Rockland renews open space program with $5.5M of land buys–Including one in Pomona

“Rockland County has made land purchases in the last couple months, part of a long-dormant Open-Space Acquisition Program. So far this year, the county had purchased a total of 26 acres in two towns.

Rockland County Executive Ed Day on Tuesday detailed the land buys at a press conference along the Hudson in Haverstraw Bay Park. The county park was the first space bought by the county, back in 1999. The goal, Day said: Preserving historic and cultural places; ensuring open space; and protecting the Hudson and other waterways.

The recently acquired properties include:

  • 20 New Valley Road, New City, purchased March 15 for $4 million. The 11.83-acre parcel was owned by the Milich family.
  • 1015 and 1019 Route 45, in the Ramapo section of Pomona, purchased March 31. The total sale cost was $1.39 million; the two plots total 13.34 acres. The land was owned by the Susan Gordon and Edmund Wyatt Gordon revocable trusts.

The sites will be used as “passive” parks, which means any development will be minimal.

“These will be legally open space in perpetuity,” Day said, with the dedication confirmed by state legislation, a designation that is hard to undo.

The New City property has been in Scott Milich’s family for generations. He said he was thrilled that the wooded area, stream and open fields would be preserved. “Our family’s pleased to be able to play a small part in a larger effort to preserve natural places in the area,” said Milich, a 2019 Republican candidate for Clarkstown Town Board.

A map of 1015 & 1019 Route 45 in Pomona. Mark Vergari/The Journal News

The Pomona property is located in a community known as Skyview Acres, established in 1946 as a social experiment in racially integrated living. The wooded property sits behind CEJJES Institute, a nonprofit established by the Gordons that works to promote social justice, particularly as it pertains to the health, education and well-being of marginalized communities.

Edmund Gordon, now 101, could not attend Tuesday’s press conference, but the family shared a statement that they were grateful to have the opportunity to contribute to the community.

3 more purchases expected

In his 2023 State of the County address, Day foreshadowed the purchases. He said the program, which had been cut years ago when Rockland’s deficit swelled, would become active again. The idea is to save sensitive sites from development.

County government put $30 million into the Open Space Acquisition Program in 2019. This round of purchases totaled more than $5.5 million.

The public or elected officials can nominate parcels, which are evaluated by an Open Space Acquisition Committee if the property owner is contacted and willing to sell. Sites are rated by their environmental attributes, and whether they under threat of development or are tax delinquent.

“The public is the entity that first nominates these properties,” Day said.

Day said recommendations have been received for six parcels. The other properties, totaling 24 acres, could be purchased by year’s end.

A Freedom of Information request to the county for nominations to the Open Space program is pending.”

Read the complete Journal News coverage here.