Last week, village trustees voted in favor of entering into agreement with Cathedral Nursery School to temporarily lease the cottages on the St. Paul's property. For quite some time, the nursery school has been looking for a temporary place to serve its students until it either finds a new location by way of building or renting on a permanent basis.
Rev. James Cardone, dean of the Cathedral, said the Cathedral house is no longer a viable building. "It is no longer safe and I don't want to risk the lives of the children, or for that matter, the staff there," he said. "We're looking for a short-term place for the school while we continue our search for a permanent place. For the time being we don't have one."
Out of the 230 people the Cathedral Nursery School serves, 175 are Village of Garden City residents, according to Cardone. "We are asking nothing more than a place to continue to serve our students until we seek and hopefully find a permanent home," he said.
Mayor Robert Lewis said he wanted to call a special work session sometime this month so that all parties can sit down and clear the air. "It's important that everyone understands legally what we can do and what we cannot do," he said.
Although the work session would be open to the public, residents would not be permitted to address the board. Further, no action would be taken at the open public session. "There are a number of points of clarification that have to be made," Mayor Lewis said.
"I'd like to call the work session so that all parties understand the terms outright, face-to-face. I have never spoken to their [the Cathedral Nursery School] representatives directly," the mayor explained, "and I want to make sure everything is clear because three or two years from now I don't want ...people to say we're throwing out the nursery school because I don't think we're that way."
A Jefferson Street mother with three children, two of whom graduated from Cathedral Nursery School, said the education the school offers is top-notch and said she doesn't understand the delay in going forward.
"It is my understanding that months and months ago the cathedral was in negotiations with the village to lease this property and that the Cathedral Nursery School is going to renovate these cottages at their own expense. I'm not sure what the hesitation is in doing this," she said.
"In the meantime, our children need a nursery school. I think there are over 200 kids that attend and it is my understanding that after the fall semester we will not have registration for nursery school if we don't have a place to go. The cottages are their only place to go.
"As of the spring semester," she continued, "we have no place for our children and I have my youngest of three just starting there. There's no place else I would like her to go and I'm sure I could get a room full of people to tell you the same thing. The cottages have been empty and if the Cathedral Nursery School is willing to put money into them [to renovate] and pay to lease them, what does the village have to lose? Is there hope of this being resolved in the next four months or should I just find another place for my daughter to go?"
Cardone, frustrated with the possibility of further delaying negotiations, said, "We've had extensive talks about this. There has been an exchange of letters in agreement ... We are quite aware of the risk in doing this. It seems to me that what is being debated here is nothing more than the terms of a lease. Terms that should be debated between the parties and not during a work session. I don't understand the delay up to this point and I certainly don't understand the delay for another work session of all the parties," he said.
"In all due respect [Mayor Lewis], you've had over two months to send any and all questions to me either in writing or verbally through attorneys and they would've all been answered. Why they had to be deferred until now and why again deferred to a work session to answer relatively simple questions that could've been answered with the exchange of two letters is beyond me. Unless there's an ulterior motive to what's going on I don't understand it,"
"Excuse me?" Mayor Lewis retorted. "You are coming to the Village of Garden City and you're asking for a favor..."
"No I am not asking for a favor," Cardone interrupted. "I'm asking for a business agreement. Let us be very clear about that. I am not asking, as a charitable organization or as a resident of this village, for a favor. I am putting before the trustees and this village a business arrangement by which all parties would benefit," he said. "I would respectfully submit that the village would benefit greatly, much more than we would because after we invest our money and vacate, the village will not be left with deteriorating cottages but with half of their cottages brought up to code."
The school intends on having 15 staff members park on the cottages' property between 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. All other parking would be pick-up or drop-off, Cardone said. Issues such as these still have to be worked out.
"There's certainly a strong sentiment to help the nursery school," Trustee Peter Negri said. "But what point in time do you plan to develop, within the next year? What will you do if the village comes in earlier than the lease's end?"
Cardone said Cathedral Nursery School officials are still willing to take the risk. "But we want to minimize that risk," he said. Cathedral officials don't have a back-up search for another avenue if they are told to vacate the cottages before the lease is up. "We are still willing to do this because we feel the cost is worth it to continue to serve the children," Cardone said. "If we choose to take the risk and we have to vacate before three years, the ministry will cease at the end of the school year."
Although the village has agreed to enter into agreement with the nursery school to lease the cottages for possibly three years, both parties must now meet to iron out all the details of such an agreement, including the lease's cost and length.