushey said. “The hosts do the research leading up to the panels, come up with the questions, come up with the games and advertise.”

An environmental science senior, Bushey was nervous about hosting, although that didn’t show when she was on stage, often making jokes, interacting with the audience and facilitating games.

She was nervous about more than just public speaking, but the potential reactions to talking about the Crete Center. Rightfully so, as an older audience member spoke up during Peters’ time on stage, interrupting him to ask why a grant can’t be written to fix the issues within the center instead of demolishing it. He then turned to Mayor Chris Rosenquest, fitted in a blazer and nursing a beer, who had been standing in the back among the audience. Rosenquest has pushed to tear down the center citing it would be cheaper than renovating.

An answer from Rosenquest was put on hold as Bushey gained control of the room again, professionally diverting to another question for Peters. He even came up and praised her afterward for staying on track in a “crazy moment.”

This was also the first semester that Late Night has received funding from the Lake Champlain Basin Program. From their website, “coordinates and funds efforts that benefit the Lake Champlain Basin’s water quality, fisheries, wetlands, wildlife, recreation and cultural resources, in partnership with government agencies from New York, Vermont and Québec, private organizations, local communities and individuals.” 

Bushey said the money will go toward things like new microphones, lights and stipends for the students working on Late Night.

It’s an experiment, wanting to see if the event is making an impact based on numbers of attendees. The funding is not guaranteed past the current semester. Bifolds with QR codes littered the tables. The hosts made a plea to the audience to fill out the surveys – the information going straight to the Basin Program. 

The night closed out with The Gallery playing a few more songs, the audience pushing the tables to the side to crowd the stage, a loud end to a Tuesday night.

While the first Late Night for the Planet was filled with excitement, the rest are sure to be worth attending. Panelists will be announced at future dates.

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