LIU purchases land formerly owned by day camp shut down over zoning litigation

LIU purchases land formerly owned by day camp shut down over zoning litigation
Children running around at Camp Jacobson. (Photo courtesy of Sid Jacobson JCC)

LIU Post has purchased the property that once housed Camp Jacobson, a Jewish day camp hosted by the Sid Jacobson JCC, after litigation forced the day camp to end operations in 2022.

According to the JCC, the lot was sold to the university on Sept. 21. The 14-acre plot of land at 340 Old Wheatley Road, where the camp was formerly held, is located next to the university’s campus and was sold, according to Newsday, for $8.5 million.

JCC Executive Director David Black said in an email sent to families on Oct. 18 that the JCC struggled to address the aftermath of its closure in 2022, considering alternative uses and the financial hit from the litigation. He said he is both happy and sad to have sold it to the university.

Black said funds from the sale will go towards renovations of the JCC’s main site at 300 Forest Drive.

The East Hills-based Jewish community center purchased the property in Brookville in 2008.

The day camp, which was established in 2009 and brought in thousands of children from more than 400 families, ended its operation last year when the JCC announced its closure in a Sept. 13, 2022 email to parents and a Sept. 27, 2022 press release.

“… We are confounded and deeply disturbed by this turn of events,” the Sept. 13, 2022 email from Black and former Board President David Levy states. “Sid Jacobson JCC exists to create and foster community by enhancing the lives of individuals and families through hundreds of programs. Camp Jacobson has served thousands of children, providing a dynamic summer experience steeped in Jewish principles, practices, and values and providing jobs to hundreds of dedicated people each year who provide your children with incredible summers.”

Black looked upon the camp’s impact fondly in an email sent to families on Oct. 18 to inform them of the sale.

“Thousands of children, their laughter and growth still in our heads, enjoyed kosher, value-driven, upstanding summers of joy,” Black said in the Oct. 18 email. “Camp is where lifelong friendships are formed. Camp is where extraordinary growth takes place. Camp is where values get translated into lifetime memories. All this we embodied. All this we took great pride in providing.

The JCC said that the closure was due to a years-long litigation battle with the Village of Brookeville due to an order made by the village and claims of zoning issues.

“The shame of our closure falls squarely on the Village of Brookville,” Black said in the Oct. 18 email.

Issues between the village and the community center began in 2014 when the camp requested to widen the drive and construct new building amenities like additional classrooms and bathrooms. The JCC said these projects were part of the camp’s multimillion-dollar master plan.

The Village of Brookeville Zoning Board denied granting the project’s necessary permits in 2017, according to court documents, saying that the property was not being used within the village’s zoning regulations.

The JCC said that the village also declared “the camp not Jewish enough to warrant protections under the law” as a religious or educational institution, which the JCC sued to overturn in 2017. State Supreme Court Justice James McCormack ruled in favor of Brookeville.

“Although the JCC is a religious organization,” the court filings said, “the evidence presented to the ZBA supports its determination that the activities and programs offered at the Day School and Camp are standard recreational activities that are offered at any summer camp.”

The courts sided with the village, determining that the camp was recreational and thus not granted deferential zoning treatment for religious use.

“They bent to the whims of the few and destroyed the dreams and hopes of the many,” Black said in the Oct. 18 email. “But the law is the law, and while they decided to invoke an angle of it that they never brought up during ten years of operation, the courts agreed, and our camp was closed.”

But while the permits were not required to be granted under the court’s decision, the camp was able to continue operations.

About a week after their 2022 summer camp ended, the village informed the center that it had filed a motion in State Supreme Court to force them to stop using the property.

Newsday reported that court records show the JCC opted to close the camp in their own decision following a 2022 lawsuit filed by the village attempting to shut down the camp.

“We disagree with the rationale behind the decisions of the village and the courts,” the Sept. 13, 2022 email states. “Our hearts are heavy at this moment, but our intent is to rise again.”

In the wake of the recent sale, Black expressed thanks to the JCC community, individuals involved in the day camp and the LIU.

“We wish LIU Post well and hope they use those grounds to enhance society and build community,” Black said in his Oct. 18 email. “Toward those ends, we will always be at their side.”

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