Preserving Staten's Island's Great Outdoors

Protecting the Greenbelt

by Ellen O’Flaherty Pratt

For me it all began on December 26, 1979 when the Staten Island Advance headline read “Mayor Koch to sell SeaView.” This shocking announcement galvanized the public. Hundred of letters were written. Actually it was a virtual tidal wave of letters that kept arriving every day for years, all in support of saving our woodlands in the central hills of Staten Island.

On January 9, 1980, protectors of Pine Oak Woods obtained an injunction to halt the sale of the Farm Colony and SeaView. Protectors’ flyer, “Save SeaView and the Greenbelt,” recruited member and funds to fight from the Greenbelt’s future.

I remember the hearings, 450 and 700 attending, and other efforts to recruit and organize speakers to cover every point. I remember Mayor Koch’s call for a City Planning Department study and, in March 1983, the enthusiastic crowd of 550, which applauded Tom Paulo’s “S.I. Greenbelt Study,” which actually proposed the Greenbelt Park.

I remember the work in the early 1980’s of the Borough President’s Committee on the Greenbelt, carrying recommendations of the Greenbelt Study further. And I remember seven years of S.I. Greenbelt Stewardship committee as members of Protectors and the Committee insisted on adding the William T. Davis Wildlife Refuge, St. Francis Woodlands and the Richmond County Country Club golf course to the Greenbelt core.

Throughout, dozens of walks were led by Dick Buegler along the Richmond Parkway route, and along the proposed Greenway roadway, educating one person at a time, actually many hundreds to the wonders of the Greenbelt.

Then, in 1985, there was the cutting of a green ribbon, symbolizing the opening of the Greenbelt, and the Advance photos with Parks Commissioner Stern, Borough President Gaeta, Dick Buegler, Terry Benbow, and my husband. I remember Mayor Koch funding the Greenbelt office so that the work of creating and refining the park could begin, and those first months at High Rock with Tom Paulo at the helm.