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Village Board Accepts St. Paul’s FEIS

It’s official. In a vote of 5 to 3, the Final Environmental Impact Statement for St. Paul’s was accepted by the board of trustees at the first board meeting of February. Mayor Rothschild, Trustees Nicholas Episcopia, Dennis Donnelly, Laurence Quinn, and Brian Daughney voted in favor of acceptance, and Deputy Mayor Donald Brudie, Trustees John Watras and Andrew Cavanaugh voted against.

After a long period of public hearings and commentary on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement this fall, the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) was prepared over the past few months by the law firm Sive, Paget & Risel. In December, Village Counsel Gerard Fishberg explained that the preparation of the document was a fairly large job, which he said involved putting together all the public comments that have been made over the entire process, as well as providing responses to those comments.

One resident asked the board if the board’s acceptance of the FEIS means that St. Paul’s will be demolished soon. Mayor Robert J. Rothschild said the village is heading in that direction. “There are a lot of things to be done in order to get to that point,” the mayor said.

The mayor showed the FEIS to the audience and said it contains the entire history of St. Paul’s school. “We’ve gotten to the point where we have put together a report, it’s got 19 years of information in here. Everything that’s ever been done with the building is in this book. And this is what the Final Environmental Impact Statement is all about,” he said. “Residents can look at it and then there will be new decisions that this village will have to make as far as that building is concerned,” he added.

Trustee Andrew Cavanaugh said the approval of the FEIS is not in itself an approval by the board for demolition of the building. “This document sought to, and to some people’s satisfaction, did include all the considerations which are implicated if the village were to go forward with the demolition of St. Paul’s,” Cavanaugh explained.

Since the document will be available for public viewing, Cavanaugh encouraged residents to read it and inform themselves of the considerations, which have been set out in the document. “All this is a compendium of considerations. There are no findings; there are no conclusions. But it is, as I say, an attempt to put out all of the issues, which are raised by this question of first importance,” Cavanaugh said.

Garden City resident Maureen Traxler, who is communications director of the Committee to Save St. Paul’s, asked if there was a required time period to take further action. The mayor responded that the board has to wait at least 10 days before it issues the findings.

“The findings will be if we take the steps to move forward for demolition,” the mayor said. “Technically at this point, we don’t have to do anything…I don’t think that is the desire of the majority of this board but that is a possibility,” the mayor added.

Traxler asked if the board intended to move forward with a possible vote on floating a bond for the cost of demolition. The mayor responded, “I think the intention all along has been to get it back to the residents to make a final decision on the outcome of St. Paul’s…We need to make the decision and we need to get it back to the residents. And I think we took the first, second or third major step this evening to begin that process,” the mayor said, adding that he hopes the vote will contain a one question, ‘yes or no’ ballot.

If it does get demolished, many residents have told the mayor they have ideas about how to use the vacant lot, and the majority of them want a recreation center placed there. “Unfortunately, the uses preserved are very, very, very, very limited,” the mayor explained, adding, “the uses as a clean slate of vacant land, obviously, leads us to have a lot of options.”

The FEIS is available for public viewing at the Garden City Public Library. To download other village documents regarding St. Paul’s, visit the village website at www.gardencity ny.net/gcvillage.htm.