By CHERYL SLAVIN
After years of pursuing the dream, the Town of Haverstraw is coming close to completing a deal with New YorkState to acquire a 25 acre lot that has stood vacant for more than two decades. The property, bounded by No.Central Highway to the west, Cinder Road to the south, and Chapel Road and HelenHayesHospital to the east, will be developed as a park with ball fields and possibly a nature walk around the perimeter.
“This has been years in the making,” says Town Supervisor Howard Phillips. “We have been working toward acquiring this land since 1982 or ’83.”
The State had acquired the property, situated adjacent to HelenHayesHospital, many years earlier with an eye toward expanding the facility. However, after nearly two decades of sitting vacant, and no expansion in sight, the Town convinced the OGS Bureau of Land Management that it was saleable surplus. Phillips credits several elected officials including Governor Cuomo, State Senator William Larkin and State Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski, as well as leadership at HelenHayesHospital, for the support that finally convinced the OGS to sell.
Haverstraw Councilman Vincent Gamboli explains that the Town has struggled for years with lack of adequate space to accommodate Little League, youth football, girls’ softball, lacrosse teams and other sports events and clubs within the Town. With only two fields available at any one time, kids have ended up playing baseball and other sports as late as 10:30 on school nights. Moreover, the Rockland County Challenger League, a Little League program designed for developmentally and physically challenged children, has never had a ball field to call its home. With the addition of the fields in Haverstraw, it finally will. Moreover, any town club or organization will be able to use the fields, schedules permitting.
The playing fields will be multi-purpose to accommodate all kinds of sports. Plans have not yet been finalized for the park, but at a minimum it will include a concession stand and state of the art lighting that will illuminate only the fields while not disturbing the neighboring homes. Phillips also hopes to add a nature walk around the perimeter of the property for the enjoyment of all residents, including parents who have taken their kids to games or practices.
The Town will acquire the property for only one dollar. Phillips estimates that it will be at least 6 months before the deal with the State is final, and probably a total of 15 months until the park has been developed and is useable. He intends to call together various organizations and interested parties for input into the planning stages and expects to cover the cost of development primarily through donations, grants and volunteer labor. “We will make this as affordable as possible,” he says.
As part of the deal, the staff and patients of HelenHayesHospital will also have access to the park and the playing fields. Staff members are especially excited that the outdoor space will be available for the hospital’s rehabilitation programs.
One other important component of the sale agreement requires that the property be used for recreational purposes only. It can never be developed into anything else. Phillips and Gamboli both are completely on board with this mandate.
“Great outdoor space and recreational facilities are what helps build a community,” says Phillips. “And, it is the kind of amenity that will attract new residents to our wonderful town.”