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Committee To Save St. Paul’s Falls Short

The latest chapter in the ongoing saga that is the fight over the fate of the former St. Paul’s school took a southward turn for preservationists. By a tally of five to three, the Garden City Board of Trustees voted to accept the findings of a forensic architect hired by the village to review an $8.2 million proposal submitted by the Committee to Save St. Paul’s (CSSP) with help from the Garden City Historical Society. Don Erwin, principal in the architecture/engineering firm of Erwin & Bielinski, conducted the study and drew up the report that found the committee’s proposal and estimate falling short on a number of levels.

“I don’t believe it would be feasible to occupy the building for that [estimate],” Erwin said. “That price [of $8.2 million] is underestimated and there needs to be additional work along with the simple issue of overcoming the building’s safety issues, which are out of everybody’s control. [That’s] really up to the building inspectors and other parties.”

The CSSP proposed restoring the first floor and chapel, and closing off the remainder of the building as a means of deferring a full-on restoration of the entire structure.

According to Erwin, among the problems presented by the current structure are:

An antiquated design that doesn’t meet current building codes

An anachronistic footprint characterized by small rooms and odd-shaped corridors that are an irregular fit for contemporary usage

Major safety flaws

Most problematic are aspects of the structure’s inherent design, he said, and it would cost on the order of $40 million to make St. Paul’s suitable for occupancy.

“The outside walls are actually hollow and would create smoke tunnels if a fire were to develop, it would envelop the entire building,” Erwin said. “The entire roof is made of wood and we know that’s a difficult mix—wood floors and a wood roof in a masonry building with no means of egress. It’s unfortunately a poisonous mix that’s sitting there and to truly address that would be very, very expensive.”

In Erwin’s opinion, money used in a partial restoration would be wasted as work done on the primary level would be ripped out once St. Paul’s was wholly redone.

Mayor Don Brudie inquired as to whether $8.2 million was a fair amount for the work proposed. Erwin said he didn’t think it was feasible.

Code compliance, or St. Paul’s lack of it according to the report, was a major sticking point.

A letter written by Michael Filippon, the superintendent of the village’s building department read in part, “…I found the reports to be extremely thorough and display a full understanding of the underlying principles of building codes, which are designed to ensure the safety of people entering the building. I would go so far as to say that with the passage of time, cost estimates will likely be even higher. In conclusion, I concur with the findings of the report that partial use of the building without significant remediation to the entire building, is not only impractical, but would not achieve code compliance.”

The Erwin & Bielinksi report also offered options for what to do with St. Paul’s (see sidebar) that ranged from $17.2 million to well over $100 million.

With the presentation of the report, Trustee Brian Daughney proposed accepting the report’s results and rejecting the CSSP plan with Trustees Daughney, Dennis Donnelly, Laurence Quinn, Nicholas Episcopia and John DeMaro voting affirmatively and Mayor Brudie and deputy Mayors John Watras and Andrew Cavanaugh casting negative votes.  In casting his vote, the mayor made clear his concerns regarding the potential demolition of St. Paul’s.

“This is an iconic building. It’s an asset to the village. It’s something that if you take it down, you cannot put it back up,” he said. “Once it’s gone, you couldn’t even rebuild it for the four to six million dollars it would cost to take it down. You couldn’t put the building back for that cost. So this has to be something that’s considered very carefully and very seriously before we make any move on this.”

The next meeting of the Garden City Board of Trustees will be on Thursday, Jan. 10 at 8 p.m.

News

Ever since the Garden City School District passed a $36.8 million School Investment Bond back in 2009, the upgrades throughout the district have been quite substantial. And while most of it has gone towards infrastructure, external visible improvements have rightfully been a source of pride for the board, which has taken to conducting tours at the different schools preceding the monthly public meetings that are normally held at Garden City High School. On the night of the school board meeting held on Tuesday, Oct. 14  at the Homestead Building, the school board, administration and Superintendent Dr. Robert Feirsen went on a guided tour of the building by Homestead Principal Dr. Suzanne Viscovich.

Feirsen described the tour as a new tradition started last year where administration travels around each of the district’s school buildings in the Fall to observe its current offerings and recent upgrades.

In an earlier column, Mayor John Watras shared some helpful tips on how to secure your property in preparation for a hurricane. The following are additional recommendations on what you can do now to be prepared in the event that a major storm hits Long Island.

As the storm approaches, customers should take the following steps to prepare for the arrival of either a hurricane or tropical storm:


Sports

Stretching tips for the high school athlete

Prior to the start of high school running season, Garden City’s Physical Therapy Options (PTO) had an opportunity to provide a presentation to members of Sacred Heart Academy’s cross country team. Team members gathered at Garden City’s New York Running Company to learn strategies and tips for a successful fall season.

PTO staff members Dr. Meghan Goetz, Doctor of Physical Therapy, and PTO Aide Mike Murphy discussed the importance of stretching to prevent injury and provided strategies and tips for success for the high school runner.

The league started on Saturday, Sept. 13 at Garden City’s Tullamore Park. It runs from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays. A uniform shirt and soccer balls are provided. Cleats and soccer shorts are recommended and players must wear shin guards. Age groups range from pre-k through 12th grade. Garden City residents and non-Garden City residents are welcome. Middle school and high school age volunteers are needed. No soccer experience is necessary. If you have any other questions, please contact Andy Garger at ajgarger@verizon.net or 516-775-8058.

— Submitted by the Challenger Soccer League


Calendar

Garden City High School Homecoming

Saturday, October 25

Marvelous Movie Matinée

Monday, October 27

A Map Of Artistic Inspiration

Saturday, November 1



Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com

The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
Written by Mike Barry, MFBarry@optonline.net

Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com