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County Turns Over John Jay Property To Rye Center

RYE, N.Y. – A public-private partnership has been reached to restore Rye’s historic Jay Heritage Center property, the boyhood home of the nation’s first chief justice, County Executive Robert Astorino announced.

“It has been over 20 years since the county, working with New York State, came to the rescue of the Jay Property, saving it from demolition,” said Astorino at a news conference Friday. “Now, the county is stepping in again with an innovative public-private partnership to preserve it for future generations in a way that doesn’t fall on taxpayers. In these challenging economic times, these are the kinds of solutions that are essential.”

The property, which is adjacent to the county’s Marshlands Conservancy, will be turned over to the Jay Heritage Center under terms of a license agreement designed to ensure the preservation of the landmark and promote heritage tourism.

Under the agreement, the property will continue to be operated and maintained as state and county parkland and will be accessible to the public. However, the Heritage Center may establish admission fees.

The county and the state jointly own 21.5 acres of the site, while the Jay Heritage Center owns the other 1.5-acre parcel containing the 1838 Jay House, built by Jay’s son on the site where his father, John Jay, grew up. The property was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1993 as part of the Boston Post Road Historic District. It was also named to the Westchester County African American Heritage Trail in 2004. In 2009, it also became one of only 100 congressionally funded sites in the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area.

“This is an unparalleled opportunity for us to restore one of America’s greatest landscapes and open it to the public at a time when families are looking for places of beauty and history to inform and inspire their daily lives,” said Suzanne Clary, president of the Jay Heritage Center, at the news conference.

The county will no longer spend $25,000 annually to maintain the property; instead, the Heritage Center will be responsible for ongoing maintenance, landscaping, invasive-plant removal, restoration of historic structures and any capital improvements required.

Under the agreement, the county and state will grant a 10-year license, which is renewable after the initial term, to the Jay Heritage Center for use of the property. This will give the Jay Heritage Center the ability to raise private funds and also apply for grants. Tax-deductible donations from individuals and corporations will help restore the historic meadow, gardens and apple orchards and rehabilitate historic structures for public educational uses as lecture halls, classical music spaces and art galleries, Astorino said.

While the Heritage Center will take on much of the financial responsibilities, the county will remain responsible for the costs of any environmental remediation that may be required on the property for conditions that existed prior to the license agreement. In addition, the agreement states that the county and state will have the right to approve or reject any physical alterations to the property. The county will continue to police the property.

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