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Innovative partnership protects unique 59-acre Westchester wilderness tract

YORKTOWN, NY – June 13, 2012 – Along with Westchester County and the Teatown Lake Reservation, the Open Space Institute today celebrated an innovative partnership that led to the protection of The Croft, a unique and important 59-acre open space tract now to remain unspoiled for future generations.

The acquisition and protection of The Croft represents a major step forward for Westchester County open space networks. As a “linkage” property that is adjacent to Teatown’s own 875 acres of forests, swamps, meadows, groves, streams and farmland, The Croft provides a vital bridge in the region’s extensive Biotic Corridor. 

Now preserved, it expands Westchester’s network of open space by creating important trail connections and providing critical wildlife corridors. 

“The addition of The Croft has in a real sense unified some 2,000 acres of permanent open space that lies just 40 miles north of midtown Manhattan,” Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino said Wednesday during a dedication ceremony. 
 
The Croft was purchased for $3.4 million through a combination of Teatown’s funds, private contributions and $1.3 million in financing by OSI. OSI also provided consulting services relating to the acquisition, and the Norcross Foundation provided bridge loan financing that helped make the transaction possible.   

Westchester County’s purchase of a permanent conservation easement on the property also helped make Teatown’s longtime goal of protecting the parcel a reality. 

“The guidance and creative thinking of the county planning department and members of the Astorino administration cannot be overstated,” said Geoff Thompson, the former Teatown long-time chair. “They worked collaboratively with Teatown to make this long-held dream a reality. The cooperation and team approach can serve as a model for open space protection in the future.”

Wednesday was also not the first time OSI and Teatown have teamed up. In 1996, OSI acquired a 40-acre parcel containing important habitat and diversity that has been managed by Teatown for environmental education in the years since.   

The Croft is also rich in wildlife and offers an isolated tranquil beauty that is rare in a major metropolitan area. The 9-acre spring-fed Vernay Lake lies between Shadow Lake upstream and to the east and Teatown Lake downstream to the west. The three-lake system drains directly into the New York City-owned Croton Reservoir, a major source of the region’s drinking water supply.

“This parcel is located within an extremely important local and New York City water supply basin,” said OSI CEO and President Kim Elliman. “Its protection continues our longtime partnership with Teatown and expands a significant environmental resource as well as recreational opportunities in Westchester County.”

The property was originally developed in the early 1900s by Arthur Vernay, a prominent antiques dealer, and then was acquired in 1922 by Gerard Swope, Sr., president of General Electric, who expanded the property into a country estate where he lived until his death in 1957.  His heirs subsequently gave the bulk of the estate including the stable complex to create the Teatown Lake Reservation in 1963.  

The 72 acres that included the Swope family home and a farmhouse were sold to Phil E. Gilbert, Jr., who lived at The Croft until his death in 2008. Mr. Gilbert’s heirs had hoped for the conservation of the property as part of Teatown. Today, their hope became a reality.

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