Protect NY sets move to Farmingdale

Farmingdale State College prof John Kostanoski: A natural spot for a security-focused think tank.

By GREGORY ZELLER // The academic and professional think tank Protect New York is moving to Farmingdale State College, relocating from its birthplace inside the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government in Albany.

The organization – which launched in 2006 and represents disciplines including criminal justice, psychiatry, sociology, public health, media studies and engineering – will now be hosted by the Department of Criminal Justice in Farmingdale’s School of Arts & Sciences.

Protect New York unites students, faculty from across the state university system and outside professionals for conferences and workshops focused on shielding citizens from terrorist strikes and natural disasters. It should not be confused with the Tioga County-based anti-fracking group Coalition to Protect New York)

John Kostanoski, a SUNY Farmingdale criminal justice professor and the former Protect New York president, said Farmingdale was selected from a slate of SUNY schools hoping to house the think tank for two key reasons: its strong law-enforcement-related academics and its proximity to New York City.

“In 2001, New York City received the brunt of the terrorist attacks,” Kostanoski told Innovate LI. “So there’s a historical basis for having it here. And Farmingdale has had strong criminal justice programs and several other academic programs related to protection, so from a SUNY perspective, it’s natural for Protect New York to be placed at our campus.”

Although it has lived there since its inception nine years ago, the Rockefeller Institute was never meant to be the think tank’s permanent home. Kostanoski – who stepped down as the organization’s first president in 2012 and was succeeded by Steven Dubovsky, chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the University at Buffalo School of Medicine – cited an “extended incubation-type arrangement.”

“The Rockefeller Institute was gracious enough to host it, but it was never intended to stay there,” the professor noted. “It was always intended to migrate to an academic institution.”

Now under the guiding hand of President Marie Maras, an associate professor in the Department of Protection Management at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, Protect New York boasts over 200 academic and professional members. Once it’s up and running at SUNY Farmingdale, it will be opened to the 300-or-so students in the school’s various criminal justice programs, including students pursuing bachelor’s degrees in security systems – integrating crime-prevention theory and computer-design philosophies – and law enforcement technologies.

Those undergrads – and other Farmingdale students with “some sort of relationship to the concept of protection,” according to Kostanoski – will have a chance to network with numerous academicians from across SUNY and from outside New York State, as well as professional police officers, firefighters, hospital employees, disaster-management experts and homeland security representatives.

“Conceivably, nursing students could join,” Kostanoski noted. “Or students majoring in biology. There’s a whole science of safety, with pathogens and biological agents that can wreak havoc in a disaster scenario.

“Protection sciences involve not only police or criminal justice professions, but medical professions, emergency management, anything to do with protection,” Kostanoski noted. “There are many different representatives from many different disciplines.”

Representatives of those various disciplines will join with faculty and students later this year when SUNY Farmingdale hosts its first Protect New York conference. No date has been set, but previous conferences have proved fruitful: Kostanoski cited several research papers stemming from those conferences published in the Journal of Applied Security Research, where the former Protect New York president is a contributing editor.

While none of those papers are officially credited with changing protocols for law enforcers, first responders or anti-terrorist organizations, such influence is conceivable – and much more likely, according to Kostanoski, with the think tank situated closer to NYC.

“There’s a definitely membership benefit being closer to New York City,” the professor said. “You could conceive of Protect New York as being comprised of researchers, and that research ultimately needs to be translated into applications.”