March 27, 2012 —
Eileen Haworth Weil of Summitville died at her home on March 23, after a battle with cancer. She was 69.
Weil was a professor of English and taught at Sullivan County Community College for 19 years. With her husband Andrew Weil she also founded A & E Management and Contracting, which renovates residential properties. But people who are active at the town and county level of politics perhaps know her best as a community activist who worked to bring about change.
In 2008, Eileen was instrumental in changing the make-up of the Zone Administration Board (ZAB), the body that at the time had oversight responsibilities of the Empire Zone program. When she first decided to attend ZAB meetings she discovered that the board did not inform the public about when meetings would be held as required by law.
When she attempted to get copies of the minutes of meetings, she discovered that no minutes of the meetings existed. Also, some members of the ZAB did not believe the board was subject to the state’s Open Meetings Law, which assistant county attorney Tom Cawley ultimately said they were.
Because of Eileen’s activism, by 2008, six of 10 members of the board were gone, including the chairman, and Eileen was appointed as a member of the board.
Eileen’s interest in the ZAB was sparked in part by her belief that the proposed Yukiguni Maitake Manufacturing Corporation of America mushroom factory, which was approved to receive benefits from the Empire Zone program, should have been decertified because it failed to create the number of promised jobs. The factory, which received approval from the planning board to be sited in Mamakating, was delayed from going forward because of environmental legal battles.
Eileen was among a number of individuals and groups who opposed the building of the mushroom factory. In an article in The New York Times she is quoted as saying, “The name of the company is manufacturing, and that's what they're doing: they're manufacturing mushrooms, it will change the ambience of the town."
The final legal barriers to the factory were overcome in the fall of 2011, and after a nine-year effort, the project is poised to move forward.
In an interview with The River Reporter a few years ago, Eileen said she ruffled a few feathers through the years, but she also earned a great deal of respect. Commenting about her activity regarding the ZAB, county manager David Fanslau said, “It’s intriguing the amount of research she does on a volunteer basis… I think she’s a model of what a citizen activist is meant to be in democratic society.”