BREAKING NEWS: Town Of Newburgh Re. Desmond House

By Edie Johnson

The Town Board of the Town of Newburgh just passed a resolution to seek a $1M grant being offered by Bill Kaplan of the Kaplan Foundation . The grant is being offered to the Town of Newburgh for the purpose of acquiring the historic Desmond House in Balmville, which has been and will now be able to continue to be used for continuing education, including art and programs that will enable seniors as well as others to better themselves and their community. Town of Newburgh Supervisor Gil Piaquadio said this acquisition will be a huge benefit to the town’s park system, and will enable it to grow additional programs, some that will be a wonderful addition to their parks environment, and will also likely include additional related trips that their Parks Department system currently offers.

In an interview this morning, Mr. Kaplan emphasized that while his numerous philanthropic gifts have usually benefited mainly health and educational programs in the City of Newburgh, this time it is meant also to ensure that the original intent of the “Gift of the Desmond House”, located at the North end of the Town of Newburgh, is honored, and that it will not be put on the general real estate market for sale. (See Bill Kaplan’s comments about “The Gift” below.) Mount Saint Mary College recently decided to sell the house and property due to falling income during the Pandemic. When Kaplan and his daughter, Joan, who is President of the Kaplan Foundation, heard of the plan to sell and the outcry from dozens of area residents who have enjoyed the programs there, they decided to act.

Several councilmembers along with ZOOM meeting attendees who have participated in learning activities there over the years said they could hardly contain their joy that this is happening.

THE SPIRIT OF THE GIFT

The Kaplan Family Foundation was recently made aware that the property now known as the Desmond Center for Adult Enrichment will be put on the market for sale by Mount Saint Mary College. The reason given was that the financial burden that the property upkeep and maintenance causes for the college was no longer viable.  Given the Foundation’s decades long involvement with the college we were surprised and displeased to hear the news.
Over the course of several decades the Foundation has issued grants to multiple not-for-profits and other worthy causes. Prior to awarding these grants there is a process of rigorous due diligence to ascertain that the grant recipient’s mission coincides with that of the Foundation.  We occasionally discover after the fact that the grantee has not performed to the original intent of the grant. 
As a family foundation we believe that in accepting a generous gift of this sort there is a moral and possibly legal obligation to live up to the spirit of the gift.
Following the 1990 death of owner Alice Curtis Desmond, this property was donated to the college for parkland and educational purposes along with a $2 million endowment for maintenance. Over the past three decades, thousands of grateful area residents have taken more than 100 courses of instruction in the arts, sciences, fitness and more. In 2018 alone more than 2,000 people attended classes. To sell this property solely for the purpose of alleviating financial burden on the college, with no consideration of maintaining the spirit of the original bequest, would not only be a travesty, but also a breach of trust. 
The Kaplan Family and the Kaplan Foundation believes that any dispersal of this estate should continue to honor the wishes of Alice Curtis Desmond for the mission of adult education and use as a parkland and environmental education center.

Joan KaplanPresident,
Kaplan Family Foundation

See more on this story tomorrow online and in this week’s Orange County Post published on Friday.

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