Last week, George Whipple III pulled the plug on his financial support of Tilly Foster Farm. Today, he announced that his nonprofit organization has ended its 40-year lease with Putnam County, 35 years before its no-rent lease was up.
The announcement came Wednesday morning in a press statement released by the nonprofit board of the Society for the Preservation of Putnam County Antiquities and Greenways, which has run the farm, chaired by Putnam County Sheriff Don Smith, whose members include former County Executive Bob Bondi, who brokered the deal while he was in office in 2009.
The board was expanded to include Smith and Bondi in 2012 and 2013, after questions were raised about Whipple’s stewardship of the farm, and his compliance with the lease, which required quarterly reports and annual financial statements. Whipple, an attorney who works for Credit Suisse in Manhattan, is a celebrity reporter for NY 1 in Manhattan and has a weekend place in Putnam.
“The board wants to work with the county and assist in any way it can,” Smith told Tax Watch. “We certainly will help the county for as long as we can to provide an appropriate transition period.”
The Society’s livestock will remain on the farm during the transition: 15 Randall Lineback cattle, nine pigs, a donkey, a draft horse, five turkeys, chickens, and a slew of sheep. Smith said the livestock would be the Society’s responsibility. He said the Society has earned revenue recently by selling Randall Lineback cattle to a farm in Ohio. They can fetch up to $1,600 a head, he said.
Among those looking to fill the void is Anthony Zumpano, of Eastchester, who had been in competition for the Tilly Foster lease in 2009. Zumpano, who has run horse stables at Westchester County’s Twin Lakes facility, as well as the Mountain Creek Equestrian Center in Patterson, said he planned to get in touch with Putnam officials.
The farm’s operator for its 17-horse stables exited early this year.
“I’m interested,” he said.
Southeast resident Ann Fanizzi, who said she donated about $200,000 to Whipple’s effort, sued him in 2012 in a dispute over the farm’s finances. Now she wants to get back in the mix as well. She’s part-owner of the farm’s American Cream Horse, called Sophie.
I am fully and absolutely committed to realizing Tilly as the agri-tourism center of the County – the educational and environmental center bar none,” she said.
What happens to the farm will depend on what direction the county Legislature and County Executive MaryEllen Odell want to proceed. County Legislator Dino LoBue,R-Mahopac, who was hounding Whipple for his financial reports, said she’s not willing to just let Whipple walk away without a full accounting for his rent-free tenure at the 189-acre county farm, with four residences, a horse barn and function hall.
“There still needs to be an investigation,” she said.
County Executive MaryEllen Odell, meanwhile, said last week she’d been working with Whipple’s nonprofit board to figure out what comes next.
She said the original business model wasn’t prepared for the economic downturn that hurt the local economy.
“Moving forward we have the opportunity to re-imagine the farm and keep the historic integrity intact,” Odell said.
Here’s the press release from Whipple’s nonprofit board.
|Change at Tilly Foster Farm|
|The Board of Directors of The Society for the Preservation of Putnam County Antiquities and Greenways, Inc. (“Preserve Putnam County”) has, with great sadness, decided to relinquish the Lease of Tilly Foster Farm (the “Farm””). We will assist the County Executive and the Legislature in returning the Farm to direct County control. During the transition, the Tilly Foster Farm Museum will remain free and open to the people of Putnam County and our animals will continue to receive excellent care.Preserve Putnam County is extremely proud of its five-year stewardship of the Farm. It met its goal of keeping the Farm free and open to the people of Putnam County when it was threatened with being closed to Putnam County residents.Preserve Putnam County created a world-class museum of critically endangered Early American farm animals when there was not a single animal on the Farm when it took over the Farm stewardship. Preserve Putnam County added infrastructure to the Farm including painting buildings that had not been painted in 40 years, constructing new fences and maintaining, repairing and painting the traditional white fencing that surrounds the Farm.
Thousands of volunteer hours were utilized to keep the Farm attractive for its owner, the people of Putnam County. The Board would especially like to thank Meredith Whipple for assisting the Society in running the Farm and for her daily presence at the Farm for two years struggling against almost insurmountable odds to keep the Farm free and open to her neighbors in Putnam County. The Whipple family additionally donated hundreds of thousands of dollars in meeting the shortfalls of the Farm explicitly so that the Farm would not be closed to the people of Putnam County.
Preserve Putnam County has filed with the County every document required by Federal, State and County law, all of which are publicly available, and Preserve Putnam County will provide any information required by its lease agreement with the County.
Preserve Putnam County is very proud of its successful venture (and adventure) in its management of the Farm by providing free access for the people of Putnam County. In total, over the last 15 years Preserve Putnam County completed and financed five projects for Putnam County. In addition to the Tilly Foster Farm Museum, the Spain Cornerstone Park with its conference center; Whipple-Feeley Putnam County Veterans Memorial Chapel; obtaining and lending the portrait of General Israel Putnam for the historic courthouse; and planting the rare Liberty Elms in front of the building to appear as it did in the 1920s.
We are proud of our gifts to the people of Putnam County and invite you to visit and enjoy them.
The Board of Directors of The Society for the Preservation of Putnam County Antiquities and Greenways, Inc.
Hon. Robert J. Bondi
Hon. Donald B. Smith
Robert P. Morini
Meredith A. Whipple
George C. Whipple III