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by Anne Schwartz, Feb 01, 2000
 

New York State recently acquired a spectacular site on Staten Island's south shore, protecting 194 acres of rolling plains sweeping up to cliffs along Raritan Bay. The land was part of the Mount Loretto property, owned by the Archdiocese of New York. It will now be open to the public for the first time.

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The south shore of Staten Island has most of the last undeveloped green space in the City, but subdivisions are encroaching. Staten Islanders have long advocated the preservation of the Mt. Loretto property. "The site was recognized as one of the most beautiful -- if not the most beautiful -- in all of Staten Island," said Ellen Pratt of the Protectors of Pine Oaks Park, a group that has been a driving force in Staten Island parks protection.

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By all accounts, the purchase was worked out amicably by the state, the Archdiocese, and the Trust for Public Land, a national land conservation group. TPL negotiated the $25 million purchase for the state. Because the state could not allocate the entire amount at one time, the conservation organization took title to two-thirds of the land, allowing the state to buy the land in three yearly installments. According to those involved, Cardinal O'Connor had a personal interest in having the land preserved. "The Archdiocese was willing to come to a price that was affordable by the state," said Eric Kulleseid, New York State Director of the Trust for Public Land.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation will manage the site, an ecologically rich area of meadows, woodlands, wetlands, and shore that provide habitats for many bird and fish species. Initially, the land will be open for passive recreation like hiking, fishing and birdwatching. Hearings will be held later in the year to develop a management plan for the property, which might include the creation of hiking trails and an environmental education center.

Anne Sounds Off:

Brooklyn Borough President Howard Golden and Community Board 14 have stopped the city from building a temporary Mets minor league ball field in Brooklyn's Parade Grounds. They also nixed what many believed was our best chance to have the park's disgraceful playing fields restored. The community group ACORN, which had also sued to block the Mets, agreed to drop its opposition when the city modified the plan to address neighborhood concerns -- and promised to spend $12 million to fix up all the Parade Ground playing fields. Community members as well as the leaders of the youth sports leagues that play in the Parade Grounds were deeply disappointed that the plan fell through. Chris Bockelmann, president of the Caton Park Association, said, "We would have gotten two good things -- the fun of having the Mets and the renovation of the Parade Grounds -- and now we're getting neither." Sure, we shouldn't have to rely on a deal like this fix up the Parade Grounds. If the city can spend more than $100 million to buy the Yankees and the Mets minor league stadiums, it can come up with money to provide adequate ball fields for youth and amateur sports. Golden was right, in principle, that the City should have involved the community from the beginning and conducted the proper reviews. But the political reality was that before the proposed Mets deal, attempts to find enough money for renovating the Parade Grounds had not succeeded. The citizens of Brooklyn are now counting on Golden to find another way to get the Parade Grounds back in shape.

Anne Schwartz is a freelance writer specializing in environmental issues. Previously, she was the editor of the Audubon Activist, a news journal for environmental action published by the National Audubon Society, and an editor at The New York Botanical Garden.


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