Press Room

Community Rallies to Preserve Graves


In yesterday's Journal News (see below & attached), reporter Mareesa Nicosia did a thorough, objective reporting on the old Talman Cemetery at the former Edwin Gould Academy (Lakeside School) site in Chestnut Ridge.  Pete Talman (son of historian Wilfred B. Talman, whose family had once owned the property) was pleased with the article as well.
I have been in communication with Pete over several months about the cemetery and its status.  He told me that his son, Jonathan, wants to clean up the cemetery.  Since the school closed in 2005, the cemetery has been neglected.
It is heartening to know that people are willing to work to preserve little spaces, such as this cemetery, as well as our unique redstone Dutch colonial houses.
Marianne Leese, Senior Historian
The Historical Society of Rockland County

Please note that Wilfred B. Talman authored 'How Things Began... in Rockland County and Places Nearby' published by the Historical Society of Rockland County. Copies of this book are available for purchase at the HSRC.

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The Journal News eEdition Article
- Rockland Edition 12/29/2012, Page A01

Community Rallies to Preserve Graves
Historic site included in property sale 
Written by Mareesa Nicosia

CHESTNUT RIDGE — Every day as his father drove him to school, Jonathan Talman looked out the car window at the property where generations of his family had lived and died.
Tucked into a wooded hill on the land — some 145 acres of sprawling forest and field off Chestnut Ridge Road — is a tiny cemetery containing the graves of perhaps a dozen Talmans, several of whom fought in the Revolutionary War, Talman’s father told him.
According to the family, whose ancestors were some of the earliest settlers of Rockland County, the property was acquired by Douwe H. Talman in 1796. It changed hands over the years and was eventually owned by the Edwin Gould Foundation in the 1920s, according to records from the Historical Society of Rockland County.
Earlier this month, and after years of attempts, the Edwin Gould Foundation, based in Manhattan, sold the property to a local limited liability company for $9.3 million.
When Talman, 41, and his father, Peter Talman, 72, got word that a sale was near — and that the property may be developed — they cringed at the thought of what might happen to their relatives’ remains.
“The line of Talmans that we come from, there’s not a lot left there and yet we have that historical impact on Rockland County and that cemetery represents just about what’s left,” said Jonathan Talman, who grew up in the village and now lives with his family in Fair Lawn, N.J.
“The Talman family is not trying to stop anybody from using the property that they’ve purchased. It’s literally this tiny piece of land that is there … and our only concern is preserving that little piece of land,” he added.
Once a bustling family compound, the property is now dotted with empty, run-down residences, and the cemetery has become overwhelmed by a thorny thicket. One headstone is covered in graffiti. Enormous trees, likely uprooted during the recent storms, flank the entrance just north of the intersection of Chestnut Ridge Road (Route 45) and Scotland Road, and signs warn passersby to keep out.

The property has been used as a school in varying forms for more than a century since the Talmans sold it in 1863 to another family, who in turn sold it to the Salvation Army in the 1870s, according to the Talmans. The Salvation Army ran the Cherry Tree Home for children there, then sold it to Kingsland Avenue Children’s Home in 1922. The next year, the Edwin Gould Foundation for Children bought it, according to county historical records.
Most recently, it was the site of the Edwin Gould Academy, an alternative school for troubled New York City youths that closed in 2005 and has since sat vacant. The property, which was returned to the Ramapo town tax rolls in 2006, was last assessed at $8.8 million, Ramapo Assessor Scott Shedler said.
Rockland County Clerk’s Office records show the property was sold for $9.3 million to Chestnut Ridge Venture L.L.C., which has addresses in Monsey and Brooklyn. The sale closed Dec. 10. Lipa Friedman of Spring Valley is listed as the individual buyer contact. When reached by phone, both Friedman and his attorney, Marc Wohlgemuth, declined to comment.
Edwin Gould Foundation chairman Michael Osheowitz did not return calls for comment on the sale.
Peter Talman said his family’s biggest concern is simply to make people aware that the cemetery still exists, considering how overgrown it has become and how small it is — about 30 feet by 30 feet — compared to the vast property.
The elder Talman, a retired Spring Valley High School teacher who lives in Lords Valley, Pa., buried his parents’ ashes in the cemetery in 2000. It was the last time any Talmans were interred, he said.
Peter Talman grew up on land adjacent to the former Edwin Gould property and recalled roaming through it as a child and visiting the cemetery to place flags on the graves on Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.
“It was my immediate world for my younger years,” he said. “I had free rein of the property. This was the way it was in each generation of my family that grew up there.”

Though the future of the property remains unclear, the Talmans may have reason to rest easy.
New City attorney Ira Emanuel, who is acting as land-use attorney for the new owner, said any development of the property would not disturb the cemetery.
“It’s a matter of state law that cemeteries are protected, as they should be, and there’s no question that it will be protected and will not be disturbed,” he said.
Emanuel identified the new owner as Sapphire Ventures L.L.C., of Rockland County, and said there is a plan to build housing.
“The size presents a lot of opportunities,” he said. “They’re definitely looking at it primarily for residential.”
The majority of the property is zoned for single-family houses while a few acres are zoned for lab-office use; the rest is wetlands.
Historians, village residents and others have watched over the years as potential buyers came and went, prompting speculation and, in some cases, worry over what might become of the land.
Chestnut Ridge Mayor Jerry Kobre has said he opposes a housing development and the village prefers a commercial use of the property, perhaps a golf course, that would generate jobs and tax revenue.
A corporate headquarters for the paint company Benjamin Moore & Co. was a potential at one time, he said.
“We’ve heard so many things in the past five years but nothing’s ever come of it,” Kobre said.
In 2006, a real estate investment company called Cammeby’s International Ltd. agreed to buy the property for $32.5 million and put down a $5 million deposit, but the sale was never finalized.
According to New York state court records, the cemetery was at the center of a lawsuit filed in 2009 against the Gould Foundation by a potential buyer. The buyer’s insurer refused to back the title, citing the “rights of ingress and egress” of relatives of people buried in the plot.
Marianne Leese, senior historian at the Historical Society of Rockland County, said when word got around that the property was about to be sold earlier this year, she started getting calls from members concerned about the cemetery’s fate.
“It’s a very old cemetery and people are always concerned about respecting the dead,” she said.
Notable people said to be buried there make it unique among Revolutionary War-era gravesites in the county, she added.
“Supposedly there is this itinerant barber who was buried there by the name of James Dorey and the claim was that he was at some point George Washington’s barber,” she said. “And that’s part of our local lore you might say. It’s what colors our history here in the county.”



Sorry to see my old home decaying l lived there from 1959 to 1969

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