The William and Elaine Kaplan Family Private Foundation offered a grant to the Town of Newburgh of “$700,00 for the sole purpose of the Town’s potential acquisition of the 26 acre +/- Desmond Campus,” in response to Mount Saint Mary College recently voting to put the Estate on the market.
Additionally, the foundation proposed a $300,000 grant for the Town, payable at the rate of $100,000 per year for three years, to assist in managing the facilities and to support future adult education programs.
During the September 14 Town of Newburgh’s Board Meeting, the town board unanimously voted to apply for the $1 million grant.
“It seems like a perfect fit,” said Town Supervisor Gil Piaquadio.
Town officials hope to offer classes and programs comparable to what the college had been offering.
Mount Saint Mary College announced in June that it was cutting 42 staff positions, which prompted the sale of the property in addition to other financial stress.
When the board of Mount Saint Mary College voted to put the Desmond Estate on the market due to “hard economic times,” members of the community were devastated.
“Many of us who taught or learned at the Desmond House wonder if this had to happen,” said Mary McTamaney, City of Newburgh Historian, in a letter to the Mid Hudson Times. “Just what ‘upgrades and modernizations’ were so needed that the Desmond campus, or at least the heart of its 30 acres, couldn’t remain self-sustaining?”
“That one time sale isn’t going to fix the landscape of higher education,” said Lisa Gallina, former Director of Adult and Graduate Programs for the College. “It would be a short term solution and help them for a year, but it’s the destruction of something that’s been going on for 30 years.”
The Estate was bequeathed to Mount Saint Mary College by Alice Curtis Desmond in 1990. She had donated the Estate to be used for education purposes, and granted $2 million for maintenance.
Many community members were especially disappointed by Mount Saint Mary College’s decision to try and sell the Estate as it was originally donated.
“Mount Saint Mary College cannot comment on any potential sales of college-owned properties at this time.”said Dr. Jason N. Adsit, Mount President, when contacted by the Mid Hudson Times on September 1.
William (Bill) Kaplan, who has founded the Kaplan Family Foundation, has long supported Orange County and Newburgh in different ways of giving back to the community. He is also the founder and chairman of the Newburgh Armory Unity Center.
“The mission has not been parks, our mission has been education and healthcare,” explained Kaplan about the Armory. “Why are we taking a great interest in the Desmond Estate? When I learned about the fact that the Mount was going to sell … I said it was donated, how can you sell it?”
Kaplan was involved with Mount Saint Mary College at the time that they received the original donation from Desmond.
“When people receive a gift they have a moral responsibility,” explained Kaplan. “It’s really a moral issue. People that have received grants have to make sure they live up to the moral part.”
Originally, Kaplan suggested that the college donate the property to another non-profit organization.
“There was no negotiation,” said Kaplan. “There was no regard for what Mrs. Desmond’s wishes were.”
The Kaplan Foundation offered the grant to the Town in hopes that they will continue Desmond’s mission of adult enrichment and learning and uphold its moral obligation.
“The intention of the gift of Alice Curtis Desmond was for this to maintain lifelong learning and be a cultural asset to our region,” echoed Gallina. “It was a gift based on community and working together.”
“Both grants are subject to and condition upon the Town’s acquisition of the Desmond Property and it’s agreement to maintain the property as parkland, open to the public and as an adult education learning center with emphasis on environmental concerns,” read a letter to Piaquadio dated on September 8.
The funding will take place simultaneously with the transfer of the title, which is anticipated to occur within the 2020 calendar year.
A grant application has to be submitted from the Town to the Kaplan Foundation.
“It is about the spirit of giving,” said Kaplan. “We expect the Town to uphold the same moral obligation. It’s all about following Mrs. Desmond’s wishes.”