The Clarkstown Planning Board rescheduled its public hearing on the proposed subdivision of the Traphagen property in West Nyack for July 18. But the board did hear Wednesday night a recommendation from Clarkstown Town Historian Robert Knight for restoring one of the two structures.
He suggested allowing Rockland BOCES vocational students who are learning building trades the chance to renovate the older house on the nine-acre property. The subdivision originally proposed was for about two acres of the site with the 1729 Vanderbilt House and 1820 House to be sold and the remaining acreage be kept by the town and added to the adjacent Germonds Park. Knight recommended the town keep the Vanderbilt House and allow BOCES students to renovate it.
Town Planner Joe Simoes said the Vanderbilt house is a Dutch colonial sandstone building that does not have utilities and is currently uninhabitable. The Traphagen House could be occupied and was until recently.
Knight said the subdivision plan currently being considered is not practical.
“What doesn’t make sense is combining both houses and selling them a s a single lot,” he said.
According to Knight, a potential buyer would be saddled with the Vanderbilt House, which is a shell with no walls or ceiling.
“I think a three lot subdivision makes a lot more sense,” he said. “There is an interested party that would like to restore the Vanderbilt House.”
Knight explained he recently took BOCES administrators on a tour of five Clarkstown historic sites with buildings that require repairs and restoration.
He said BOCES is interesting in restoration to the skills learned by its building trade students since new construction has slowed because of the economy.
He explained the students would undertake a thorough restoration of the building that would retain the historical character of the exterior and completely modernize the interior.
“As long as the town of Clarkstown owns it, they can do it,” he said, noting they could not work on it if it was owned privately. Knight also said once the restoration was complete, the town could sell the house.
Of the sites visited, he said BOCES was most interested in the Vanderbilt House. The other properties have structures from the 1700s or 1800s.
Teaberry Port is a 1780 Dutch sandstone house on Strawtown Road in West Nyack that has been vacant for 10 years. The New City Railroad Station is an 1876 wood frame stationhouse in the middle of the Vanderbilt Lumber Yard on Route 304 in New City.
The Josephine Hudson House on Lake Road at Rockland Lake dates from 1860 and is a wood frame two-story house. The Paul/Schuler House and Barn are on Gilchrest Road in Congers. The Dutch barn dates from 1750 and the wood frame Dutch style house was built in 1810.
“The town would end up with a finished restored building,” said Knight. “So it’s kind of a win-win situation. Students learn a brand new trade and the town would end up with a complete building instead of an empty shell that it is today.”
Germonds Park surrounds the property on three sides and according to Knight. The postponement of the public hearing until July 18 gives the town board a chance to review the subdivision proposal. Planning Board Chair Shirley Thormann asked Knight to write a letter to the town board describing BOCES’ interest in restoration. The town purchased the property last year for $900,000.