News & Opinion | December 31, 2019 4:27 pm

A Revolutionary War Site Is Under Threat. Can Local Legislators Save It?

In Fishkill, New York, a new commercial development could encroach on a historic burial ground

van wyck homestead museum revolutionary war fishkill new york
The Van Wyck Homestead Museum in Fishkill, New York
John Greim / Getty

The battle over what some call one of the nation’s most important Revolutionary War burial grounds just got a little more complicated after a special town hall meeting that included a discussion of water and sewage agreements for a proposed construction project on the grounds was canceled due to a temporary restraining order.

The site, located in Fishkill, New York, and listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, is known as the Fishkill Supply Depot and covers 10.47 acres. According to The New York Times, historians claim that hundreds (and maybe even thousands) of Continental Army soldiers are buried somewhere near the camp, which was set up at the order of George Washington in 1775.

But a development project dubbed the “Continental Commons,” first launched in 2015, now threatens the burial ground. Previous reporting by InsideHook states that the developer/owner of the proposed Continental Commons, Domenic Broccoli, claims his project will “weave together history, preservation, tourism, along with commerce” in an “attempt to capture the essence of the Fishkill Supply Depot and its importance during the Revolution.” 

According to Lance Ashworth, president of the Friends of the Fishkill Supply Depot, a nonprofit fighting against the development, Continental Commons has been able to get all the approvals it needs thus far, starting with the town planning board declaring this past April that there would be no negative environmental impact on the town.

That was before the current town supervisor, Bob LaColla, lost his reelection campaign.

Come January 1st, LaColla will be replaced by Azem “Ozzy” Albra, an opponent of the development. Eager to push the project forward ahead of his departure, LaColla called a special town meeting on December 30, 2019. The agenda included a discussion on an out-of-district water and sewer request made by Continental Commons, one of the final approvals the plan needs from the town, according to Ashworth. The public hearing was ultimately canceled, though, after Albra “effectively sued for a temporary restraining order to stop the public hearing,” LaColla told InsideHook via email.

According to the court document, filed at nearly 5 p.m. on December 30, Albra sued LaColla as well as other town board members Ori Brachfeld, Douglas McHoul, Raymond Raiche, Jacqueline Bardini and GLD2 LL, Snook-9 Realty Inc., and Herring Holdings LLC.

“I believe the courts should be very cautious when deciding matters that involve public engagement,” LaColla said. “The way the incoming board members worked to stifle the process through last-minute schemes is not the type of good-faith, open-government we have worked diligently to establish. Their plea to the court stopped three public hearings from occurring.”

On the other side of the court aisle, the Preservationists are ecstatic with the cancellation and the good omen it represents in protecting the historic site and the surrounding environment.

“To FOFSD, the actions of the supervisor-elect demonstrate the depth to which citizens of Fishkill value their history and heritage and prefer for the Fishkill Supply Depot site to be saved,” said Ashworth in an email interview on December 31.

A request for comment to the developer about the canceled hearing and the future of the Commons was not yet answered at the time of this publication.

What will come next is still up in the air. InsideHook will follow the story as it progresses in the new year.

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