City, County, and State officials were joined by Jay Heritage Center founders, board members, and friends for a special press conference, October 5 at the historic site on Boston Post Road.
By Bill Lawyer
City, County, and State officials were joined by Jay Heritage Center founders, board members, and friends for a special press conference, October 5 at the historic site on Boston Post Road. The big news is that going forward, the 23-acre John Jay property will be entirely managed by the Jay Center. Up to now, the Center managed a 1.5-acre parcel, and the State and County managed the rest.
Calling the new management structure a “landmark agreement,” County Executive Robert Astorino noted, “It has been over 20 years since the County, working with New York State, came to the rescue of the Jay Property, saving it from demolition.”
Local residents and other interested parties joined together back in the 1980s to protect the land from being subdivided and developed for private homes. The Jay Heritage Center (JHC) took ownership and control of the main building and carriage house, which has been renovated to serve as the site’s visitor center.
Because the majority of the funding for the project came from New York State and Westchester County, these two entities were given title to the nearly 22 acres.
The new contract will be in the form of a “licensing agreement” that will transfer oversight for the upkeep of the property and investment in capital infrastructures to the JHC. Being a not-for-profit 501 C3 entity, it will be able to accept tax-deductible donations from individuals and corporations toward the restoration of the buildings and grounds.
In opening remarks, JHC President Suzanne Clary expressed her gratitude to all the people who had contributed their time, talents and financial support over the years. “With this agreement, we will be able to restore the historic meadows, gardens, apple orchards, and historic structures.”
In addition to celebrating the life and heritage of John Jay, the JHC’s mission is to use the site for varied educational and cultural activities for people of all ages. Clary said that uses of the site would include public lecture series, musical performances, art exhibits, and conferences. “We want to be a model for all public-private cultural institutions in the years ahead.”
Clary added, “Families are looking for places of beauty and history to inform and inspire their daily lives.”
Under the new agreement, the County Executive noted that, “The County is stepping in…with an innovative public/private partnership to preserve it for future generations in a way that doesn’t fall on taxpayers.”
NY State Parks Deputy Commissioner Tom Alworth pointed out that his department’s full name is Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, and the Department puts high priority on supporting partnerships with not-for-profits that combine both parts of their mission. He expressed confidence that the Jay Center “will continue their excellent stewardship of the site.”
Among the details of the license agreement are: the agreement is for a term of ten years, after which it can be renewed; the County and State will have the right to approve or disapprove any physical alterations to the property; the property will continue to be open to the public, but JHC may charge admission fees, subject to approval by the State and County; JHC must prepare and get approval for a maintenance and development plan; the County will provide police coverage, but all other costs will be paid for by JHC; and, the County will pay for any environmental mediation of conditions existing before the license agreement takes effect.
The final part of the agreement no doubt refers to the controversial depositing of contaminated landfill from the County-owned Playland Amusement Park on part of the Jay property several years ago.
Among those who helped craft the terms of the agreement were Bill Mooney of the County Executive’s staff, and former Rye Mayor Steve Otis, who was involved in the original negotiations to purchase the Jay Property. Both were at the press conference.
Otis expressed his satisfaction in seeing how far things have come at the Jay Center, and remarked: “I’m sure that even greater things will be coming in the years ahead.”