Carey Institute to re-open this summer, possibly under new banner

Enterprise file photo — Marcello Iaia

Gathering at Stonecrop: Supporters of the Carey Institute for Global Good came together in September 2014 to hear plans for its future. Nearly a decade later, the institute is in another transformative period. 

RENSSELAERVILLE — More than three years after the COVID-19 pandemic all but drained the Carey Institute for Global Good of key revenue, forcing its board to indefinitely cut programs and explore a sale of its Rensselaerville campus, the institute — apparently restabilized — is expected to resume its work this summer with learning workshops and other small events. 

The news comes from a press release that was short on specifics but described the beleaguered not-for-profit as going through a “transitional time … as it works to return to its role as a vital part of the Hilltowns community.”

The institute did not immediately respond to Enterprise inquiry as to what kinds of workshops and events it would be hosting — nor about why, as the release says, the board is considering a new name. 

When The Enterprise last wrote about the institute nearly a year ago, it was subsisting on a skeleton budget that would allow it to explore replacements for lost programs such as the Center for Learning in Practice and the Logan Nonfiction Program, which attracted writers from all over the world. 

The idea of selling the property had been abandoned, in part because of angst from the community about losing a significant part of the town’s identity. 

“It seemed better for the community to maintain it in a not-for-profit, and develop programs that were consistent with the original mission, perhaps on a smaller scale, but hopefully a sustainable scale,” trustee Philip Gitlen told The Enterprise last year. 

But new programs were always the goal, even a sale was on the table, as center president and chief executive officer Gareth Crawford told The Enterprise in 2020. 

While Crawford said the not-for-profit was “not in a position to continue” at the Rensselaerville campus because of a revenue drop of nearly $2 million to $3 million and the high cost of maintaining the campus, the hope was that whoever bought it would be in partnership with the group.

“The important thing is, with whoever buys it, we try to thread the needle of keeping the character of the place while continuing to provide employment opportunities for local people,” Crawford had said.

The Carey Institute was founded in 2012 by the late William Polk Carey, who had been a trustee of the organization’s predecessor, the Rensselaerville Institute, founded in 1983, itself a version of the earlier Institute of Man and Science, founded 20 years before that.

Despite the shift in identity, the Carey Institute shared the same sense of purpose around the betterment of society, both globally and locally, that had taken root in Rensselaerville in the aftermath of the first World War, when the horrors of that conflict compelled Laura Talmage — wife of Frank Huyck Jr. — to host a series of meetings in town dedicated to finding new ways of solving problems. 

It was her descendents that donated the land that served as the campus for the institute in all its forms. 

Unlike other think tanks, the institute actively practiced its theories, involving itself in a series of dying towns in New York and Oklahoma, using those experiences to develop “The Self-Help Handbook” which had applications for all sorts of organizations, from governments to not-for-profits to schools. 

Carey died in 2012, after he had purchased the campus, and his estate donated it to the institute, which also received a small endowment. 

Through hosting the Logan Nonfiction Program and the Center for Learning in Practice, the Carey Institute carried on its mission of enlightenment, while things like weddings and other private events held on the property helped boost its revenue. A brewery on the campus did both — helping local farmers and brewers develop the skills necessary to leverage local crops, while creating its own offerings. 

However, the institute had never actually achieved a sustainable business model, operating at a deficit nearly every year since 2012 — the same fate that befell the Rensselaerville Institute, leading to the sale of the campus to Carey. By the time the Carey Institute reached a slim surplus in 2020, the pandemic took it all away. 

This week’s release says that as the not-for-profit gears up for a return, the board is “working with the community to create a sustainable business model that will best serve its needs.”

More Hilltowns News

  • The Enterprise reported in November that the building at 1628 Helderberg Trail was falling, with some material going into the Fox Creek. The creek is considered by the New York State Department of Conservation to be a “Class C waterbody with trout spawning standards.” 

  • The Rensselaerville Post Office is expected to move to another location within the 12147 ZIP code, according to a United States Postal Service flier, and the public is invited to submit comments on the proposal by mail. 

  • Anthony Esposito, who lost his house along State Route 145 in Rensselaerville when an SUV crashed into it, setting it on fire, said he had made several requests for guide rails because he had long been concerned about cars coming off the road. The New York State Department of Transportation said that it has no record of any requests.

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