Mount Manresa: Paradise lost (commentary)
By Jack Bolembach –President, Committee to Save Mount Manresa
At our first rally in May 2013, former City Council member and Vietnam veteran Jerome (Jay) O’Donovan described Mount Manresa as a beautiful, natural, pristine landscape, and said if he were borough president, it would be saved.
Sadly, Jay passed away last December. He was an inspiration and a valuable member of the Save Mount Manresa Committee.
In 1911, Jesuit Father Terrance J. Shealy purchased the site that would become Mount Manresa, which was then almost 28 acres extending across the adjacent area where the Staten Island Expressway is today. The glacial hills, ancient trees and beautiful scenery constituted a perfect environment for America’s first Catholic retreat house.
Prior to America’s entry into the First World War, the famous American poet Joyce Kilmer, who wrote the poem “Trees,” visited Father Shealy’s retreat at Mount Manresa and enjoyed walking through the beautiful, bucolic, natural landscape.
When America entered the war, Joyce Kilmer joined the famous New York City 69th Infantry Regiment, “The Fighting 69th,” and he was killed in July 1918 during the Second Battle of the Marne in France.
Observers are absolutely right when they say that Mount Manresa in 2015 looks like a World War I battlefield.
Nearly a century after Joyce Kilmer’s death, this once-rare natural treasure of Staten Island does indeed have the appearance of a battlefield and not unlike the ones where Joyce Kilmer and 53,000 other Americans sacrificed their lives.
The horrific destruction we see today never could have happened if former Borough President James Molinaro had properly zoned the precious, 15-acre natural landscape. It contained historic structures and it was all recognized by the New York State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation as eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.
Keeping the property zoned as R3-2 as of right 10 years ago, despite the mayor’s initiative to identify open green spaces to help stabilize and protect fragile environments, guaranteed that Mount Manresa would be plundered by a builder to construct cheap townhouses for obscene profits.
Joyce Kilmer, Father Shealy and Jay O’Donovan all cared about this beautiful landscape and would never recognize Mount Manresa today.
The Savo Brothers destroyed everything out of spite and now it truly looks like a World War I battlefield of the kind where Joyce Kilmer died for our country.
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2013 Mount Manresa
Mount Manresa Destruction by Savo Brothers
Does this look Respectable or Sensible to you?
When the sale of Mount Manresa was announced in 2013, Michael Savo said “We are very sensitive to the beauty of the site and the structures at the location. Our goal is to ensure the property is handled in the most respectful, sensitive and sensible way.”
Does this look respectful or sensible to you? They cut EVERY SINGLE TREE and decimated all the buildings, the grotto and historic water tower. Its a disgrace.
The Committee to Save Mount Manresa is committed to making change in our community. We are working with CB1 to rezone Clifton, Fort Wadsworth and Rosebank to help save open spaces and prevent overdevelopment. If you support our efforts, please consider making a committment to our future efforts.