The religious congregation that purchased the former Pace campus in Briarcliff Manor has yet to divulge its plans, but has been scoping out the site and recently obtained documents from the village with historical details on the property and its buildings.
Yeshiva Viznitz D’khal Torath Chaim, the Monsey-based Hasidic Jewish congregation that obtained the 37-acre parcel in March for $11.75 million, is in initial communication with the village.
“Everything is in a very preliminary basis of sharing information,” Village Manager Philip Zegarelli said. “The documents explain a lot of things and they’re analyzing it.”
Though the yeshiva has been mum on how it intends to use the Elm Street property, a long lapse in its use has created obstacles in making it functional as a school again. Formerly owned by the Research Center on Natural Conservation, which purchased the parcel in 2017, the property’s special use permit expired due to inaction. The yeshiva would also presumably have to file for tax exempt status.
“The property is on the tax rolls, the special use permit that was used previously has expired,” Zegarelli said. “So there’s a lot of work that has to be done and we’ve agreed to stay in communication. But this is in their lap to do their own analysis and then come back to the village.”
Briarcliff’s Board of Trustees was in the process of updating rules around special use permits, with the focus primarily on small lots in residential neighborhoods. While the former Pace Campus is in a residential area, changes mostly related to smaller lot sizes (under 5 acres) and will likely be passed after the close of public hearings.
D’Khal Torath Chaim has had a bumpy past with local governments. The Ramapo yeshiva purchased Nyack College’s campus in the Village of South Nyack last year along with additional land.
While converting it to educate hundreds of college- and high school-age students, they clashed with the village over safety violations and for not obtaining permits and inspections. The village sued D’Khal Torath Chaim, which the yeshiva countered in April, claiming the congregation was being unfairly targeted.
But Briarcliff’s Zegarelli is maintaining a positive start as talks begin.
“We’re keeping all the channels open,” Zegarelli said. “We don’t want any misunderstandings by anyone, on either side. And I think that’s the preferable way to address it. But it’s really for them to come back probably with questions — let alone other items, information they might be seeking — and we’ll go from there.”