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Post date: June 4 2009

Attorney General Cuomo Approves Sale Of Rene Dubos Property To Town Of Mount Kisco, Protecting Open Space And Water Supply

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (June 4, 2009) -Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that the sale of a 30-acre parcel of land by the Rene Dubos Center for Human Environments to the Village and Town of Mount Kisco, which will preserve the natural state of the land as originally intended, may go forward.

The Attorney General’s endorsement of the plan, which was required for the sale to take place, ends years of lengthy court battles and litigation over the land’s use. The property borders Byram Lake, Mount Kisco’s sole drinking water supply.

The Rene Dubos Center originally intended to sell the property to private developer Michael Cappelli. However, the Attorney General’s Office opposed the sale and successfully argued that the donors who funded the original purchase did so with the understanding that the property would be protected from development. The Attorney General’s Office helped broker a deal where the property would be sold to the Village and Town of Mount Kisco, which promised to honor the original donors’ intent to preserve the land, thereby protecting the town’s water supply.

“This outcome upholds both the preservation of our natural resources and the viability of charitable gifts,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “We must protect the spaces that are intended to be kept in their natural state and honor the wishes of those who generously donate to worthy causes.”

The Rene Dubos Center for Human Environments is an education and research non-profit named after Rene Dubos, a noted microbiologist. In 1979, it purchased the 30 acres of undeveloped land adjacent to Byram Lake with $275,000 in charitable donations provided by the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation and the DeWitt Wallace Fund. In accepting the donations, the Rene Dubos Center resolved to keep the land “entirely in its natural state … without impairing the essential natural quality of the land.”

However, after several years of incurring substantial debt, the Rene Dubos Center decided to sell the property to a private developer who planned to build several large residences on the land. The Attorney General’s Office intervened, arguing that the sale would violate the property’s intended purpose and potentially affect Mount Kisco’s sole source of drinking water. Joining the Attorney General in the opposing the sale were officials from Mount Kisco and Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano.

State Supreme Court Justice W. Denis Donovan agreed and ruled in favor of the Attorney General, paving the way for Mount Kisco to negotiate the acquisition of the 30 acre parcel of land from the Rene Dubos Center for $475,000 and promising to preserve the property forever in its natural state.

Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano said, “Attorney General Cuomo’s office is to be applauded for its successful efforts in keep this land undeveloped and preserving the original intent of the donors. Protecting this land is a vital step in ensuring that pristine natural spaces remain in Westchester County and protecting our drinking water.”

Mount Kisco Mayor Michael Cindrich said, “I commend the Attorney General’s Office for its thorough work in protecting this land. Thanks to the efforts of the Attorney General, the Village/Town of Mount Kisco will hold this property in its natural state, serving to protecting our drinking water and preserving the property for future generations to enjoy.”

The case was handled by Judith C. McCarthy, Assistant Attorney General-in-Charge of the Westchester Regional Office.