With the new millennium many changes and big events occurred not only throughout the nation, but right in Garden City. As we begin 2001, the Garden City Life takes a look back at the year 2000.
In February, the ground was broken at the elementary schools, for the work that was to begin on both Stratford and Stewart Schools as part of the district's capital improvement project. The work on both schools took longer than anticipated, which concerned many parents, whose children were attending classes while the construction was going on.
In September, a parent at a school board meeting questioned the safety of the students during the construction. She said that a piece of the ceiling in her child's classroom had fallen that day. Despite assurances by construction managers that it was not actually a piece of the ceiling that fell, Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Stephen Leitman and the school board stated that this was a real concern to them and that everything possible would be done to ensure the safety of the students.
As the year closed out the projects at both the elementary schools neared completion.
When the school district went out to bid on the middle school project problems delayed the actual retention of the five contractors who would be dealing with the general contracting, mechanical, plumbing, electrical, and windows on this project. The board was set to award all five aspects of this project in November, but one of the companies being considered for the general contracting portion of the project said that they were the low bidder and issued a complaint because they were not awarded the contract. Though it was only one aspect of the middle school project that there was a question on, the board pulled all five contracts so that the five contractors would be on the same timeline. The other four contractors agreed to hold their bids at what they were until a general contracting bid was awarded, and then all five could begin the middle school project.
The investment that the village has made with regard to the revitalization of Franklin Avenue appears to be paying off as many of the formerly empty store fronts have been filled by big-name companies.
The opening of the New York Sports Club at the former A&S building which had been vacant for many years, was an exciting event for the village as was the opening of Kings Super Market and the Victory Oyster Bar.
Early in the year it was announced that TDK Electronics would be moving their headquarters to 901 Franklin Avenue, filling the former Salomon Smith Barney building. In March, Doubleday, now known as BookSpan, began refurbishing 501 Franklin Avenue, their former headquarters and began moving back to the 501 building as well as working out of the 401 building.
In April the Albanese Development Corporation and Castagna Realty jointly purchased a third building on Franklin Avenue, the headquarters of the former Roosevelt Savings Bank, located at 1122 Franklin Avenue, which they decided to convert to office space that can be leased out. The two corporations already jointly own 855 Franklin Avenue (former A&S building) and 888 Franklin Avenue, which they leased to Kings.
The village wished Trustees Judith Asselta and Frank Tauches well as they completed their tenure as village trustees, paving the way for the election of two new trustees in March. Brian Murray, from the west replaced Tauches and Barbara Miller, from Central replaced Asselta. Both new trustees began their tenure on April 3.
In the beginning of March, longtime Village Trustee Laurence Kettner announced that he would be resigning from his position on the board because he and his family were moving out of the village. Kettner's resignation made it necessary for Mayor Harold Hecken to appoint an interim trustee to finish out the rest of Kettner's term, which ends April 2001.
Kettner's seat remained empty until the beginning of May when the mayor appointed John Mauk, who previously served on the village's planning commission. This appointment surprised and angered many. The mayor had asked the Property Owners Association of the Estates to send the names of three candidates for the position and though they interviewed both Mauk and at least one other candidate, the POA refused to submit more than one name. The mayor overruled the Estates POA's choice and instead appointed Mauk to the vacant seat. Several officers and members of the Estates POA publicly defended their selection and berated the mayor for ignoring their wishes.
Angry with the mayor and their wishes being ignored, several members of the Estates POA who were scheduled to serve as officers and board members for the coming year chose to remove their names from consideration for these positions.
In March, Planning Consultant Georges Jacquemart, from Buckhurst, Fish, & Jacquemart Inc., listened to public input about the parking situation in the village before they made their final recommendations to the planning commission. Residents from the Central section of the village were concerned that the Park Buffer Strip Plan would be implemented and houses would be taken down or moved to provide additional parking, while business owners expressed their sentiments that the lack of parking would defeat the progress being made through the Franklin Avenue revitalization.
In June, the parking consultants made their final recommendations to the planning commission, noting that overall the village has a good parking system but severe parking shortages do exist in fields 5, 6 and 10.
The recommendation that was most controversial was that the village extend Field 5 toward the northwest corner, which would require the village to purchase part of the property at 114 Sixth Street and expand parking field 10 into the property at 115 10th Street. To expand parking field 10, the village would have to purchase that property and the consultants recommended that the house at that location could be moved to the village-owned site just next door. The recommendation with regard to parking field 6 would include an intrusion into the buffer zone, without acquiring any property.
The consultant stated that none of the recommendations, on their own, would make a difference, but if done together could increase the parking supply in the village.
Although these suggestions were in line with what the chamber of commerce and Franklin Avenue developers have been requesting and follows along with the 1959 Park Buffer Strip Plan, neither the businesses or the residents who have been firmly opposed to the idea of houses for parking were completely satisfied with the consultants' recommendations.
The planning commission spent months reviewing the parking consultants' recommendations and in October, released their own study, which while it included some of the recommendations of the consultants, ignored others.
While the planning commission did not recommend the acquisition of houses for parking at this time, they have recommended that the village retain the policy to acquire any particular residence in the study area when economic, environmental, and planning needs warrant it. This would be used only as a last resort, according to the planning commission. The commission concluded that the parking shortfall is a legitimate problem in the village and tough choices need to be made quickly in order to solve it. The planning commission encouraged the board of trustees to act swiftly and decisively upon all the recommendations.
The mayor asked for comments on the study by Nov. 30, but when property owners' associations complained extended the deadline to Dec. 30.
The lease the village had with CareMatrix, which would have converted the vacant St. Paul's building into an assisted/independent living facility, fell through, prompting one group of local residents to form a grass roots committee to encourage such a use for the building. The Committee for Residential Retirement Living sent out letters to residents throughout the village requesting support of their organization. Included in the letters were response cards, which the committee used to gauge the community's reaction to this use for the property. Mortimer Chute, the chairman of the committee, enthusiastically announced that the majority of their responses have been positive.
This committee was formed in the shadow of the Kenny/Rafferty lawsuit, which began in June. The plaintiffs, James and Helen Kenny and Lawrence and Barbara Rafferty are suing the village, claiming that the proposed lease of the main school building at St. Paul's and 8 to 10 acres of the approximately 48.6 acres of the property acquired by the village would be an "alienation of the public trust property." Though testimony finished over the summer no decision about this case has been announced yet. In July, Mayor Harold Hecken reconvened the mayor's committee on St. Paul's, chaired by former Mayor Brian Deveney to once again consider the future of the property.
The question of whether or not the village could convince the United States Postal Service to change the zip code for the non-village portions of Garden City remained an issue in 2000. The Mayor's Committee on the Postal Zip Code said that they believed they may be victorious if they could convince the post office that the service of the Garden City Post Office was being compromised because of the massive amounts of mail coming in to the businesses and mall located in Garden City East. According to the committee, it was important that the U.S. Postal Service realize that the issue was service, not identity.
The proposed expansion of Roosevelt Field went back on the Town of Hempstead docket after Simon Property Group, the owners of the mall, acquired additional land, increasing the amount of area to be considered in their Floor Area Ratio. Simon has claimed that they can build a new extension without increasing the FAR, which is already above the allowable area in that commercial zone. Residents from the Eastern Property Owners' Association asked the village to wage an all-out effort, once again to fight this expansion, which would negatively impact the village.
An issue that has been under consideration, off and on, for the last several years is whether Garden City should establish a Business Improvement District (BID) for the Franklin Avenue/ Seventh Street corridor. The Garden City Chamber of Commerce created a committee early this year to determine the steps necessary to establish a BID. The chamber has pushed the village to form a BID, stating that a BID would help the businesses within the village get the word out to areas outside the village, what Garden City businesses have to offer. The chamber of commerce requested that the village approve $30,000 for the engagement of a BID Consultant who would look further into developing a BID in Garden City. In November the board approved the engagement of a BID consultant, which does not tie the village into establishing a BID.
The fire department, as it celebrated its 80th anniversary this year had many fires to put out, including one at St. Mary's School and another at an apartment building on Stewart Avenue.
In late June a pre-dawn blaze raged in the upper floor of a wing of the abandoned St. Mary's school building. Assisted by several other surrounding fire departments, the Garden City Fire Department battled the fire for approximately two hours before it was under control.
In August, the Garden City Fire Department, with the assistance of the Mineola Volunteer Ambulance Corps when a fire broke out at the Stewart House Apartment Complex at 366 Stewart Avenue.
These are just two of the many fires that the Garden City Fire Department fought to contain in the past year.
The Year 2000 was huge for the high school athletic teams. In the spring semester three teams won state championships and this fall two teams won the Long Island Championships.
In the spring, both the Garden City boys and girls lacrosse teams were named state champions and on the same day the boys baseball team won its first state championship and this fall both the Garden City girls field hockey team and the Garden City football team were crowned Long Island champions.
Closing out the year, the Garden City Village Board heard from a Huntington woman who claimed that her son was beaten by a Garden City Police officer and had to be taken to the hospital for stitches. She requested that the village look into the situation. The mayor and village board have asked for a complete report about the young man's arrest from the police commissioner and have said that the situation would be looked into. *** As we forge into the new year and reflect on the past year, it is important to remember all that has been accomplished in Garden City in 2000. Though not all the news was good for the village, Garden City is thriving and appears to be well on its way to continued growth and prosperity as we really enter the new millennium.