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Staten Island Residents Fighting To Save Mount Manresa From Developer

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A battle is heating up between some Staten Island residents and a developer.

As CBS 2's Janelle Burrell reported Saturday, a group of residents is at ends with developer Savo Brothers over the sale of land they say is historic and should remain as green space.

Residents say the sale of Mount Manresa - a 15-acre parcel of land owned by the Jesuit Church - to Savo Brothers for $15 million was fueled by money and greed.

"My heart broke. This has been our sanctuary," said Joe Bilotti, of Save Mount Manresa.

The 80-year-old is a lifelong Staten Island resident and a lifelong lover of the sprawling grounds near the Verrazano Bridge.

A property that also includes one of the city's oldest water towers and trees dating back to the Revolutionary War era.

"It's basically untouched land," said President of Save Mount Manresa John Bolembach.

"We're trying to save this property from destruction," explained Caroline Labita.

Protesters told Burrell their biggest gripe is that the developer has already submitted permits to build townhouses on the land, which could mean tearing down the century-old buildings as well as the greenery.

"'It's holy land, it's been blessed. Leave it alone," said Lenny Torricelli.

While the sale has already gone through, protesters are hoping that lawmakers will step in and turn the property into a public park, Burrell reported.

"We were hoping for landmark status. We couldn't get it. We were hoping to get a national designated area," said Bolembach.

Now, some elected officials are joining the group's cause, hoping their online petition with the more than 12,000 signatures will make a difference.

"I am urging the landmarks commission under the de Blasio administration to take a second look at Mount Manresa," NYC Public Advocate Letitia James said.

For now, the space is locked and gated. But the group said its determined to make sure Mount Manresa remains green space for generations to come.

Save Mount Manresa has appealed the sale of the land in court. It is awaiting a ruling in the case.

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