RCBJ-Audible (Listen For Free)
Town Officials Suggest House Could Be Razed To Make A Pocket Park At 55 Waldron But Residents And Civic Leaders Question Why No Input Was Sought
By Tina Traster
The Town of Clarkstown board voted unanimously to purchase a tiny cottage on Waldron Avenue even though there is not a specific plan in place for the property and neighbors and civic leaders in Central Nyack said they’d been given no input about using this space for a pocket park.
“I found out about this by word of mouth,” said Cheryl Stroud, president of the Central Nyack Civic Association. “People want to understand more. ‘General Municipal Purposes’ is pretty vague. The people in the neighborhood are looking for a green space but it would be good for the community to hear what you’re thinking.”
Clarkstown’s board members approved bonding to purchase a two-bedroom bungalow on less than one eleventh of an acre for $365,000 – which includes the asking price of $349,000 plus expenses. This does not include the cost of demolition, nor does it compensate for removing the house from the tax rolls.
Additionally, the town’s offer to purchase the house includes an “escalation provision,” which means if the town is outbid, it will increase its offer, according to Supervisor George Hoehmann.
The board, which fielded criticism about the purchase at a noon town board meeting on Tuesday, revealed that there is not a specific plan in place. Hoehmann mentioned the property is across the street from the Central Nyack Community Center. Councilman Mike Graziano said he wanted to see the house used for firefighter housing – but there is no indication that the land is being bought for such a purpose.
Neighbors who have been lobbying the town for a green space for Central Nyack are confounded by this choice – and were unaware of the intended purchase — given the fact that the little yellow house sits tightly between two other houses and is hardly ideal for a park.
“I applaud the town for looking for green space, but I only learned about this in the last 24 hours,” said Schenley Vital, a Central Nyack community leader. “I’m an active member of the community and I didn’t know about this. This is moving too fast. There is no community buy-in. You should step away and allow discussion with key stakeholders.”
This is not the first time town officials have made decisions that have precluded discussion with Central Nyack. In March 2023 residents of Central Nyack, the most racially diverse section of Clarkstown, expressed anger and objection after the town adopted a redistricting map that carved their population in half and left it with two wardsmen rather than one. At the time, residents complained the community had not been warned, nor was their input sought.
Board members on Tuesday clearly had no intention of discussing in any detail the plan for the purchase and its aftermath but the board was resolved to approve the resolution for bonding. Councilman Patrick Carroll said he was satisfied with the deal because the sale price was less than the appraisal price.
Resident Al Osterlitz raised questions about the site, calling it “the wrong move, without input from the community.” He also pointed out that Waldron Avenue sits atop a high water table that is prone to flooding, making this site inappropriate for green space.
The purchase comes at a time when Clarkstown, along with every town across New York State, is suffering from a severe housing crisis.
Robert Simmons, who lives next door at 49 Waldron Avenue, said it was “disgusting” for the town to come in and purchase the house without letting nearby neighbors know.
“You didn’t have the community’s interest at heart,” said Simmons, who pointed out that this site is an “undersized” plot and inappropriate for a park. He also said if the public hearing had been held at 7 pm rather than at noon, many more residents would have turned out to voice objections.
Additionally, Simmons, who had made an unsuccessful bid on the house at full asking price – the same price the town is paying for now barring an escalation on bidding – added, “Why take away opportunity for housing when firefighters and first responders cannot afford to live in Central Nyack?”
The house at 55 Waldron, a rental owned by Nelson N. and Maryrose Torigian, was listed 25 days ago by Howard Hanna Rand for $349,000. The two-bedroom, one-bathroom house is 660-square-feet and was built in 1920 on less than one eleventh of an acre. At $365,000, Clarkstown would pay $530 per square foot for the house – at least three times greater than the asking price per square foot at a comparable 1,865 square-foot house on Shadyside Avenue, according to Zillow.
In addition, the town purchase would remove the house from the tax roll. The property pays nearly $7,000 in annual town, county, and school taxes.