RE: Proposed closing by Governor Paterson of Philipse Manor Hall State Historic Site in Yonkers, NY 10701
We the undersigned write in support of the continued operation of the New York State Historic site, situated in Yonkers, New York - Philipse Manor Hall.
Philipse Manor Hall is one of a very few Dutch colonial sites in lower Westchester. It is a federal "Save America's Treasure" site that is a unique architectural gem; the Georgian architecture of the house is significant and the unique papier m%uFFFDch%uFFFD ceiling is the best of its time (circa 1720s) in America. The Cochran Collection of paintings, which was willed to the Hall by Alexander Smith Cochran, is unique and irreplaceable. The building was just rehabilitated (roof and walls) at a cost in excess of half a million dollars by New York State.
Philipse Manor Hall is the ONLY public NY State Historic Site in downtown Yonkers. It is visited annually by thousands of residents, schoolchildren, and tourists. It a focal point of 4th, 7th, and 10th grade American history curriculum, and Yonkers school groups visit annually to supplement the curriculum studies. It is a building that played a significant role in the lives of the three primary cultural groups in early Yonkers: Colonial settlers, Indians and slaves. Furthermore, it is the site upon which slaves were freed decades prior to the Emancipation Proclamation. It is one of the few sites in Yonkers that regularly mounts exhibitions and focuses its programming on this aspect of local American history.
Philipse Manor Hall is a vital part, indeed a keystone, of the Yonkers redevelopment plans for its downtown urban core, particularly because of its physical location at the apex of the soon-to-be-day-lighted Saw Mill River; its proximity to the first Yonkers commercial historic district, the Philipse Manor Historic District; and its relationship to the Metro North Station one block west. The city of Yonkers is poised with a %u201Cshovel-ready%u201D project to daylight the Saw Mill River and to create a naturalized River Park which will be the highlight of the revitalized Yonkers downtown. New York State recognized the importance of the Saw Mill River day-lighting when it contributed $10 million toward that project. Philipse Manor Hall sits directly adjacent to this site, built where it could capitalize on the river for the growth of industry that resulted in the city which is now Yonkers. It is now a natural and integral part of the redevelopment plans. Last year the Hall, with two other downtown institutions (Beczak Environmental Education Center and the Science Barge) formed a triad of organizations (environmental, ecological, historical) that was featured by Metro North as a promotional %u201Cget-away day%u201D attraction. Yonkers needs to increase, not diminish, this kind of cultural and heritage tourism, which can and should represent a significant boost to the local economy.
One must question whether closing the Hall will realize any significant savings for the Parks Department budget. One cannot simply walk away from an historic house structure. The house will still have to be heated, lit, patrolled and the grounds maintained. It is our understanding that the staff will be transferred elsewhere within the Parks system, thereby realizing no savings of salary. And the Friends of Philipse Manor Hall, a local support organization that is the mainstay of the Hall%u2019s programming, organizes and pays for that programming through grants, donations, and volunteerism. Where, we ask, is the New York State saving here?
In contrast, and a matter which should weigh heavily with the Parks Department, is the fact that the Hall brings more visitors into downtown Yonkers than any other site.
Closure of the Manor Hall is false economy at best and a tragic loss to the historic and cultural roots of the Yonkers community at worst. Closing Philipse Manor Hall would be a penny-wise, pound-foolish approach to the New York State budgetary crisis. We ask that the Parks Department reconsider the matter and carefully reevaluate the savings to be achieved vs. the cost to Yonkers and, indeed, the entire Westchester County population.
Thank you for taking the time to read this.