When the town bought the nearly 75-acre Striker Property in 2009, Paul Nagin and his Skyview Acres neighbors were led to believe the land would forever be preserved from development.
Times have changed and they are learning the commitment may not be forever.
The deal’s mastermind, then-Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence, sits in federal prison. The town faces a potential budget deficit topping $8 million and are looking to sell properties bought for supposed preservation during St. Lawrence’s tenure.
Ramapo officials are contemplating selling the Striker land — with its woods, hills, valleys and wetlands — along Route 45 and Concklin Road for development of a campus for multiple private schools. The property sits in a rural area off the Palisades Interstate Parkway, bordering Skyview Acres, near the baseball stadium, the Unitarian Church and the Orchards of Conklin.
Ramapo is considering a campus for private schools as opposition grows to having yeshivas — some with unsightly classroom trailers — dotting the town’s landscape, including opening in residential areas of single-family homes.mapo wants to sell St
‘We will fight this’
In a joint letter to Supervisor Michael Specht, Nagin and Anna Friedberg described the property’s environmental significance and importance to the quality of life for the nearly seven-decade-old Skyview Acres, the county’s first interracial housing community on 115 acres with a tradition of political activism.
Frieberg is president of Skyview Acres cooperative community, while Nagin is president of the Skyview Acres Land Trust and serves on the community board.
“When the town bought the property, St. Lawrence touted it for green space,” Nagin said Wednesday outside his house. “The town should know any development will be met with a tremendous amount of resistance. We will fight this.”
Specht, who took office in January after decades as a town deputy attorney, said the Town Board has not rescheduled the proposal to declare the land surplus for sale. The board adjourned the issue last month after residents protested.
Specht said the town’s bond counsel is providing a memorandum on the town paying off the $6.9 million bonded purchase price. He said the town’s lawyers also are researching whether the town can sell directly to an organization based on appraised value, side-stepping bids for the highest bidder.
“Normally we’re allowed to sell land and we don’t have put the land out to bid,” Specht said. “I sympathize with how they (the residents) feel. But I have to do what’s overall best for the town. We’ve not made any final decisions.”
Specht said there’s no timetable for the Town Board to again consider declaring the land surplus.
Ramapo bought the Striker Property through the same parks and recreation projects bond used to buy 62 acres for $8 million what became the baseball stadium, which cost nearly $60 million.
Facing a budget deficit — partially caused by the baseball stadium construction — the town has sold some properties bought under St. Lawrence’s $100 million preservation plan and is consider the sale of other lands.
Recently, the town earmarked for sale the 16.3-acre Suffern Quarry and a vacant 8.3-acre parcel on Pinebrook Road in Chestnut Ridge.
Nagin, Frieberg and Skyview Trustee Bob Trostle noted the town might not legally be allowed to sell the Striker Property, noting the 2009 purchase came with a proclamation the town intended to protect the majority of green space.
“The designation of this property as surplus is inconsistent with the Town’s stated purpose for this property and undermines the Town’s vision that ‘the only effective method of preserving open space in perpetuity is through public ownership’,” a letter from the Skyview residents to Specht said.
Critics have argued the town’s preservation designation has long been criticized for not having a legal hold. But the town’s need to sell land has raised the issue anew.
Skyview Acres – along with nearby South Mountain Road residents with the West Branch Civic Association — beat back an attempt to sell the land for development in the early 2000s, leading to the town purchasing the land. The legal action centered on the property’s environmental sensitivity.
Ramapo’s position is a campus for private schools on the Striker Property could also alleviate the legal and illegal growth of yeshivas in private houses within the town, spreading from the Monsey area to south to Airmont and Chestnut Ridge and north to the Pomona area.
The trend of opening schools in single-family areas is being opposed by many Orthodox Jewish residents and non-Jews living in those neighborhoods.”
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