By Kathy Kahn
Four years ago, IBM sold its luxurious campus/conference center in the hamlet of Palisades for $59.6 million to China-based Hainan Airlines. After renaming the campus HNA Palisades Center, the airline/hotel conglomerate put the property on the market in late 2017. With CoV-19 effectively shutting down the entire hotel/conference industry, HNA began renting the property out for special use and recently hosted a film crew working on a series for Apple TV.
The Town of Orangetown hired engineering/planning firm AKRF and attorneys Zarin & Steinmetz in August, 2020 to assist with the marketing and sale of the 106-acre parcel. On Thursday, October 1, the Board unanimously passed a Resolution to instruct both AKRF and Zarin & Steinmetz to circulate a Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) to potential buyers.
In that same Resolution, Orangetown added a caveat– if the current owner is not willing to cooperate in the sale of the property in accordance with the RFEI and the development process outlined there in, the municipality could consider exercising its condemnation authority as provided under NYS law. Orangetown Supervisor Theresa Kenney does not think the Town will be forced into exercising that option.
“The current owner has been totally cooperating with us to market the conference center and its surrounding property,” said Kenney. “Multiple buyers have expressed an interest in purchasing HNA but so many proposed changes to zoning and use that those requests have been problematic and need to be properly addressed.” The property is zoned OP (Office/Professional).
“The HNA Palisades Center is a major contributor to Orangetown. We collect $1.2 million in school taxes and approximately $600,000 in Town taxes annually,” continued Kenney. “We are working in the best interests of our entire community. HNA has been very cooperative –the action we have taken in engaging the engineering/planning firm and legal counsel will help us move the process along.”
Lifelong resident Blythe Anderson Chase Center told The Rockland Times the Route 9W property was a tree farm when her parents purchased their home back in the 1940’s. She and her neighbors would like to see the property developed to fit the character of the community as well remaining on Town tax rolls.
One positive that has come out of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic for Orangetown and other entities: the expanded use of televised coverage, connecting elected officials to their constituency. “Our meetings are live on our Facebook page and also shown on You Tube, so we have many more people participating in the process than we had before,” said Kenney. “I think it has been a great benefit to the residents at large to understand and take part in the workings of government. It has also helped our elected officials connect directly with their constituents.”
William “Billy” Procida, principal of Procida Funding, told The Rockland Times, “I’ve been interested in purchasing the property for ten years…the situation has become complex, since HNA is now officially a part of the Bank of China. Nevertheless, I am still interested in working with Supervisor Theresa Kenney and the board.” Procida owns the nearby Tallman Beach & Pool Club.