The Greenburgh Town Board is planning to vote tomorrow on the largest land purchase in its history, a proposal to turn 183 acres of rolling woodlands in East Irvington into a park.
The board is looking to approve just under $4 million to fund its portion of the land’s purchase. The funding would be split three ways, with Westchester County and New York state paying about $4 million each for a total outlay of roughly $12 million. The Westchester County Board of Legislators received the funding request yesterday. The land is being bought from the Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church.
Greenburgh Supervisor Paul Feiner is calling the planned purchase an important conservation measure that will prevent further development in town and help preserve the local environment. Persistent criticism about the deal, however, has been voiced about the town’s handling of the purchase during the recent election season.
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Feiner said the deal was a good one for the town. “We’re paying 33 cents on the dollar. It’s a steal for the town,” he said. “If it’s developed, it will diminish the quality of life for the whole town.”
James Lasser, who ran unsuccessfully for the post of town supervisor in last week’s election, said the town had not provided enough information about the terms of the deal for the public to make an informed choice. “They have not disclosed the terms of the agreement,” he said. “It’s the biggest land purchase in town history, but there are enough questions about it that it’s an outrage,” he said.
Feiner said the parties involved, including the Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit preservation group that arranged the terms of the contract, had worked out good terms for the public.
“We did our homework, and the Trust for Public Land did a good job,” he said. “You can always nit-pick and find reasons why things shouldn’t happen.”
Feiner said the purchase of Taxter Ridge was a prominent election issue, and if the public were dissatisfied with it, town voters would have made it clear at the polls.
An East Irvington neighborhood leader, Danny Gold, said he believed the parkland purchase would go through after years of discussion. “There have been a lot of ups and downs, but it looks extremely positive,” he said, “It’s a pretty low cost to preserve an important piece of property.” He said Westchester County’s planning staff had put the land deal through “a very rigorous process” before sending it to the county Legislature.
The land has been owned for more than 20 years by the Unification Church, which once envisioned building a university at the site.
The church had earlier discussed plans for developing the site with housing and a golf course before opening talks for public acquisition.
The town administration projected a $15 annual increase in the property tax rate for an average homeowner whose property is assessed at $15,000.