Photo by Greg Cannella
By Greg Cannella
The Stony Brook University Student Union has seen many students walk through its doors. Dating back to 1969, the Union has been one of Stony Brook’s oldest buildings on campus. From clubs, dining, offices and ballrooms, the building has been a social gathering place for both students, faculty and the community.
Howard Gunston, Director of Facilities for the Stony Brook Union and Student Activities Center [SAC], says the building is not being completely knocked down, but rather renovated.
“We’re keeping the shell of the building and gutting the interior to convert the facility from a mixed purpose building dominated by food service to a building that brings many of our student-centered programs together,” he said. “This includes student offices and campus departments.”
The Union building resides on the north side of John S. Toll Drive, across from the Frank Melville Jr. Memorial Library. Gunston said that renovations will begin in 2016 and that Stony Brook University has been making these plans the since the 90’s, but were lacking in funding and had other priorities.
“This year we received the money from Albany to begin the renovation,” he said. “When you’ve got a campus our size there’s never a shortage of capital projects that you’d like to do and over the years we’ve revised the building plans to keep pace with the goals of the university and the needs of our students.”
— Stony Brook Alumni (@stonybrookalum) October 8, 2015
The Union has faced many changes since it was originally built. The structure has created a variety of culture, diversity and history instilled into its walls.
According to the Stony Brook Alumni and Friends Page, the university originally designed a bridge in the 1960’s that would connect the Union to the Melville Library. However, construction never completed the job, giving it the title of “Bridge to Nowhere.” The bridge was extended to the Plaza, not giving much use to the structure. Therefore, the bridge was later demolished in 2003.
ou can view more photos of the Bridge HERE.
As decades past, the Stony Brook Union has played host to many historical concerts for the Stony Brook community. In 1983, musical performances by Billy Idol, Jorma Kakaunen and Gil Scott-Heron played for the community, according to the Undergraduate Student Government. The building has seen many more famous artists ever since.
The Union has transformed into a second home for many students with its club offices in the basement. Gunston said his team has been working with them to make things easier as they begin the renovation process.
“My department met with all student tenants to get an understanding of their critical needs and wants and then took that list back to the campus to figure out where to relocate everyone,” he said. “Some of the moves will be permanent but others will be temporary.”
The Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Alliance [LGBTA], is one of the many organizations apart of “Club Alley” and is being relocated to a different building on campus.
Sydney Monroe Gaglio, a sophomore and theatre arts major, says the LGBTA club was able to get a space to move into but is going to miss her home-like space.
“We are lucky enough to get space in the SAC on the third floor,we have new regulations in the new space and can’t put up stuff the way we have in here which is unfortunate but we’re going to make it work to the best that we can,” she said.
Gaglio mentioned that although her club has found a space, it has been difficult for others.
“Stony Brook just has a history of taking forever to do things, so once this place goes, that means a lot of the places that are here are not going to have space for a while and it’s going to make things difficult for people.”
Other organizations such as the Science Fiction Forum have a long history with the Union and have been there since the beginning. Ted Gervais, a senior and President of the Sci-Fi Forum, said he is upset to see the building go.
“It’s unfortunate because this place has a good amount of culture in it,” he said. “I ended up wondering here towards the end of freshman year and the Union has a lot fond memories for me.”
Liz Boika, a double major in biological anthropology and evolution of human biology, said the Union being renovated is inconvenient, adding that the Sci-Fi Library were told to be packed by Nov. 24 2015.
“Because of spacing issues, our library is getting split up,” she said. “We’re going to have a lounge space in the SAC Commuter lounge and the library portion is going to be in the basement of the Melville Library.”
Boika said that although the university has been accommodating, their have been minor issues in regards to scheduling.
“It’s been difficult meeting with them to organize everything,” she said. “This Friday we’re having a meeting to schedule a meeting to see the room our libraries are going to.”
Gunston said the media wing located in the basement Union will be moved to the SAC permanently. This includes the Statesman, the Stony Brook Independent and the Stony Brook Press.
Editor-in-Chief of the Statesman, Hanaa’ Tameez, says the newspaper has been here since the Union was built and is happy to see things change.
“We’ve all had our best memories in here, but it’s a long overdue change,” she said. “What used to be the Recreation Center on the third floor of the SAC will be split up into four rooms.”
Similar to student clubs, other campus departments, FSA, campus dining and WUSB will be moved as well and that their employers will relocate with them. The building is also home to the Craft Center and Studio 97, the Unisex hair salon.
The Union has suffered from water leakage, unusual odors, heating issues, and wall and ceiling damages. As far as the new structure, Gunston said it is going to be pleasant to the eye, with student-centered offices and much more.
“It’s going to be gorgeous, truly a building the campus can be proud of,” he said. “Students will have access to more than a dozen meeting rooms, a brand new ballroom, lots of study space including plush furniture and collaborative learning sites, and a variety of storage options for our student clubs.”
Gunston also said that there will be changes that everyone will enjoy. “While these are all very exciting, tenants who remember the old Union will likely cite their favorite amenities being a heating system that actually heats and a cooling system that actually cools.”
However, with new changes comes new obstacles. Gunston stated that there are two main issues when planning to build a new structure for a large campus like Stony Brook University. He said the relocation plan continues to be one of the most dynamic parts of his job.
“The two greatest obstacles have been financial and logistical,” he said. “On the financial side, we’ve been in a holding pattern waiting for the allocation from Albany.”
Gunston continued, “on the Logistical side, it’s always tough emptying a building when you don’t have a spare building hanging out looking for new tenants.”
— Greg Cannella (@GPCannella) November 12, 2015
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