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January 27, 1999

Contact: Geoffrey Ryan (718/595-5371)

New York City Purchases "Meadows" Property In Kent

Commissioner Joel A. Miele Sr., P.E., of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced today that the City has purchased a large portion of a 387-acre property known as "The Meadows" in the Putnam County town of Kent. The purchase of the 247-acre site is part of the City's effort to protect water quality through acquisition of undeveloped land, as provided for in the 1997 Watershed Memorandum of Agreement (MOA). Extensive frontage on Horsepound Brook and several of its tributaries is included in the site. Horsepound Brook drains directly into the West Branch Reservoir. The property acquired by the City, like much of the land in the West Branch basin, is in the highest priority classification for the City's watershed acquisition plans, whereas the acreage retained by the owner is primarily in the lowest priority category.

Commissioner Miele said, "This acquisition will be a great help in protecting the quality of water that enters the supply system from the West Branch Reservoir, and we are pleased that the principals of J.G. Carmel, Incorporated, decided to sell their property to the City. In fact, the overall response of willing sellers to the City's fair market-value purchase offers has been overwhelmingly positive. To date, the City has signed purchase agreements with 156 landowners on more than 13,000 acres throughout the watershed, which includes land in five counties of the Catskill Mountain region, as well as portions of Dutchess, Putnam and Westchester Counties."

Peder Matsgard, a representative for J.G. Carmel said, "Our company intended to develop the site, but, knowing the importance of the area with respect to water quality, we also wanted to explore the possibility of an outright sale to the City. The City's Land Acquisition and Stewardship Program staff treated us fairly, professionally and courteously at every junction, and we were pleased with their fair market purchase offer. We were also pleased that we could do the right thing with respect to water quality. I would certainly recommend that landowners or developers in the watershed at least consider selling their land to the City -- I think they will be pleasantly surprised."

Under provisions of the MOA, New York City is acquiring watershed lands that are important for the protection of drinking water quality. The program involves willing seller/willing buyer agreements, with the City offering to purchase lands and/or conservation easements at fair market value. The City will make property tax payments based on the fair market value of the acquisitions. Lands acquired will be protected from development, with many of the properties opened up for public access and recreation.

"I encourage landowners to consider selling easements as an alternative to outright sales of property," said Commissioner Miele. "With easements, owners keep title to properties and the rights to use them for various purposes, including recreational and agricultural pursuits and even limited development. By paying somewhat less for easements than for title purchases, the City will be able to stretch its dollars and protect more of the water-quality-sensitive land in the watershed. An additional benefit to owners is that they pay reduced taxes on properties that are no longer developable under easements. I hasten to add that the City pays the difference between the developable property tax rate and the owner's reduced tax rate, so tax collecting entities do not lose any revenues."

Because water may be transferred from the Delaware Aqueduct to the West Branch Reservoir and from that reservoir to the aqueduct, and because water from the Boyds Corner Reservoir feeds into the West Branch, the two reservoirs are considered as part of the Catskill-Delaware water supply system. Lands meeting certain criteria for water quality protection in the watersheds of the two reservoirs, therefore, are identified in the MOA as high priority properties for the City to acquire.


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