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Staten Island Residents Fight Development At Mount Manresa Retreat Center Site

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A group of Staten Island residents took to the steps of City Hall on Monday in a bid to prevent the longtime site of a Catholic retreat house from being converted into hundreds of town houses.

For decades, Mount Manresa, not far from the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, served as a retreat center operated by the Jesuit order, CBS 2’s John Slattery reported. Even though the 15-acre property on Fingerboard Road had been private, neighbors walked the grounds and felt a connection to the mostly green space.

“Let’s put 250 more town house over there, Just what we need,” Caroline Labita, a member of the Save Mount Manresa Committee, said sarcastically. “Except the park is a beautiful place, where you go just so you have peace of mind and help our children.”

Staten Island residents protest the redevelopment of the Mount Manresa retreat center site. (credit: CBS 2)

Staten Island residents protest the redevelopment of the Mount Manresa retreat center site. (credit: CBS 2)

In February, the property — with old-growth trees, a chapel, a water tower and other buildings — was sold to developers the Savo brothers for $15 million. They plan to build 250 town houses on the site, and their lawyer says neighbors have no legal standing in the matter.

Last week, however, the vocal opponents won a temporary restraining order. But their request Monday for a preliminary injunction to prevent the city Buildings Department from issuing permits was rejected.

“It’s almost like, can you imagine Manhattan … 250 town houses going into Central Park?” said Jack Bolembach of the Save Mount Manresa Committee. “How would the people feel?”

The opponents will next try to stop the project by arguing that the city can’t issue building permits without an environmental impact study.

“We’d like to have a preservation of the land as a park, a public park,” Bolembach said.

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