From The New York Times:
Sister Veronica Mendez adjusted her glasses and tried to remember the last time someone joined the religious order here. “Joined and stayed?” she pondered. “It would have been the 1970s.”
That stark fact, and the concomitant drop in the number of nuns to 17 from 72, explains why the Sisters of Our Lady of Christian Doctrine decided to do some estate planning. “It’s looking at the fact that we’re not going to live forever,” Sister Veronica, the order’s president, said.
The order’s biggest asset: 40 acres of prime real estate overlooking the Hudson River in this sought-after Rockland County suburb, about 30 miles north of New York City. Instead of offering the land to the housing developers who have come knocking, the nuns have decided to sell 30 acres to the Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit conservation group, which, in turn, will convey the land to the State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
A recovering economy has contributed to an uptick in home construction and renewed pressures on vacant land, especially in bedroom communities. The property here was especially desirable from a conservation standpoint because it adjoins both Nyack Beach State Parkand Rockland Lake State Park and lies in the shadow of Hook Mountain State Park.
“It’s huge,” said Marc A. Matsil, the New York State director of the Trust for Public Land, referring to the decision by the order to turn most of its property into parkland. “The thing that excites us, and the state, is the connectivity to three treasured state parks. And the view shed is magnificent. To the north, you see landscapes that inspired theHudson River School painters, and to the south, a more urban landscape.”
Sister Veronica, 73, said the order, whose members are better known as the Marydell sisters, chose to hold on to 10 acres, which include all 19 of its buildings. Among the structures are a convent, an outdoor chapel and rustic cabins used for weekend retreats and day-camp programs in summer.
The order, which operates the Marydell Faith and Life Center, is selling the 30 acres to the trust for $3.1 million, an amount that Sister Veronica said was below market rate. “Some people have suggested that we could get $10 million,” she said matter-of-factly, as she showed off the land on a bitterly cold afternoon.
Photo: Fred R. Conrad / The New York Times