The creation of a large new park in Greenburgh took a major step forward last night with the authorization by the Town Board to spend $3.75 million to purchase the land off Taxter Ridge.
The board voted unanimously to buy the land, sparking applause from 30 people who came to Town Hall to support the measure. The deal to buy 183 acres of woodland in the East Irvington section of town from the Unification Church of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon could be sealed early next year, when New York state and Westchester County are expected to pay out equal thirds of the roughly $12 million purchase price.
Residents urged the board to buy the land — despite criticism from some quarters that the process behind the negotiations was faulty and that Greenburgh’s incorporated villages were not paying any money toward the purchase.
“I’m no big fan of taxes,” said a town resident, Roger Brooks. “But I know we have a unique prospect here. The benefits will flow almost entirely to the residents of the town of Greenburgh, and this is a now-or-never opportunity. To let this opportunity slip away would be an extraordinary case of being penny-wise and pound-foolish.”
Another resident, Don Siegel, said, “The acquisition isn’t just for the people near Taxter Ridge. It’s for everyone in Greenburgh.”
Robert Bernstein, a neighborhood leader who has faulted the land deal for letting the villages in Greenburgh — Hastings-on-Hudson, Dobbs Ferry, Irvington, Tarrytown, Elmsford and Ardsley — avoid paying anything for Taxter Ridge, reiterated his calls for more time to discuss and analyze the land deal. But the Town Board declined and voted to authorize the spending.
A separate 17 acres of Unification Church land within the borders of Tarrytown was not covered by the approvals last night. They will be the subject of a separate acquisition attempt by the village of Tarrytown in the future.
One board member, Steve Bass, said he would like to revisit the issue of tax burdens shared by the town and the villages in the future, but the Taxter Ridge land deal needed prompt approvals and he voted “yes” to the spending.
Town Supervisor Paul Feiner called the Taxter Ridge a “coup for the town” and said the town would benefit for generations to come with the extra parkland. The Unification Church, which once considered building a university there, owned the land for more than 20 years and considered selling it to a commercial developer before opening talks for public acquisition.