By: Jennifer Korn
As the County Legislature prepares to vote on next year’s operating
budget one item has remained conspicuously absent from the discussion.
Despite severe budget shortfalls and continued pressure from the
community, Rockland’s government has still not made any decisions as
to the fate of a county-owned property that’s valued at millions of
dollars and has been left vacant for three years.
Since December of 2017, county legislators have disputed the sale of
the Sain Building, which is located in New City and
sits adjacent to the county courthouse and the offices of the county
legislature. The building was constructed in 1962, bought by the county in 1974, and sits on 3.5 acres of land at 18 New Hempstead Road.Planned to be used as office space for the county, the last of its agencies, Consumer Protection, left the building three years ago. In an effort to provide senior housing, there was a proposal for the county to develop the property. However, a shortfall in the budget and the prospect of collecting real estate taxes from a privately owned property has some advocating for the sale of the Sain property.
Ed Day, Rockland County Executive, has pushed to sell
building since his first term. In 2017, Day wrote about his position
on the issue in his column in the Rockland County Times.
“It never really worked as an office building because it was never
designed to be one,” wrote Day. A restaurant built on the top floor
of the Sain building never opened and a swimming pool in the basement
is filled with cement. Costs to repair the building are estimated at
about $10 million.
National Development, a Massachusetts based firm, offered to purchase
the Sain Building multiple times, but the Rockland County Legislature
rejected the sale. The company formally withdrew its bid in 2018. When
Day announced that the deal fell through, he blamed the legislature.
“The inaction and outright obstruction of some in the Rockland
County Legislature has killed this deal,” said Day.
That same day, Legislator Alden Wolfe released a statement in response
to Day’s criticism. “Many of my colleagues and I have had serious
concerns about this deal since it was first proposed,” wrote Wolfe.
“[The developer] is not only a campaign contributor to Ed Day,
George Hoehmann and others, but also served in a high-ranking position
in Ed Day’s campaign. He stands to make a six-figure commission if
this deal goes through.”
Wolfe stated that the developer, Scott Milich, reached out to Day
privately in the fall of 2015 and arranged a private visit to the Sain
Building long before it was offered for sale to the public.
While Wolfe did not feel comfortable following through with the sale,
he did write that believes the Sain Building should be demolished.
“I agree that the building itself should be knocked down, but I’m
not yet prepared to sell taxpayer-owned real estate without a well
thought out plan that meets the current and future needs of
Rockland’s residents” wrote Wolfe.
Day once again proposed to sell the building in August of this year.
He submitted a three resolution plan, which included an increase in
county sales tax from 8 and 3/8ths percent to 8 and 7/8ths percent.
Day drafted the resolutions to help Rockland recover from the
financial impact of COVID-19. The legislature rejected the proposal in
“This situation is the epitome of failure by the Democrat
Legislative Majority,” said Day in a statement to the Rockland
County Times. “The Chairman of the Legislature, Alden Wolfe, has
failed to make any progress towards the sale of the Sain building
despite saying in September in response to the Resolution I submitted
to move forward with the sale, that he did not want to ‘rush to
judgment’ on the issue.”
Wolfe disagreed. “County Executive Ed Day is married to the idea of
selling the Sain property simply for the sake of selling it,” said
Wolfe in a statement submitted to the Rockland County Times. “This
time around, Ed Day pitched selling the Sain property for the same
reason he did in 2015 – to use the revenue to help balance the
According to Wolfe, when the county sold the bank building during the
fiscal crisis a few years ago, it was criticized by the State
Comptroller and credit rating agencies, “who described it as a
one-shot revenue, not a strong annual budgeting strategy,” said
Wolfe. “The County hasn’t engaged in such behavior since then and
hopefully won’t need to going forward.”
The Chairman cautioned that the county must be careful before deciding
that the Sain Building has no future need, but Day said the failure to
sell the building has cost the county millions in property taxes.
“The Democratic Majority has failed to grasp the economic realities
in Rockland County by refusing to move forward with what was once a
$4.5 million sale,” said Day. “Further, this failure has cost the
taxpayers of the Town of Clarkstown, Clarkstown Central School
District and the County of Rockland nearly half a million dollars a
year in property taxes. This has now cost $6.5 million and
According to Wolfe, the full legislature brought the matter to the
floor for a vote in 2018, and it failed. “Ed Day seems to believe
that a vote should take place over and over until he gets the result
he wants,” said Wolfe.
Although Wolfe disagreed with past proposals to sell the Sain
Building, he said he is open to reopening the discussion of the
“While the pandemic interrupted our efforts to renew discussion on
the proper use of the Sain property, going forward I remain open to
discussing any and all possibilities,” said Wolfe.
Do you feel the county should sell the property? Take our poll here: