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This Land is My Land

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“Then they resold the property. They flipped it. They sold it for $400,000 cash.”

“These guys are bullies,” Jones warned the supporters of Brook Farm Project, referring to OSI. “They’re not nice people and they’re not going to negotiate. They’ve got the title and they’re just going to drive it. They don’t need to listen to anyone.”

That much is true. Brook Farm organizers say they have been left out of all the significant discussions, and that OSI and Glynwood officials have refused to attend their meetings.

Creek Iversen, who heads the farm, was put under a gag order by the Brook Farm board, which led to the resignations of three Brook Farm board members in protest—gardening columnist Lee Reich, Culinary Institute of America instructor Rich Vergili, and Dan Getman, a local attorney.

“Recently, the board has not functioned as a board should—by consensus or majority rule,” they wrote in a resignation letter signed by all three.

“Each of us also wishes to dissociate ourselves from the recent joint public statement released by BFP [Brook Farm Project], OSI, and Glynwood, as well as from statements made to Creek Iversen dictating his activities apart from the work for which he was hired. Neither of these activities were authorized by the board, though they purported to be issued under that authority. And they contravened the board’s instructions. We cannot be part of a board that is treated in this way.”

Those involved with Brook Farm and the organizations supporting it say that Anderberg is directly involved in calling the shots, as general counsel of Open Space Institute.

In its August edition, Chronogram reported on a lawsuit that exposed how Anderberg, who serves as a land-acquisition agent for Mohonk, devised a scheme to purchase land from someone who the State Supreme Court ultimately determined did not own it. Mohonk then sued the rightful owners, Karen Pardini and Michael Fink, trying to legitimize its title. The courts rejected the effort, affirming Pardini and Fink as the actual owners.

I also reported how Anderberg, representing a land conservancy, once purchased a nonexistent interest in land from a former owner, then the conservancy tried to sue Pardini and Fink to take the land. That effort, too, was rejected by the State Supreme Court, which held that Pardini and Fink could bring a fraud lawsuit against the people who had done this to them.

More recently, I reported the well-known story of Louise Haviland, who in the 1980s owned land adjacent to the Mohonk Preserve. Anderberg personally purchased her mortgage from its holder, and after he did so, took advantage of a provision allowing him to call in the note—that is, to demand that Haviland pay him back all at once. When she could not do that, Anderberg brought a foreclosure action against her and her tenants, ultimately taking possession of the land and selling it to Mohonk, which is often the beneficiary of OSI transactions.

The most basic ethic of land preservation is that it involves a willing seller or donor—not someone from whom land is unwillingly taken. Nobody is contesting that Glynwood Institute and OSI don’t have a right to choose their own tenant.

The common thread is about the illusion of something versus the underlying reality. The illusion perpetuated by Mohonk and OSI is that they are good neighbors and stewards, not land-grabbers. They go out of their way to perpetuate that image. Glynwood kicking Brook Farms off the land it’s occupied for 10 years challenges the illusion that Glynwood supports community agriculture or plans to help “incubate” young farmers.

The three organizations involved—Mohonk, OSI, and Glynwood—seem to be playing a shell game with accountability for this action. For example, in a series of public statements, Glenn Hoagland, the executive director of the Mohonk Preserve, assured the New Paltz community that Brook Farm Project would be left alone.

For example, in early 2012, the New Paltz Oracle student newspaper at SUNY New Paltz covered the foothills acquisition project and reported that, “Hoagland confirmed that the Brook Farm CSA will continue leasing property.”

In 2011, he told the Gunk Journal, “No major changes to the use of the land are contemplated, we would opt for what we call ‘mixed use’ conservation. That would mean a combination of public use of the lands, where possible, scientific research, educational work with schools and colleges, and the continuation of the present-day sustainable farming at Brook Farm.”

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