Former Pace Campus Future Unclear After Sale to Rockland Congregation

Briarcliff Manor residents and officials are waiting for the other shoe to drop after learning the former Pace University campus had been sold to a Monsey religious congregation linked to the controversial purchase of another campus across the river.

Khal Torath Chaim of Rockland bought the 37-acre campus at 235 Elm Road in February from the Research Center on Natural Conservation for $11.75 million, according to documents on file with the Westchester County Clerk.

The sale price was far below the $17.4 million the research center paid in 2017 when it acquired the parcel from Pace. Its assessed value is $17.7 million, according to Town of Ossining records.

The parcel is currently on the tax rolls and Khal Torath Chaim would have to apply for tax-exempt status.

The property bordered by Tuttle Road includes dormitories, offices, a pair of athletic fields, a garage and a barn.

Last fall, the Viznitz Yeshiva congregation bought the 107-acre Nyack College campus in the Village of South Nyack and two other parcels for $45.5 million, with plans to educate hundreds of high school and college-age students there.

The sale ignited a movement to dissolve the riverside community of some 3,500 residents, and South Nyack subsequently sued the congregation for alleged safety code violations and lack of permits. South Nyack is now in the process of being dissolved as an incorporated village and will be governed by the Town of Orangetown. The process can take up to two years.

Uncertain future

The Hasidic Jewish congregation’s plans for the Briarcliff property remain uncertain. The village was not contacted beforehand about the change in ownership and no plans for the parcel had been submitted, Briarcliff Village Manager Philip Zegarelli stated in a March 5 email to residents.

Uri Kirschner of the law firm Silberberg & Kirschner LLP, who handled the Pace campus sale for the congregation, did not return a phone call.

In his email, Zegarelli wrote the property’s residential zoning allows single-family homes on one-acre lots, but that Pace had operated as a school under a special use permit.

Under village code, special use permits expire after 12 months of inactivity, and the research center did not obtain one after acquiring the property from Pace.

The village has recently strengthened its methods of evaluating and managing special use permit applications, Zegarelli wrote, requiring scrutiny on their impact on traffic, schools and resources.  

“We also clarified the termination of special permit uses once the approved use ceases to operate continuously,” he wrote.

Zegarelli stated enhanced public notification procedures would heighten residents’ awareness of all such proposals coming before the village.

“The Board of Trustees assures all residents that information on all land use applications will be disseminated efficiently, transparently, and fully, as soon as such information is available,” the email stated.

Sale of the property has sparked discussion among residents in this village of an estimated 8,000 residents, with several commenting on the Briarcliff Community Facebook Page about the stormy narrative of the congregation’s Nyack College purchase.

Pace University bought the former Briarcliff College property in 1977 as a satellite of the school’s Pleasantville campus. The site was once the home of a boarding school for girls.

9 Comments

  1. Better than having those buildings and land wasted . I attended the college, and it is sad that it has been abandoned, in some way….

  2. Wow South Nyack, dissolve your community’s self-governance (incorporated since 1878) because a few hundred Jews want to move in? Sounds like red-lining to me. “South Nyack subsequently sued the congregation for alleged safety code violations and lack of permits.” Really? And is South Nyack acting in good faith (no pun intended)? Based on the experience of many Orthodox Jewish communities who have had to go all the way to the US Supreme Court to secure their rights, the answer is probably not. I have relatives in Briarcliff Manor, I visit often (at least before COVID-19) and I’ve worked at Pace Pleasantville. I hope Briarcliff will treat the newcomers just as they would a Protestant Church, a Catholic Parochial school, or a housing development: on the merits.

    1. I am Jewish and regret the sale. They have ruined several communities in Rockland County and have destroyed property values. Briarcliff should be very wary of them.

  3. Sir – Please do your research and see what has happened to areas where there is an explosive growth of the Hasidic and Ultra-Orthodox – public schools going bankrupt (East Ramapo School District), irresponsible and unregulated overdevelopment and deteriorating infrastructures, heavy reliance on government assistance, blockbusting by Orthodox real estate agents in developments so all homes owned by non-Jews can be sold to the Orthodox only and many other issues. You have only to read what is going on in Rockland and Orange County, NY and Ocean County, NJ as examples : from Lakewood to Kiryas Joel to Monsey – all systematic attempts to create segregated religious communities. The people of Briarcliff Manor have every reason to be concerned.

    1. Thank you!! The Hasidic community has taken over my family’s neighborhood in Washingtonville. They will take over if we allow them. They have seats on the school board where None if their kids go to school.

  4. Mr. Butler, you should google and see what happened when a Catholic group wanted to buy the old Kings College campus.

    1. Ms Reins just wait until you see what can possible happen to Briarcliff Manor once the Hasidics move on.

      ttps://www.lohud.com/story/news/local/rockland/ramapo/2017/01/08/ramapo-ny-breaking-point/95369994/

      https://forward.com/news/459978/jackson-new-jersey-lakewood-election-school-board/

      In Jackson and other towns that have seen large influxes of Orthodox Jews, concerns about overdevelopment line up next to concerns about the budgets of local public school systems.

      The shadow of Lakewood and Ramapo, N.Y., loom large. In those towns, boards of education with a majority of members elected by the Orthodox community have limited funding to the public schools while paying millions in bussing for the expanding yeshiva population. They have done so because school boards in both states are required by state law to pay for bussing for both public and private school students.

    2. Try to get your fact straight, it was a Irish group than wanted to “develop” King’s acreage, not a religion. This location is permitted for homes on one acre panels, period. Let not go to what happen to Rockland county with massive over development and uncontrolled virus, because some people think they can do whatever they want with tax free dollars.

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