Property Rights Foundation of America®

54. Open Space Institute
(Latest update 2001)

1350 Broadway, Room 201
New York, NY 10018

(212) 629-3981

Key Personnel

John H. Adams, Chair
Christopher J. Elliman, President (staff)
Katherine O. Roberts, Vice Chair (staff)
J. Matthew Davidson, Vice-Chair
Joseph J. Martens, Exec. Vice President
Robert K. Anderberg, General Counsel
Karen A. Robinson, Comptroller
Daniel G. Luciano, Project Manager, Assistant Counsel
Edward A. Ames, Treasurer
Norman Van Valkenburg (apparently engaged as surveyor, but may not be regular staff)
Richard H. Pough, Chairman Emeritus


(unknown, may not be applicable)

Finances (1997)

Assets: $6,483,261
Income $1,783,277
(Files an IRS 990 form)

Coalition Involvements (only key coalition organizations listed)

(Founders were Richard Pough; John Adams; lawyers Al Tutzel and Stuart Root, and Patricia Sullivan, NRDC; Ned Ames, Ford Fdn.; Winsome McIntosh, McIntosh Fdn.; and Felix Kaufman, Coopers & Lybrand.)

Beaverkill Conservancy
Columbia Land Conservancy
Friends of the Shawangunks
Hudson River Greenway Community Council
Land Trust Alliance of New York
Lila Acheson and DeWitt Wallace Fund for the Hudson Highlands (In the early 1980's, the size of this fund "dramatically changed the nature and focus of OSI's work"(OSI 20th anniv. report) For its five-year program adding 7,000 acres to Fahnstock State Park in Putnam County, OSI received $21 million in grants from the Wallace Fund. (OSI 20th anniv. report.)
Mohonk Preserve
National Park Service
Natural Resources Defense Council
New York Planning Federation
New York State Dept. of Environmental Conservation
New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation
Niagara Mohawk
Preservation League of New York
Laurence Rockefeller
Rural New York Grant Program (A J. M. Kaplan Fund program administered by OSI)
Scenic Hudson
Teatown Reservation, Westchester County
The Nature Conservancy
Trust for Public Land

Organization Description and Goals

"Open Space Institute, Inc., was formed to preserve open space through a variety of means, including direct acquisition, and to provide technical and organizational assistance to citizen groups concerned with local land use and environmental issues." -IRS report

"OSI preserves environmental and/or scenically sensitive land either by holding the land for public use, by conveying the land to a government agency for park purposes, or by reselling the land privately subject to conservation restrictions." -IRS report.

**(The above statement may reverse the order of importance of the programs of OSI, as the organization probably has transmitted more land to government than it has kept for its permanent preserves. Later their IRS report states that OSI currently owns approximately 540 acres of land for preservation purposes, but in their 1995 twentieth anniversary report they mention many large properties acquired which were transmitted to government. One of many large properties discussed in the 1995 report, which they subdivided into various parts, is the "over 3,400 acres from NiMo including 14 miles of Hudson River shoreline at Spier Falls." (p. 15) The report states, "OSI has protected, through outright acquisition and conservation easement, more than 40,000 acres of land across New York." (p. 4)

Board of Directors (1997)

John H. Adams, Chairman and co-founder (also Catskill Center for Conservation and Development, which prepared the withdrawn application to US Dept of State for the UNESCO Catskill Mountain Biosphere Reserve)
J. Matthew Davidson, Vice Chairman
Katherine O. Roberts, Vice Chairman (was an APA Commissioner appt'd by Pataki)
Christopher J. Elliman, President
Joseph Martens, Exec. VP
Robert K. Anderberg, VP, General Counsel
Samuel G. Huber, Secretary
Susan Barbarisi, Asst. Sec.
Patricia F. Sullivan, Treasurer
Karen Robinson, Asst. Treas.
Richard H. Pough, Chairman Emeritus and co-founder of OSI and TNC
Valerie A. Mars, Honorary Trustee
Edward A. Ames
Gilman S. Burke
Paul J. Elston
James A. Figg, III
Felix Kaufman
John L. Kidde
Joseph J. Martins
W. Barnabas McHenry (According to Peter Canning, in American Dreamers, McHenry and Laurence Rockefeller extracted the bulk of the Reader's Digest fortune from Wallaces as they were mentally and physically declining, and dying. From this fortune came some of the largest charitable gifts in history, including the funding for the Hudson Highlands Land Trust, which funds are available to OSI. Barnabas McHenry is very active in the New York State Hudson River Greenway Community Council)
Eliza Reed
Karen A. Robinson
Stuart D. Root


Open Space Institute Institute-20th Anniversary Report, by Joe Martens, made possible by a grant by the J. M. Kaplan Fund.


The giant of land acquisition in New York State. Once known more for its attention to land use planning issues, OSI has been able to direct its access to the massive wealth acquired by the Hudson Highlands Trust from the Readers Digest fortune to acquire unprecedented amounts of land in eastern New York. In 1996, American Dreamers author Peter Canning estimated that the Hudson Highlands Trust's wealth from Lila and DeWitt Wallace amounts to $422,000,000. In recent years, OSI has been steadily expanding northward with its aggressive acquisitions.

Land Acquisition Tactics (an example in the Shawangunks): Investigative journalist, Eric Francis Coppolino reported on the land acquisition tactics of OSI, Mohonk Preserve and Friends of the Shawangunks in their failed attempt to acquire the beautiful land owned by Karen Pardini and Michael Fink in High Falls, Ulster County.

"A four month investigation by Woodstock Times had found that the land-grab scheme by Friends of the Shawangunks did not occur in a vacuum, but were set, instead, against the backdrop of a much larger effort being spearheaded by the Open Space Institute (OSI), which is based in Manhattan and which works closely with Mohonk Preserve and Friends of the Shawangunks."- E. F. Coppolino, "By Any Means," Woodstock Times, Dec. 4, 1997

Coppolino explained that the Friends of the Shawangunks served as "kind of like this corporate veil" for the Mohonk Preserve. (Proceedings, Third Annual New York Conference on Private Property Rights, 1998, p. 43.) (link to article)

"Virtually all property acquired by the Friends of the Shawangunks eventually ends up either managed or controlled by Mohonk Preserve...One advantage of this arm's length arrangement is that it can shield Mohonk Preserve from direct legal liability if a land acquisition project should backfire. The Preserve, which owns about 6,200 acres of land, has considerably more to lose than Friends of the Shawangunks, which presently has no land assets other than a nature preserve consisting of about 22 isolated acres." (Coppolino, Woodstock Times)

In the Woodstock Times investigation and in his speech at the Third Annual New York Conference on Private Property Rights, Coppolino described the elaborate attempt to concoct land ownership through a complex series of deeds and an aggressive lawsuit brought by Anderberg (who, along with surveyor Norman Van Valkenburgh, was a figure in all three land trusts) that was thrown out by the court in 1997. The judge said that Pardini and Find "clearly have standing to assert a fraud claim" against the conservancy (Woodstock Times).

Projects in the Adirondack and Glens Falls areas: Last Chance Ranch (l,600-acre easement in High Peaks), Split Rock (1,900 acres, Lake Champlain, Essex County), Spier Falls (3,300 acres both sides of the Hudson, Glens Falls area), Sacandaga/Hudson Confluence ( 400-acre option), Saratoga Battlefield (1,000-acre option). In addition, in 1980, OSI created a non-profit affiliate, the Beaverkill Conservancy, which has aggressively acquired land in Salem in Washington County, as well as in the Catskills and elsewhere.

OSI projects in southern New York are focused on the Sterling Forest, Hudson Highlands, Shawangunks, Catskills, and Taconics.

All of OSI's acquisitions can be described as two huge projects

Historic Preservation. OSI has been acquiring historic structures in the Hudson Highlands and claiming to promote economic development (by finding tenants for the structures) while protecting scenic open space lands.

Citizen Action Program: OSI has worked with more than 80 groups and 38 are actively working with OSI. They have a small grants program and administer the Rural New York Grant Program. OSI makes grants in collaboration with the Land Trust Alliance of New York, New York Planning Federation, and Preservation League of New York State.

Environmental bounty hunting: According to Dr. Michael Greve, Executive Director of the Center for Individual Rights in Washington, D.C., OSI was founded by the Natural Resources Defense Council to be a repository for settlement awards extracted under "citizen lawsuits" made possible by the Clean Water Act and other environmental legislation. (See Proceedings of the Second Annual New York Conference on Private Property Rights, 1996, PRFA) (link to article)

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