We wanted to thank the entire CSI community for its extraordinary demonstration of support for the Dedication of the Willowbrook Mile this past Saturday, Sept. 17. We will be sending individual thanks, but wanted to publicly document the breadth of community support the Mile has enjoyed.

Many have worked intensely over the past years, months, and weeks to make Saturday’s Dedication a success. More than 350 people attended, including many former Willowbrook State School residents and staff, advocates and activists who sought for better lives for residents by closing Willowbrook, and those who continue to make up and to serve the IDD community. It was a beautiful day, and a clear demonstration of CSI’s dedication to serving as community stewards and as a site where significant discussions of vital topics can happen.

This list of people to thank is long, because so many have worked so tirelessly to bring the Willowbrook Mile into being.

We wish first to thank those members of the CSI community who have served alongside us on the Willowbrook Mile Committee, meeting for two hours a week over the past three+ years, to organize the project: Professor Emeritus David Goode, Timothy Smolka, Brenda Franco, Jorma Loci, Nelly Tournaki, and David Pizzuto. We have been joined in this work by a number of community members from off-campus, including Diane Buglioli, Eric Goldberg, Laura J. Kennedy, and Jose Rivera.

Our Buildings and Grounds team, under the direction of Keith Pisons, and with the help of John Mahoney and Robert Johnson, went above and beyond to make sure that our campus looked its best for Saturday’s visitors — mowing the lawns, turning the fountains blue, chasing the geese away, installing signs and banners, and many other efforts to make the campus welcoming and safe. 

Our Public Safety department, under the direction of Michael Lederhandler, with the support of George Mallon, and coordinated on Saturday by Robert Yurman, helped visitors navigate campus, provided physical support for attendees, and responded to the various needs of visitors.

Our Dining Services, led by Jodi Merendino, provided excellent food for attendees and thoughtfully accommodated many special requests for a wide range of dietary restrictions. 

Ann Rodberg in Design Services designed a wide range of attractive materials for attendees, including programs, brochures, maps, gallery catalogs, and posters, often under tight schedules. Editor Terry Mares helped us to catch any errors. And Phil Halsey in Reprographics made sure that all were produced to the highest standard, even staying late to complete orders at the last moment. 

John Jankowski, Director of the Center for the Arts, oversaw the event in the Center with an eye toward making sure all ran smoothly and attendees could enjoy their visit to the beautiful Williamson Theatre. Joe Cipoletti ensured that the technical aspects of the event worked well in collaboration with the Media Services team, including Mark Lewental, Aleks Dudek, Edward Patri, and Tony Gallego, who captured the event on video for posterity.

David Pizzuto, the Interim Director of Communications and Marketing, coordinated the efforts of a variety of media representatives and documentary filmmaking teams to make sure that the world beyond our campus could learn about CSI’s efforts, with the assistance of George Davis, IV. Joyce Taylor, Mariya Gershkovich, and Matthew Ganz helped create and update the Willowbrook Website.

Several faculty shared their energies and their expertise to enhance the Dedication. Siona Wilson created a gallery exhibition that remains open through Thursday, Oct. 20; James Kaser created a display at the Library (Building 1L) Rotunda of materials from the Willowbrook Archives; and Nelly Tournaki coordinated tours of the Willowbrook Mile for the attendees of the Dedication, supported by Gene Fellner, Holly Block, Glenn Garbe, Alyson Bardsley, and Timothy Smolka.

A large number of CSI students and staff volunteered on Saturday to make sure that the event ran smoothly. These included students from the Macaulay and Verrazano Honors Programs, interns from the Bertha Harris Women’s Center, interns from the Sustainability office, students participating in Project REACH, scholar-athletes from the CSI Dolphins swim and dive teams, graduate students in the School of Education and Certificate Program in Public History, recent alumni, members of the CSI coaching staff, and others. We wish to especially thank four members of our professional staff — Nina Delgatto, Nina Long, Erma Tacopino, and Lori Uccio — for overseeing registrations for the event.

Our efforts to build the Willowbrook Mile have been funded by State Assemblyman Michael Cusick, the Staten Island Foundation, many community donors, and significant donations-in-kind by CSI and its employees, mostly in the form of their time and energy. The external support for the project was coordinated through the Development Office, led by Cheryl Adolph and aided by Deserie Bebe.

The efforts of several members of the administration were essential to the success of the Willowbrook Mile and the day. Robert Wallace, who has overseen the project as Interim Vice President for Economic Development, Continuing Studies, and Government Relations, along with Jasmine Cardona, made sure that elected officials and our larger community were aware of and involved in the project from its start to its completion. Interim President Timothy G. Lynch served as a gracious and eloquent host for the Dedication.

Finally, we want to recognize the brilliance of the architectural design of the Mile by Campus Planning’s Jorma Loci, who not only designed but also oversaw in excrutiating detail the installation of the Mile over the past several years. Seeing folks enjoying the Mile is a testament to her careful siting of the stations in our landscape to enhance their use as places of rest and contemplation. 

It is our hope that the CSI community will come to view the Willowbrook Mile as belonging to all of us; the long list of community members who have given so generously of themselves to make it happen should serve to support that belief.

By Nora Santiago and Catherine Lavender