100 Acres on Staten Island Protected (NY)

Staten Island, NY, 11/5/2007: The Trust for Public Land (TPL) joined local, state, and federal partners to announce the protection of 100 acres on Staten Island. Two properties-known as North Mount Loretto and Sharrots Road Shorelands-on Staten Island’s western shore will be purchased with assistance from The Trust for Public Land.

In addition, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Pete Grannis joined Edward Cardinal Egan and other city, state, and federal partners to announce the dedication of the “John Cardinal O’Connor Lighthouse” memorial as a tribute to the connection Cardinal O’Connor had with the historic and environmentally important Mount Loretto area.

“It’s not often you can say you’ve protected 100 acres of ecologically sensitive land in New York City. This was all made possible by strong leadership from Governor Spitzer and the State of New York, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and the bipartisan efforts of the New York congressional delegation, including Senators Schumer and Clinton, and Congressman Fossella,” said Leslie Wright, New York State Program Director for The Trust for Public Land, a national land conservation organization.

The North Mount Loretto property includes 75 acres of woods and wetlands north of Hylan Blvd. Funding for the $12.5 million purchase will come from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The purchase includes significant upland and freshwater wetlands that will provide additional flood and stormwater control, watershed protection, erosion prevention and sediment protection, and preservation of critical wildlife habitat.

Christopher Zeppie, Port Authority Director of the Office of Environmental Policy, Programs and Compliance said, “The pending North Mount Loretto acquisition on behalf of DEC is the most recent of several conservation acquisitions that The Trust for Public Land has facilitated on behalf of the Port Authority and we’re deeply grateful for their efforts on behalf of the Port Authority and the public. The Port Authority is pleased to add this – by far the largest acquisition to-date – to the list of resource acquisitions made under the Port Authority’s Hudson-Raritan Estuary Resources Program.”

In addition, TPL is working with the DEC to acquire the 25-acre Sharrotts Road Shoreland parcels in the near future using funding from the Jamaica Bay Damages Account. The property consists of three separate lots of freshwater and tidal wetlands. The land will be used for passive recreation such as hiking and birding and provides access to the Arthur Kill. This area has been identified as a preservation priority on the state Open Space Conservation Plan. Additionally, members of Protectors of Pine Oak Woods, a Staten Island land conservation organization, have long advocated for its protection.

The parcels will join other recent acquisitions, such as Butler Manor Woods-an 18-acre parcel acquired by the state last year with the assistance of Senators Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton, Congressman Vito Fossella, the Port Authority, and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and a mitigation fund administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice. The lands will further protect Mount Loretto Unique Area’s diverse and ecologically important habitats.

In the 1880’s, Mount Loretto was a mission for homeless and disabled children. With the aid of TPL, the state was able to acquire 194 acres south of Hylan Boulevard at Mount Loretto in 2000. The acquisition included an endowment for the long-term stewardship of the property. The lighthouse is located on land included in the purchase. In tribute to his personal connection to Mount Loretto, the Prince’s Bay Lighthouse has been renamed the “John Cardinal O’Connor Lighthouse” and a new beacon has been activated as an official aid to navigation.

“Cardinal O’Connor was a tremendous public servant, spiritual leader, and a true appreciator of the beauty and serenity at Mount Loretto,” DEC Commissioner Grannis said. “With this lighthouse designation, we celebrate his legacy and also the ongoing commitment by numerous public and private entities to continue preserving critical open space on Staten Island for the enjoyment of future generations of New Yorkers.”

Edward Cardinal Egan, the Archbishop of New York, said, “His Eminence, John Cardinal O’Connor would have been deeply touched by this tribute. During his tenure as Archbishop of New York, Cardinal O’Connor worked tirelessly to enhance and improve the lives of all-Catholic and non-Catholic alike-and providing the Mount Loretto property to the people of Staten Island and the State of New York is just one example of the countless ways the Cardinal accomplished this. I am also pleased that we are able to continue my predecessor’s program to make available the North Mount Loretto Property for the further preservation of open space.”

Congressman Fossella said, “Cardinal O’Connor was a man of tremendous strength and character who devoted his life to God and country. He touched the lives of millions of people of all faiths through countless endeavors on behalf of children, the poor, the elderly and the sick. Cardinal O’Connor loved Mt. Loretto, and he would be delighted that we have helped save another 100 acres here for future generations. Today is a special day for Cardinal O’Connor, his family and the people of Staten Island.”

The Trust for Public Land conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. TPL has protected more than 2.2 million acres of land nationwide, including more than 126,000 acres throughout the state of New York.