Although Garden City village trustees met in executive session April 23 to discuss St. Paul's, a Gothic-like structure on Stewart Avenue that's now considered a village landmark, there's still no final word on what will become of the building.
It costs the village between $100,000 to $120,000 a year to upkeep the main St. Paul's building, according to Village Clerk Brian Ridgway, and the property is zoned for R20 (single-family homes with a minimum of a 20,000 square foot plot).
With overwhelming residential approval, the village acquired the building through condemnation from the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island in 1993. The 48.6-acre complex has since become an integral part of the community's heritage providing space for athletic activities and community events, including the successful Breeders' Cup Garden City Community Fund Family Relief Fund Benefit held at the field house last October.
At one time, the village had anticipated selling the building to a private developer, CareMatrix, who would have turned the site into a senior assisted living facility. Those plans came to an abrupt halt when village residents James and Helen Kenny joined Lawrence and Barbara Rafferty in a lawsuit to prevent the village from leasing the main building and surrounding land.
The Kenny case, as it became known, claimed the village's plan to lease a portion of the complex for the assisted living facility was in "violation of the stated intent of the village's purchase of the property." Last December, the Appellate Division upheld an original court decision that stated the property could not be sold or leased to a commercial entity without legislature approval because doing so would be "an illegal alienation of a public trust policy."
The Mayor's Committee on St. Paul's recently provided the village board of trustees with a report that recommends preserving the historic main building for municipal use. In the report, members strongly urge against demolition. Further, members recommend the appointment of a "St. Paul's Conservancy" committee to promote increased utilization of interior space of the main building for residential use and encourage a constituency within the village for expansion of community use of the entire campus.
According to Ridgway, the board of trustees is not working with a deadline with regard to their final decision as to what to do with the building.