*All mentions of HTHPC are intended to exclude Tim Stollery who on public record has stated “I keep going back to the fact that Doris Duke had properties all around the world and she considered this one to be her home. If you look at the coach barn, and Buck Dukes’ desk is there, and the walk in safe, if the coach barn is Buck Duke, then the house is Doris, and yeah maybe it’s a little odd, maybe it’s a hodgepodge… It was called a white elephant, but it’s Doris Duke’s white elephant. She’s like (pause) you look at that wall over there and Ana Case (Opera Singer), and there’s a football player and an Olympic athlete, but Doris Duke, she’s known throughout the world, and we have her house here. I’m sorry but in my opinion, and I respect everybody else’s opinion, I respect the work that all the folks at Duke Farms do, but I’m gonna vote no, that we can’t knock down this house, we should fix it up so that we can teach future visitors, we have lots of visitors that come to Duke Farms for the environmental stewardship, and it’s an amazing place, but in my opinion it would be better if we kept the mansion, so I’m gonna vote no..”
“I vote no, and history will judge us, and I think this is a mistake guys.”
We come to you, our readers, with somber, yet hopeful spirits. We have been awaiting the court decision by Judge Yolanda Ciccone and upon reading her decision we found out that she DENIED the case made by D.O.R.I.S. Furthermore she stated that; “DFF’s expert advised HTHPC on all seven criteria…through Mr. Catania and Dr. Cooperman’s testimony, as well as DFF’s councils closing argument, the record below is filled with bases that support HTHPC’s decision making process” (Ciccone pg. 4), They did not. Nor did they provide documentation proving their claimed “decade of research for alternative uses”. If the statements made by these individuals during the proceedings had documents supporting their claims then one could make such an argument, but as a witness to both the proceedings of which the record mentioned was made, and to the egregious amount of denial being exhibited by judicial parties involved in the appeal process that D.O.R.I.S. is in, I can say with confidence that, no, the DFF and the individuals representing these bodies did not go the extra mile and find, or present to the courts, evidence of their claims, and even went so far as to fabricate events that never occurred on the record.
Furthermore, Ciccone stated; “HTHPC had adequate basis in fact and opinion to approve the demolition,” They did not, at least not where documentation and preservation of fact is involved, “and acted in conformity with the appropriate law when approving DFF’s application. It would be inappropriate for the Court to substitute its own judgment of the evidence for the judgment of local citizens with an intimate knowledge of the community’s interest in preserving historic sites” (Ciccone pg. 4). The HHTHPC may have intimate knowledge of interests of the Somerset county community, and it’s interests, but William J. Willard Esq. so eloquently stated, “It doesn’t matter what Doris wanted. It doesn’t matter what the general public thinks” (before the final town meeting in which HTHPC voted to demolish Doris’s home, 6:19-6:26). Despite their presumed intimate knowledge of the interests of their voting public, they chose to not only disregard the wishes of the woman who donated land where Somerset County College stands today (Doris Duke), but they also have disregarded the voice of their own citizens. The community of Somerset County is VERY interested in preserving the Duke Mansion, yet the HTHPC has ignored their voices.
A member of the HTHPC even felt like dozing off during the proceedings, “Plaintiffs contend that a member of HTHPC was sleeping during the hearings. If this council member were to have been asleep during the hearings, it would be prudent that someone in attendance take immediate action to notify all involved. It is improper for the Court to overturn HTHPC’s decision on the basis that certain individuals claim that a member was sleeping ” (Ciccone pg. 4-5). It would have also been prudent of the council member to not have fallen asleep in the first place, not only that, speaking out of turn would also have evoked a scolding from HTHPC council upon the person who acted “prudently by notifying all involved”. In this same line of reasoning, if the public is expected to alert all involved to the matter, yet “the decision to allow for public comment is discretionary” (Ciccone pg. 5& N.J.S.A. 10:4-12 (a)) which legal position then takes prescient in this case? If public comment being permitted is discretionary then how can the public bring to council’s attention that a council member has fallen asleep during proceedings?
Doris’ home is again in the crosshairs of the foundation that she had created upon her death, and at the moment there is nothing preventing the demolition of her historic, and very unique home. With all of the oversights that we as a voting public, and many of our readers as members of the Somerset County community, and broadly speaking, American voter, it would be refreshing to see a federal investigation of The DFF, and the DDCF as part of this process as a means to verify the goings on in these organizations. One can hope, but on that bittersweet note I leave you with this thought, “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” Confucius.
Despite the opinion of Judge Ciccone, and the actions of the HTHPC, DFF & DDCF, history will remember their actions, and likewise history will remember that D.O.R.I.S. stood up against these bodies, that everyday people of many ages, political positions, localities, cultures, and beliefs came together to fight injustice that the powers that be are letting happen.
The mansion was demolished within 12 hours of the ruling, with a black Mercedes and dozens of security vehicles surrounding the doomed landmark. Is this the end? Certainly not. This simply means that the WORLD IS WATCHING to change the second life of the Duke family legacy. After all, in loss we find new beginnings. DORIS and its members will continue to fight for the justice of the Duke legacy. Thank you for your dedicated reading. Stay curious, darlings.
10/15/15 HTHPC meeting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qIN3hLSydEg&feature=youtu.be
Save the Duke Mansion(Director’s Cut): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvssmxkweGI
Click for: Judge Ciccone Opinion