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Elected Officials Rally to Save Staten Island's Mt. Manresa

By  Nicholas Rizzi and Trevor Kapp | February 26, 2014 3:37pm 

 Councilwoman Debi Rose introduced a resolution to preserve Mt. Manresa from development on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014.
Rally to Save Mount Manresa
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CITY HALL — Elected officials and nearly two dozen residents rallied on the steps of City Hall on Wednesday to try and stop the development of the former Jesuit retreat house Mount Manresa, a week after crews began work on the property.

Councilwoman Debi Rose introduced a resolution to push the Savo Brothers, who have said they will build condos on the historic site, to instead preserve the 15-acre land in Rosebank.

Residents formed the "Committee to Save Mount Manresa" in a bid to save the 102-year-old property — which contains historic buildings and nearly 400-year-old trees — almost immediately following Savo Brothers' $15 million purchase of the site from the Jesuit priests.

The sale was finalized earlier this month, and last week demolition crews began work at the site and tore down Mount Manresa's sign, the Staten Island Advance reported.

"We are sad, sad at the thought a Staten Island jewel, Mount Manresa, could be destroyed," Rose said.

"Today, I am pleased to have introduced a resolution calling on the new owners, the Savo Brothers, to protect and preserve in its current form the land known as Mount Manresa. Mount Manresa is Staten Island history.”

Rose said she recently met with the Mayor's Office who told her they would "look into the situation and there'd be conversation with the developers," but didn't give her a time frame of when the resolution would be reached.

“One of the problems has been the developers have refused to speak with anybody about this process," Rose said. "My spirits are buoyed because the administration has agreed to help us at least reach some sort of resolution.”

A spokeswoman from the Mayor's Office confirmed that Rose meet with them on Wednesday afternoon, and have agreed to reach out to the developers to learn about their plans for the site.

The Savo Brothers did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Public Advocate Letitia James, who joined the rally outside City Hall, said the community should have a say in the future of the historic site.

"We can’t let irresponsible development run unchecked," James said. "We can’t allow the heart and lungs of Staten Island to be removed without a fight. This community needs a say in the fate of this land and these buildings."

“If we lose this national treasure, it’ll be gone forever," said Jack Bolembach, a member of "The Committee to Save Mount Manresa," at the rally.

"You can never replace it. We don’t need more condominiums, more buildings, more population growth. We need to preserve the environment and what’s left of what we used to have,” he added.

The group organized rallies every week at the site and tried to block the sale of the site, but a judge gave it the OK in December. Recently, they tried to petition the city to use eminent domain to save the site.

"It’s all boarded up now," Bolemback said. "We can’t get in there. It’s against the law to go in there."

But even with crews starting at the project, Bolemback said residents won't give up the fight to save the site.

"We will try any way we can… to try to preserve this property and make it a nationally designated area, which we felt it should’ve been," he said.