Saint Francis Seminary Woodlands
25 acres
It is now part of the Staten Island Greenbelt.


Rolling hills, wetlands, streams, and a pond close to the seminary buildings, still owned by the order of St. Francis.

March 20, 1997, press release

Governor Pataki Announces Staten Island Woodlands Purchase

St. Francis Acquisition Largest Ever from Environmental Protection Fund

Governor George E. Pataki today announced that the State has reached an agreement with the Conventual Franciscan Friars to acquire the former St. Francis Seminary woodlands on Todt Hill on Staten Island using $10 million in 1996-97 State Environmental Protection Fund (EFP) monies.

"This is the single largest expenditure ever made from the State Environmental Protection Fund and it is well worth it," Governor Pataki said. "The St. Francis Seminary is 24 acres of spectacular rolling woodlands, wetlands, streams and a pond. It will be added to the Staten Island Greenbelt for the enduring benefit of the environment and people of Staten Island."

The property will be managed as part of the Staten Island Greenbelt, a New York City-designated special natural area and one of the largest urban nature preserves in the nation, containing 2,500 acres of woodlands, wetlands, open fields and one of the last remaining intact watersheds in New York City. The Greenbelt is a haven for wildlife, contains many migratory bird species and is a popular outdoor education and passive recreation site.

"The acquisition of St. Francis Seminary Woodlands is a shining example of why we need a healthy State Environmental Protection Fund," Governor Pataki said. "The fund allows New York to protect our incredible bounty of outdoor and natural resources and continue our longstanding conservation tradition."

St. Francis Seminary Woodlands is one of 90 priority projects identified in the State Open Space Conservation Plan and was included in Governor Pataki's 1996-97 EPF budget. The Franciscan Friars will retain ownership of a building complex adjacent to the site. The State will work with the City and the Friars to address safety concerns on Todt Hill Road.

"I want to thank the Governor for responding to the concerns of community in our effort to straighten out Todt Hill Road, while preserving our natural environment for future generations," Staten Island Borough President Guy Molinari said.

State Senator John Marchi, who worked closely with Governor Pataki to include the St. Francis property on the Governor's EPF list, said, "I am delighted that this lovely site will now be protected forever and available as an outstanding recreational asset to the public. -more- The State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will acquire the property from the Friars and add it to its contiguous holdings on Staten Island.

"DEC is committed to managing this property for open space preservation and natural resource protection so that all Staten Islanders can enjoy a splendid piece of New York's natural heritage," Acting Commissioner John P. Cahill said. "DEC staff will now develop a management plan to allow public use of the property while affording protection to the site's natural resources."

The acquisition was negotiated by the Trust for Public Land (TPL), on behalf of the state. TPL is a national nonprofit organization committed to preserving open space for public use and enjoyment.

Heather Amster, TPL's Project Manager on the transaction said, "The real estate work was extremely challenging, but the extraordinary team effort made by Acting DEC Commissioner John Cahill, Deputy Commissioner Frank Dunstan and Real Property staff at DEC made this deal work. Hats off to DEC!"

The EPF, created by the State Legislature in 1993, provides dedicated funding for a variety of State and local environmental programs. Governor Pataki became the first Governor to fully fund the EFP at $100 million in his 1996-97 budget, which provides $31.5 million for open space purchases. Governor Pataki has again proposed full funding for the EPF of $100 million in his 1997-98 Executive budget submission to the legislature.

Protector of Pine Oak Woods Secretary Ellen O'Flaherty said, "New York State's purchase of the St. Francis Friary's exquisitely beautiful, glacially sculpted woodlands and wetlands is a triumph for all who love Staten Island's Greenbelt Park. How Fortunate New Yorkers and Staten Islanders are to have a Governor who loves and cares for the environment."

Assemblyman Robert A. Straniere said, "For many years we have worked tirelessly to have this unique natural resource preserved for the benefit of Staten Island residents. I am very pleased that our efforts have been successful and that state funding will now be available."

Reverend Giles Van Wormer, OFM Conv., Minister Provincial said, "It is fitting that the St. Francis Woodlands, named after the patron saint of ecology who loved wildlife and the outdoors, will now be permanently preserved for the inspiration of New Yorkers who wish to enjoy a tranquil gem of nature in the world's busiest city."

The St. Francis property forms the crest of a watershed within the Staten Island Greenbelt, which drains Todt Hill and flows through the State-owned Richmond Country Club. It is adjacent to the State-owned Camp Kaufman and the Pouch Scout Camp owned by the Boy Scouts of America. It contains a beautiful deciduous swamp with red maple, sourgum and American Elm trees, set deep within a wooded upland composed of mature sweetgum, hickory, hornbeam, spicebush and white pine. More than 30 species of birds are known to breed on the site and dozens of plant species are present. The vernal pond also supports a locally rare population of spring peepers.