New City, New York — Clarkstown Supervisor George Hoehmann announced Friday an agreement to purchase the Rockland Country Day School (RCDS) campus for $4.4 million. The agreement, which will be voted on by the town council later this month, will add an additional 20.5 acres of public land adjacent to the town-owned 33.5 acre Kings Park.
“I have made preserving, protecting and enhancing Clarkstown’s quality of life my number one priority,” Supervisor Hoehmann said at the announcement. “A key part of that goal is identifying opportunities to purchase lands that could be used to preserve open space or provide more opportunities for our residents to enjoy increased access to parks and other recreational activities. Today’s announcement with Rockland Country Day School is another step in protecting Clarkstown from overdevelopment while providing our residents the public amenities they demand and deserve.”
Representatives for Rockland Country Day School, which was established in 1959 as a Pre-K through Grade 12 school and has a current enrollment of 110 students, also expressed excitement about the deal. “This is a win-win for RCDS and the town and residents of Clarkstown,” RCDS said in a statement. “The School has the opportunity to operate debt-free and, by acquiring the campus, the town retains its commitment to preserve educational, open, and recreational space.”
The town will initially finance the cost of the acquisition through bonding, but will utilize outside funding sources to pay the bonds quickly and at a cost that is as revenue neutral to taxpayers as possible. A significant portion of the $3.9 million allocated to Clarkstown by the Champlain Hudson Power Express Haverstraw Bay Community Benefit Fund will be used for the purchase. In addition, Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski, Jr. has secured $200,000 in state funding to defray the cost of purchase.
But the town and RCDS are engaged in discussions to enter into an agreement for the school to lease a portion of the campus from the town while the school seeks a new home. The 20.5-acre campus was originally a working farm, which has served as a unique setting for RCDS students. The campus contains three academic buildings, an art studio building, a cottage, STEAM Lab, several ball fields, a gymnasium, an organic garden and open space.
The purchase of RCDS is the third acquisition Clarkstown has made since 2016. Working in conjunction with the Sisters of Marydell and The Trust for Public Land, the Village of Upper Nyack and New York State Parks and Recreation, Clarkstown invested $300,000 in February 2017 to preserve and expand Hook Mountain Park by 30 acres, extending the Long Path, connecting it with the Hudson River Valley Greenway at Nyack Beach State Park. In addition, the town announced the purchase of 4.3 acres of land from St. Peter’s Syro-Malankara Catholic Church in November 2017 to preserve wetlands that will create a trailhead and parking area adjacent to the county-owned Mountainview Nature Park.
Some are seeing immediate practical use for the land. “With the demand for athletic fields at near-capacity, this agreement comes at a fortuitous time,” said Councilmember Patrick Carroll (Bardonia). “This acquisition immediately increases access to sports and other programs that will keep our youth engaged in healthy habits. This is also a golden opportunity to make a long-term investment in our parks and recreation department and add to our open space.”
The acquisition of the property requires the town council to approve two resolutions at its meeting on January 23rd. One resolution authorizes the town to pay for the already completed appraisal of the campus. A second resolution authorizes the town to purchase the campus for general municipal purposes, subject to an environmental review required by state law. The town is expected to close on the sale of the property later this spring.
Supervisor Hoehmann expects that the town council will adopt both resolutions unanimously. “This is just one in a series of announcements that we will make when it comes to the future use of this property. At a time when politics can seem hopelessly divisive, it is a source of pride that we worked together in a bipartisan manner and with other levels of government to achieve a common, historic goal–namely, to preserve and protect an important asset for the future of Clarkstown.”
And as for where RCDS is going, representatives for the school said: “Whether we ultimately remain here or move to a new campus, we look forward to continuing to serve the wonderful children of Rockland County and the surrounding communities by providing them with an RCDS education.”