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Rockland County Also Purchases Nearly 12 Acres of Wooded Land On New Valley Road In New City
By Tina Traster
Edmund Wyatt Gordon relocated from North Carolina’s segregated South in the 1950s to raise his family in Skyview Acres in Pomona, a 110-acre cooperative community of 46 homes that values conservation and land stewardship. At the time, before the Tappan Zee Bridge was built, Rockland was relatively rural, filled with farms and open space and the Gordons had lived briefly in New York City before settling in Pomona.
“As far as I can remember, my mother was a conservationist, even before that was a thing to be,” said Gordon.
Gordon, an esteemed doctor and scholar, and his wife Susan Gitt Gordon, a pediatrician from rural Pennsylvania, raised four children on their prized land in a community that shared core values, child raising, and protection of the natural environment. In the 1990s, the Gordons bought two large, wooded tracts abutting their parcel to save it from commercial development.
Now, Rockland County, as part of its Open Space Acquisition Program, has purchased the two parcels totaling 13.34 acres situated to the west of Route 45 and the east of the Palisades Parkway in Pomona for $1.39 million from two Gordon family trusts. The county also recently purchased 11.83 acres at 20 New Valley Road in New City from Davies Farm Inc., paying $4 million for the vacant residential land. The purchase is not related to the current Dr. Davies farm family.
“My parents bought this land with the intent to keep it from being commercially developed a long time ago,” said Chris W. Gordon, Edmund and Susan’s son. “This was my parents’ wish. We’re happy we could come to an agreement with the county.”
The two parcels are located at 1015 and 1019 Route 45 in Pomona.
The vacant land, which includes woodlands, wetlands, and a primitive walking trail named in Susan Gordon’s memory, will be dedicated parkland, according to a restrictive covenant recorded with the deed. The Gordon family hopes the half mile primitive walking trail will be developed and maintained by the county, perhaps by youth groups or conservationists.
“As far as I can remember, my mother was a conservationist, even before that was a thing to be,” said Gordon. “She’d take the kids into the woods and teach us about the trees and plants. She always taught us to respect the outdoors and the environment. This land is a continuation of her legacy.”
The Gordons have left a deep and enduring imprint on Rockland County and beyond.
Susan Gordon, who died in 2016, practiced pediatrics for 60 years.
Her husband Edmund Gordon, who turns 102 this June, is the John M. Musser Professor of Psychology, Emeritus at Yale University, Richard March Hoe Professor, Emeritus of Psychology and Education and Founding Director of the Institute of Urban and Minority Education (IUME) at Teachers College, Columbia University.
He is a member of the Black Educator Hall of Fame.
He is also the Senior Scholar in Residence at the College Board and a founding member of Spring Valley NAACP. He co-founded The CEJJES Institute in Pomona.
Gordon’s career accolades list professional practice, minister, clinical counseling, research scientist, author, and editor. He received his bachelor’s degrees in zoology and social ethics from Howard University; his masters in social psychology at American University; and a doctorate in child development and guidance from Teachers College, Columbia University. For decades, he led a team at the College Board in quantifying the racial achievement gap in test scores, grade point average, class ranking, challenging the orthodox view that discussing deficiencies in Black families and communities perpetuates painful stereotypes about racial inferiority.
The Gordon children continue their parent’s life work to promote social justice, with a focus on health, education, and environmental and material well-being of marginalized communities, in their own work and through the CEJJES Institute, which works primarily in collaboration with communities of color, particularly those of African descent.
Chris Gordon, president of CEJJES, said the proceeds from the sale are not related to the Institute. “It’s a private sale,” he added.
The Institute includes a conference center, the Charles W. White Memorial Art Gallery, the Rockland African Diaspora Heritage Center and an education and resource center.
CEJJES, which also houses the African American Historical Society of Rockland County, believes that by engaging in education, critical thinking, activist research, strategizing, and organizing with such communities, social justice and liberation can be achieved.
Earlier this year, Edmund Gordon told a Philadelphia blogger: “I’m not going to be around for that much longer, and I want to do something where I have some chance of success… I doubt we can do anything in that time frame at the lower socioeconomic level. But we do understand what to do to help the minority kids in [New Jersey] or East Ramapo or Shaker Heights. And even that’s a tall order in the few years I have left.”
The primary focus of the work of the Institute is in Rockland County, New York, but the concerns of the Institute are worldwide.