On Friday, April 12, 2019 County Executive Steve Bellone held a press conference on the campus of the Sisters of St. Joseph Brentwood to announce the acquisition of development rights on 27 acres of the Sisters’ farmland. By selling development rights to Suffolk County for farmland preservation, the Sisters have perpetually extinguished the right to develop these 27 acres for residential, commercial or industrial purposes. Since 2015, the Sisters have been working to bring farming back to Western Suffolk to benefit their surrounding community in perpetuity. The farm stands currently in operation on the Sisters’ 212 acre campus sell healthy, organic produce that is available to their neighbors.
“The Sisters of St. Joseph have been committed to meeting the needs of the people of greater Long Island through education, social service, health care, and pastoral ministry since 1856,” said Sister Helen Kearney, CSJ, President of the Sisters of St. Joseph Brentwood. “The current environmental initiatives of our congregation stem from a commitment to all creation that was affirmed in a Land Ethic Statement in March 2015. In response to the statement, a new partnership w
as formed with the Peconic Land Trust in an endeavor to protect the Brentwood campus that we hold in sacred trust.”
As the Peconic Land Trust staff evaluated the special features of the Brentwood property, they strategized about what conservation tools could be utilized to protect the unique features of the property in the context of the Sisters’ Land Ethic Statement. A proposal for conservation of 27 acres of agricultural land through the sale of development rights was unanimously affirmed by the Sisters.
“All of us at the Peconic Land Trust feel fortunate to have the opportunity to assist the Sisters of St. Joseph in achieving their conservation goals for this incredible land. Their mission – embodied by their Land Ethic Statement – is truly inspiring, and includes bringing agriculture and local food back to this community. Connecting them with the landmark Suffolk County Farmland Preservation Program is a win-win for all concerned – the community, local farmers, the Sisters, and the County,” said Kim Quarty, Senior Project Manager, Peconic Land Trust.
In 1974, Suffolk County initiated the country’s first farmland preservation program. It allowed the County to purchase development rights and thus to preserve invaluable agricultural soils, ensuring the future of farming so important to our local economy. Through the program, farmers continue to own their land but relinquish the right to develop it into residential subdivisions—the ultimate win-win solution. A tremendous success, it has been replicated throughout New York State and the country. The Suffolk County Farmland program has seen 10,500 acres come into the program to date.
The funds received by the Sisters of St. Joseph for the purchase of development rights will be used to continue and enhance their environmental initiatives. The Sisters are working on several other environmental initiatives that will benefit the congregation, the community, Long Island, and the planet. As a congregation, the Sisters have always responded to the needs of the times and worked to do whatever was necessary to meet them. At this time of planetary degradation and aware of the needs of the Long Island bioregion, The Sisters of St. Joseph are responding by keeping their land as a sacred place of respect and healing for Earth and the community.
About Sisters of St. Joseph:
Located in Brentwood, NY, The Sisters of St. Joseph (CSJ) are the largest order of Catholic women religious on Long Island with more than 400 members, and have a 160-year tradition of ministering wherever they are needed including the Dioceses of Brooklyn and Rockville Centre, and the New York Archdioceses. United with all who minister with them, they seek to bring God’s healing and reconciling love to all through their work in education, health care, social justice, spirituality, empowering women and girls, and environmental conservation.
The motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Brentwood includes 212 acres of land, some still pristine, acquired more than 100 years ago within the bioregion of Long Island. The Sisters affirmed a Land Ethic Statement on March 21, 2015 and, in response to the statement, members of the congregation have formed new partnerships on Long Island, gathered information about the Long Island bioregion, implemented new initiatives, and continued current ecological projects. For more information about the Sisters, please visit www.brentwoodcsj.org.
About the Peconic Land Trust:
Founded in 1983, Peconic Land Trust conserves Long Island’s working farms, natural lands, and heritage. Since its inception, the nonprofit Trust has worked conscientiously with landowners, communities, municipalities, partner organizations, and donors, to conserve over 12,000 acres of land on Long Island. The Trust’s professional staff carries out the necessary research and planning to identify and implement alternatives to outright development. While working to conserve the productive farms, watersheds, woodlands, and beachfront of Long Island, the Trust is also protecting the unique rural heritage and natural resources of the region. For more information about the Peconic Land Trust, visit peconiclandtrust.org.
Suffolk County Farmland Preservation Program:
The Nation’s first (1974) purchase of development rights (PDR) program to preserve farmland, the Suffolk County Farmland program has seen 10,500 acres come into the program to date. Land stays in private ownership and the County acquires non-agricultural development rights. These rights are valued as the difference between the full market value of property for its “highest and best use” (full value) minus the value of the agricultural rights (residual value). The owner files property covenants similar to a conservation easement limiting the use of the property to agricultural production.