Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

Press Release

January 28, 2010

Eileen Larrabee
Dan Keefe

State Parks Celebrates Restoration of Staatsburg School

Dr. Lucy Rockefeller Waletzky's $3 Million Gift Funds Conversion of Former Schoolhouse in
Margaret Lewis Norrie State Park

First LEED-Eligible Building in NYS Park System

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation celebrated the restoration of the historic 1930 Staatsburg School located at Margaret Lewis Norrie State Park in Dutchess County, made possible by a $3 million private gift from Dr. Lucy Rockefeller Waletzky, Chair of the New York State Council of Parks.

"On behalf of the people of the State of New York, I want to thank Lucy Waletzky for her extraordinary generosity and stewardship," said State Parks Commissioner Carol Ash. "Dr. Waletzky's gift helped restore the Staatsburg School in an environmentally friendly manner while saving open space and protecting our natural resources. Her substantial gift is deeply appreciated, as is her genuine concern for preserving and enhancing our wonderful state parks system."

The Waletzky gift made possible the conversion of the unused Staatsburg School into energy-efficient public space and offices for State Parks' Taconic regional operations. The building was updated with new geothermal heating and cooling systems; electricity-producing solar panels; improved building insulation; energy efficient historically sensitive windows; and water-conserving plumbing facilities, among other improvements. The changes are expected to win the building certification through the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Program. It's estimated the innovative design will improve energy performance by 15 to 20 percent over typical energy efficiency building standards.

Relocating the regional offices to the restored schoolhouse from the Staatsburgh State Historic Site will increase public access to both the converted schoolhouse and the historic site. The school's auditorium will provide a large-scale meeting place for State Parks and other groups. The move to the new headquarters, located just off Route 9 in the town of Hyde Park, will further protect and preserve environmental resources by diverting vehicular and operational traffic to the outskirts of the park. In addition, a "no-pesticide" program will be instituted at the site.

Ash noted that Dr. Waletzky's gift is an example of the type of philanthropy needed to revitalize the state parks system, which faces a $700 million backlog of capital projects.

"The Staatsburg School is a marvelous building and I'm excited to see it preserved and reopened to the public. Readapting the school to better serve Margaret Lewis Norrie State Park is just one on a very long list of projects necessary to revitalize our state parks, protect our beautiful landscapes, and enable our families to enjoy the great outdoors. I am hopeful that, through the cooperation of state government, the State Council of Parks and all of the people who love our parks, we will see more projects like this moving forward," said Dr. Waletzky.

"Lucy Waletzky is a visionary philanthropist who is extending the Rockefeller family's powerful legacy of providing parks and other community resources to the people of New York State and the Hudson Valley. We commend OPRHP for creating a green-designed facility that will conserve energy and be a model for other buildings throughout the region and beyond. The project also contributes to a green-technology industry that is unfolding in the Hudson Valley and across the state," said Ned Sullivan, president of Scenic Hudson.

The former Staatsburg School, built in 1930 for use as a public school, was purchased by the State of New York in 2003 as an addition to the park. The 30,700-square-foot building, vacant since the state's purchase, is situated on 7.8 acres of fields and woodland and will be connected by a trail to the park facilities.

Margaret Lewis Norrie State Park, established in 1934, and Ogden Mills and Ruth Livingston Mills Memorial Park, established in 1938, were consolidated in the 1960s and collectively total 1,093 acres along the Hudson River. Norrie was developed as a Civilian Conservation Corps project and resulted in the campground, cabins and later the Norrie marina. The Mills park includes the Dinsmore Golf Course and Staatsburgh State Historic Site. The Taconic Region administrative offices were moved from downtown Poughkeepsie to a portion of Staatsburgh in 1938.