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Protectors Semi-Annual Spring Meeting Sunday April 3 from 1-4

Protectors Semi-Annual Spring Meeting
Sunday, April 3,  2016 – 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm
(Located at the end of Hylan Boulevard in Tottenville).

Guest speakers will include John Kilcullen, Director of Conference House Park
Up dates on the 
status of the Bluebelts at Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve;
DEC’s decision regarding BJ’s onForest Avenue; 
Grasshopper Sparrows and 
Parks without Borders.

Additionally, a photographic exhibition showing those natural areas, parks and open spaces that Protectors has been instrumental in conserving will be installed at the Lenape Gallery at the Conference House Park Visitors’ Center.  An opening reception will be held in the Gallery immediately following the semi-annual meeting.

For more information, call 929-428-0878 or visit


Volunteer to fight shoreline erosion before ground freezes


Volunteers Liam Haggety and Liam Murphy plant American Beachgrass at Great Kills Park on Nov. 15,  2013. (Courtesy of National Park Service)

By Kathryn Carse |
on January 12,  2016 at 10:31 AM

STATEN ISLAND,  N.Y. — The race is on. Beachgrass is being planted by a Student Conservation Association team in Great Kills Park, but more volunteers are needed to assist them get 50,000 stems planted before the ground freezes.

The prolific native plant is instrumental in protecting the shoreline from erosion.

“American Beachgrass is the best native plant for stabilizing sand dunes on the windswept beaches.  It is deeply rooted, and stands in tussocks 4-to-5-feet-tall.  A single planted stem can multiply into a dozen or more stems in one growing season,” explains George Frame, a biologist with Gateway’s Natural Resources team.

Most other plants cannot thrive on dry dunes constantly spritzed by salt spray. One of the American beach grass secret weapons is to spread by rhizomes (underground stems) and by seeds.

It contributes to the health of the dunes in another way too.

“The tall dense tussocks cause wind-blown sand to drop out of the air, thereby adding height to the dune,” said Frame.

The Student Conservation Association aims to develop conservation leaders and lifelong stewards of the environment through hands-on experience. In observance of Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday, volunteers are asked to join in the effort on Saturday, Jan. 16th, from 9 a.m. until noon to participate in this beachgrass restoration project.

Meet in the main parking lot at Gateway National Recreation Area, Great Kills Park, across from the ranger station. If Saturday has rain showers, participants will take cover in cars, and then plant between the showers

Protectors of Pine Oak Woods Celebrates 40 years on September 20th at the Staaten!

Protectors of Pine Oak Woods Celebrates 40 years on September 20th  at the Staaten

Save the Date – Sunday, Sept 20, 2015 – Protectors 40th Anniversary

Please join us as we celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Protectors of Pine Oak Woods and the accomplishments of Ellen O’Flaherty Pratt on Sunday, check September 20, 2015 from 12:00 noon to 4:00 p.m. at LiGreci’ Staten, 697 Forest Avenue, Staten Island,NY.  Cost:  $70.00 per person.  Look for your invitation the first week in August.  For additional information contact Elaine Croteau at or 718-698-6056



Wariness about fate of St. Francis property

Wariness about fate of St. Francis property is still warranted (editorial) |

Wariness about fate of St. Francis property is still warranted (editorial)

Wariness about fate of St. Francis property is still warranted (editorial) |

We were struck the other day by a story in the Advance about the borough’s leading environmental organization, Protectors of Pine Oak Woods, marking the anniversary of one of its greatest triumphs.

The event was a nature walk through the beautiful St. Francis Woodlands tract atop Todt Hill and the occasion was a commemoration of the group’s success in persuading then-Gov. George Pataki to have the state purchase most of a 29-acre tract surrounding the St. Francis Friary.

The Conventual Franciscans, the order that owned the property and ran a retreat house and religious center in the main building on the site for the better part of a century, was eager to shed the expense of maintaining the sprawling tract.

No doubt, the order was also well aware that the value of this ultra-prime piece of real estate amid one of the region’s most affluent communities was considerable.

According to reports, it had been priced at $21.5 million, and that’s in 1995 dollars.

However, to their eternal credit, the Franciscans patiently worked out a deal whereby the state could buy 24 acres of the woods and other open space on property for about half that price, with the order retaining the rest for its friary and spirituality center for the past couple of decades.

‘Truly a treasure’

“The woodlands of the friary are truly a treasure,” Clifford Hagen, the president of Protectors said during last week’s nature walk. “Our mission has always been about preserving and protecting the beautiful areas that are part of our borough.”

He’s right to crow. His organization, led at the time by the dauntless Ellen Pratt and co-founder, Richard Buegler, was instrumental in preserving what was to become the crown jewel of the 2,500-acre Staten Island Greenbelt.

But now the Franciscans have moved out altogether and have been in discussions to sell the remaining five acres. A sale, we’re told, is imminent.

But to whom?

And for what purpose?

The Franciscans, citing the need for confidentiality amid ongoing negotiations, say they can’t say, but the Rev. Brad Milunski, the vicar provincial for the Our Lady of the Angels Province of the Conventual Franciscan Friars, has told residents and Mid-Island Councilman Steven Matteo not to worry.

Mr. Matteo said, “First and foremost, I want to see the property used in a way that does not burden the community. I have let the Friars know that I believe the site should be sold to a buyer that would use the friary for a purpose similar to the use they had for it over the years. I am reassured that is their intent with the sale of this property.”

Strong assurances

And Dr. Mohammad Khalid, president of the Iron Hills Civic Association, echoed that confidence when he reported last month, “Father Brad assured me that there will be no other things except a religious order coming here, and it will be something similar to what is here now. The only reason they can’t disclose [which organization is interested in the property] to us is because of a confidentiality agreement. But Father Brad assured us that this won’t be a another Mount Manresa.”

Those are the magic words for wary Staten Islanders who have recent, bitter memories of Mount Manresa, another beautiful property owned by another religious organization with long-standing ties in the community.

But that 15-acre property that was sold before anyone knew what was happening, and to a developer whose plans to tear down the woods and the historic buildings to build 250 townhouses are proceeding, thanks to the complacency of many.

‘A stronger voice’

No, the same thing won’t happen on Todt Hill. Its restrictive zoning allows for only detached houses on large lots. We just don’t share the confidence Mr. Hagen had when he assured his fellow Protectors, “It’s similar (to Mount Manresa) in a sense it being a religious institution, but it is very dissimilar. The community here up on Todt Hill has a stronger voice, they’re certainly well-organized and they have the help of City Council.”

All true, but even that would mean the loss of priceless open space and significant old buildings.

What’s more, even medium-scale residential development on the site, with the increased traffic and other effects it would bring, would inevitably have a negative impact on the quality of life of the larger community.

We still don’t know what “religious order” is the buyer. And, despite assurances, we don’t know what its intentions are.

Do they plan to host large events, for example? Nor do we know its capacity for carrying out its plans, whatever they might be.

Another non-profit religious organization could find maintaining the property as financially difficult as the Franciscans did. What happens then? Might that group turn around and sell again in a year or two? Some developers are surely salivating at the prospect of building an enclave of high-end homes there.

So with all due respect to Father Milunski and his brethren, as well as Mr. Matteo, a lot of Staten Islanders won’t be able to rest easy until they know who the new owners might be, what their plans are and what kind of track record they have.

Sorry, but we think wariness is still the most prudent approach here.

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