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Ray of Hope For St. Paul’s?

Mayor Announces Possible Building Buyer as Bond Referendum Approaches April 27

With only a week to go before the Village of Garden City holds a bond referendum vote to approve funds to demolish St. Paul’s main building and Ellis Hall, there could be one last ray of hope to save the village landmark from the wrecking ball. 

 At the April 14th board of trustees meeting, Mayor Donald Brudie announced that he had received some good news about a potential buyer for the building. “Last Tuesday Rudy Giuliani called me. He was on his way to Geneva [Switzerland]. He said, ‘I have a client who operates for-profit boarding schools. He has 18, some in Scotland, some in Asia and some in Europe and he wants to do this in the United States and I think St. Paul’s would be the building for him,’” he said.

The village was then informed the interested client (whose identity was not revealed during the meeting) was traveling to New York and requested to tour the building in person. The building contains some hazardous materials, so the mayor stated that village officials showed the two main rooms and chapel. “He [the buyer] was very pleased,” the mayor said. 

According to the mayor, the developer will submit a letter of interest in the coming weeks. He further stated that the buyer, whom he described as “financially stable,” would rehabilitate the entire building and may consider using it as a day school. “We have a lot of talking to do. It’s very speculative. We have no idea,” Brudie said, adding, “It could fall through. It could not be a meeting of the minds and that would end that discussion, but I think it’s a very good omen. It’s a ray of hope to save the building.”

In other related news, Trustee Nicholas Episcopia, the newly appointed fire commissioner, reported that the Garden City Fire Department recently made an inspection of the St. Paul’s Building, which he suggested should continue to take place on an annual basis. “They were looking for three things. They were looking for any evidence of any homeless people who may have taken up residence in the building, any teenagers using it for recreational activities and the general overall condition in the building. They did say they found quite a bit of furry and feathered friends,” he said. 

“There wasn’t any evidence of homeless people taking up residence in there; and one thing they were really happy about, there wasn’t any evidence of teenage mischief - cans, bottles, food, cigarettes, cigars, etc, no debris of that sort around,” he said. He added that the main stairs and railings are in tact and Ellis Hall is not in good shape.

One resident asked the board if the bond referendum vote could be postponed in light of there being a buyer for the property. “As a taxypayer, I would really like to know all my options because if we all go and vote and then the school comes into play…and then we have another vote,” she said. Brudie responded that the vote could not be postponed.

Last month, Garden City Board of Trustees voted 5 to 3 to approve the demolition of the structure. During the last board meeting of his tenure, Mayor Robert Rothschild, along with Trustees Dennis Donnelly, Nicholas Episcopia, Laurence Quinn and Brian Daughney, voted to approve demolition and Mayor-elect Donald Brudie and Trustees John Watras and Andrew Cavanaugh voted against the proposition.

In a March village board meeting, it was announced that the bonds issued to finance the demolition may not exceed $3.75 million and shall be subjected to a mandatory public referendum to be held on Wednesday, April 27, 2011. Voting will take place at the Fieldhouse at St. Paul’s School, from noon until 9 p.m.