WEST NYACK, N.Y. -- The Town of Clarkstown and the Rockland Farm Alliance have ended an agreement that had allowed the farming group to live in an historic building and farm the land on a nine-acre parcel next to Germonds Park known as the Traphagen Property.
Clarkstown officials last week confirmed that a license agreement that was signed last August has been made null and void. Former Supervisor Alex Gromack had negotiated the specific terms of the license agreement with the Farm Alliance without participation from the larger council. However council members had given him the power to do so.
The license had called for the Alliance to use the land for "heritage farming" and "related educational programming." Farmer Jose Romero-Bosch moved into the white farmhouse last summer, though the Alliance had no financial responsibility for the house and its upkeep.
Recently, the town discovered asbestos in the basement of the Traphagen house. The Farm Alliance was told Romero-Bosch needed to vacate.
"Once the farmer was told to leave, the Alliance kicked up its heels and decided to leave," said Town Historian Bob Knight.
The Rockland Farm Alliance took over the Cropsey farm on Little Tor Road in New City several years ago after the Cropseys sold the farm and an historic barn to the Town of Clarkstown and to Rockland County. The RFA sells its crops through CSAs and at farmers' markets.
Public opinion was divided over the decision to hand the Traphagen property to the farming group. Some championed the decision, saying Rockland County needs more farming. However, others opposed the arrangement because it gave the Alliance nearly total control over a town asset.
The Traphagen site is a great swath of open land, and it has two significant historic houses, the Traphagen House and the 1730s Vanderbilt-Budke house. For years, residents and government officials have been meeting to discuss ways to maximize the use of the site, including suggestions to create an historic focus for the town.
The town is waiting for preservationist and historian Tim Adriance to complete an historic structure report. Meanwhile Habitat For Humanity, along with Heritage of West Nyack, has been working to stabilize the Vanderbilt-Budke house.
"RFA received a letter from the Town of Clarkstown indicating that the License Agreement between the two parties regarding the Traphagen property was terminated in accordance with that agreement," John McDowell wrote in an email. "RFA was advised that the termination was necessary due to the discovery of asbestos in the Traphagen house that would require a large and rapid response."
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