Over the past two months, police custodialized four Garden City teenagers, three boys and one girl, charging the juveniles with third-degree arson in the St. Mary's fire that seriously damaged the former girls school last June, according to Fire Investigator Eugene Pietzak of the Nassau County Fire Marshal's Office. Pietzak said the 15-year-old teens were custodialized, rather than arrested, because of their age.
The first two arrests were made June 15; the third arrest was made June 14; and the fourth arrest was made July 25, according to Pietzak, all at Garden City Police headquarters.
Published reports state the teens broke into the vacant school, which became a frequent hangout spot for them, last summer and experimented with several types of firebomb, including delayed-reaction incendiary devices. Pietzak said police did find the remains of some devices in the building. "We believe some of the information may have come from off the Internet. It's not necessarily that these kids designed the devices to be a delayed type reaction. They were playing, experimenting, messing around."
The yearlong investigation had police following out-of-state leads, going door to door for clues to checking the Internet. The four were finally nabbed and taken down to Garden City Police headquarters. Their names have not been released because of their ages and the teens face the arson charges in Nassau County Family Court in Westbury.
St. Mary's closed in 1991. Just after 4 a.m. last June 21, a Garden City Police Officer, smelling smoke in the air, discovered a fire raging in the upper floor of a wing of the abandoned building. More than 130 firefighters battled the blaze, preventing the fire from breaching the main building. After approximately two hours, officials labeled the situation "under control." Formerly owned by the nearby Cathedral of the Incarnation, Carol Konner Development of Bridgehampton purchased the derelict building last month to build eight new "traditional style Garden City homes." Demolition is expected to begin in less than a month.