City Planning Commission Considers Acquisition of Land to Expand Olmsted-Beil House Park
November 21, 2018
By Victoria Rose
Proposed historic park expansion will provide space for programming and direct access from Hylan Boulevard. On October 31, 2018, the City Planning Commission held a public hearing for an application on the acquisition of property at 4485 Hylan Boulevard in the Eltingville neighborhood of Staten Island to expand Olmsted-Beil House Park. The Department of Parks and Recreation and the Department of Citywide Administrative Services jointly filed the application.
The Parks Department would acquire the land from Christine Kaasman-Dunn, the current private owner, and expand the park to preserve the property and protect the land from future development. The proposed expansion would also provide direct access to the park from Hylan Boulevard and would provide additional space for programming and parking within the park.
Garrett Burger of the Parks Department presented on behalf of the applicants. The property consists of two lots adjacent to Olmsted-Beil House Park. One of the lots is vacant, and the other lot has a single-family house.
CityLand reached out to the Parks Department to learn about the department’s plans for the existing house. According to the Parks Department, the department is “currently in the process of acquiring 1.19 acres of property at 4485 Hylan Boulevard. Following the acquisition, we intend to seek funds to prepare a site plan for the enlarged Olmsted-Beil House Park. During the site planning process, we will make a determination about what we will do with the house located on at 4485 Hylan Boulevard.”
Currently, Olmsted-Beil House Park is 1.67 acres. According to Burger, Eltingville is “currently underserved by open space,” with less than 2.5 acres of open space per 1,000 people. The Parks Department wants to expand Olmsted-Beil House Park to help alleviate the lack of open space.
The park and proposed land were once part of Frederick Law Olmsted’s Staten Island farm in the mid-1800’s. Olmsted was a prominent landscape architect who helped propose and design Central Park and many other parks and open spaces around the country. Currently, a two-story farmhouse in Olmsted-Beil House Park is the only remaining piece of Olmsted’s farm. The farmhouse, known as the Frederick Law Olmsted House, is a designated New York City landmark.
On September 25, 2018, the Staten Island Community Board 3 voted unanimously in support of the application.
At the City Planning Commission hearing, Christine Kaasman-Dunn, the current owner of the property, testified in support of the application. According to Kaasman-Dunn, her family has owned the property for almost 70 years. At the hearing, Kaasman-Dunn showed two Osage oranges from a tree on the property. The Osage orange tree was planted by Olmsted as part of the original farm and continues to produce fruit. Kaasman-Dunn said that the acquisition would be like “giving the property back to Olmsted” to properly preserve the land.
Commissioner Alfred C. Cerullo acknowledged the dedication of Kaasman-Dunn’s family to Staten Island and the landmarked property. Commissioner Cerullo, who represented this area in City Council in the early 1990’s, spoke about how important the land is to the community and that by letting go of the land, Kaasman-Dunn and her family were allowing many others to appreciate the historic property. Chair Marisa Lago thanked Kaasman-Dunn for bringing such a “personal perspective to this” application. Commissioner Anna Hayes Levin thanked Kaasman-Dunn for “putting the heart back in these stories.”
CityLand reached out to New Yorkers for Parks for comment. “In this dense and growing city, any increase in parkland is a win for New York City residents,” said Lynn Kelly, Executive Director of New Yorkers for Parks. “We support the proposal to expand Olmsted-Beil House Park, which is such an important part of New York City parks history. We also encourage the City to provide funding for adequate maintenance and upkeep of this historic property and house.”
The City Planning Commission will vote on the application at a later date.