(Editor's Note: The Committee to Save St. Paul's has submitted the following statement in reaction to the village board of trustees' Oct. 4 vote to no longer consider the Canus Corporation/Committee to Save St. Paul's development proposal for the St. Paul's Main Building.)
"After months of waiting for a village response to our (the Committee to Save St. Paul's) proposal to save the historic St. Paul's Main Building, an announcement was suddenly made at the board of trustees meeting Oct. 4. Following a contentious discussion among the trustees and extensive public comment, the board voted 5-3 to eliminate our proposal from consideration and to negotiate instead solely with the AvalonBay company. Trustees John Watras, Tom Lamberti and Don Brudie dissented.
"Most likely, the slightly-larger-than-usual number of people in attendance was because the Committee to Save St. Paul's (CSSP) had scrambled to alert them and others that an important announcement was expected that night. For reasons we cannot fathom, no public announcement was made in advance of the meeting that an important decision was going to be debated and voted on. The lack of notice that Trustee John Mauk's committee would be making its recommendation that night (it wasn't even a board of trustees agenda item) is indicative of the way the village board has handled communications with residents during the crucial decision-making process on the disposition of the historic St. Paul's building and the surrounding corner acreage in the heart of the village.
"From the very beginning, the Committee to Save St. Paul's has been a grassroots effort led by residents and comprised of residents who believe that it is possible to preserve historic St. Paul's and create meaningful space in the main building for community use. Unlike the Mauk committee, we continue to believe that our proposal is viable and practical and is the only proposal that would truly serve the long-term interests of village residents. No matter what the village board says, our Committee will not easily be dismissed from the St. Paul's solution.
"The Committee to Save St. Paul's is proud of its accomplishments during the past few years. It established that the entire property, 48 acres, is held in public trust and that the village cannot sell or lease it for private commercial use without special state legislative approval. It has shown that the property can be developed through a ground lease, avoiding an outright sale of community property for high-end condominium development. CSSP has raised community awareness of the historic nature of the building's interior and promoted preservation of the chapel and significant features. It established the feasibility of seeking public funding, such as the village's current nomination of St. Paul's for funding under the Nassau County Environment Bond Act. The Committee even obtained preliminary commitments of more than $8 million from a historic tax credit investor to help fund this project. It established the feasibility of incorporating public use into potential residential or commercial development. CSSP built a network of families, preservationists and good government advocates in support of St. Paul's.
"In July 2006, after numerous conversations with residents, the Committee to Save St. Paul's put together its guiding principles, which reflect what it believes are the goals of this community. CSSP continues to stand by those principles: maintenance of village ownership and control of the property, significant community space, true historic preservation, a reasonable and affordable solution, and staying within the existing footprint of the building with no additional development on the site. Any resident who is aware of the amount of activity on the St. Paul's fields on any weekend can understand why additional development is not a good idea.
"The Mauk Committee and the board of trustees have made a long process even longer by not establishing criteria based on community input and by not negotiating wisely. CSSP is disappointed that its development partner, Canus Corporation, was dismissed from further consideration. When comparing the advantages of dealing with a medium sized, family-owned business with experience in historic preservation such as Canus to a nationally operated public company with stockholders and a board of directors such as Avalon, expectations have to be judged fairly and evaluated on their own merits. CSSP has urged the board to keep at least two proposals (CSSP/Canus and Avalon) on the table for consideration by the public.
"CSSP is further disappointed that two trustees-Trustee Mauk and Mayor Bee-have suggested that demolition of this Garden City landmark is an alternative to be considered.
"Now is the time for all residents to sit up and take notice. Our community's future is now.
"The leadership of the Committee to Save St. Paul's will continue its efforts to imprint its guiding principles on the ultimate solution. And with the help of an informed community, Garden City will see its tradition sustained."