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Committee to Save St. Paul’s Moves Forward With New Proposal

Board Votes in Favor of Providing Village Assistance, Resources to Project

It’s the million-dollar question on the mind of many residents in Garden City: What will become of historic St. Paul’s Main Building? The Committee to Save St. Paul’s (CSSP) recently announced that it is prepared to present an updated plan for the building to the board of trustees come this fall.

At the most recent village board meeting, Peter Negri, president of the CSSP, was prepared to provide a possible solution to this looming village issue. Negri prefaced his remarks to the board by reminding the audience that on April 27, more than 4,400 residents voted on whether or not to float a $3.75 million bond to demolish the former boys school. Negri maintained that of those 4,400 voters, 75 percent (3,290 votes) voted against the issuance of a bond to demolish the structure.

“Clearly, the residents of this wonderful village, despite the frustrations of over 18 years of ownership, studies, and various options, proposals, committees and so forth, without reaching a conclusion, have stated clearly that they do not want to lose this treasure.

“It is time to move forward, take action, and respect the wishes of our fellow residents,” Negri added.

In June 2010, the CSSP and the Garden City Historical Society presented a plan designed to preserve the building and provide for public use. By virtue of a letter to the mayor and trustees hand-delivered on May 9, Negri explained that CSSP is prepared to update its proposal with additional details. Negri stated that the new plan will address various topics, including community uses; legal structure of a proposed plan; issues of operating the building; construction cost verifications; and a broad community outreach program.

Specifically Negri pointed out that the CSSP has been working hard on addressing fundraising and grant opportunities. “We have already secured a number of 6-figure pledges,” he said. He also explained that the CSSP has received information and will attend workshops on the Environmental Protection Fund grant program. He said the organization will be prepared to submit an application by the Sept. 1 deadline, following up on the $100,000 matching grant from the Gerry Foundation, administered by SPLIA (the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities).

Additionally, Negri informed the board that the Committee has plans to meet again with SPLIA and explore public and private fundraising opportunities with a number of sources, including The Rauch Foundation. “We’ve had detailed discussions with a firm specializing in providing guidance and expertise in obtaining historic tax credits, which could result in adding over $1.5 million in capital to the project, reducing the cost to village taxpayers by a considerable amount,” Negri said.

A deadline has been set of Sept. 9 to present detailed plans to the village, according to Negri. Prior to that date, CSSP will reach out to the community in a variety of ways “to get their input, to keep them informed of our progress, and to get their help and support,” he said.

It was stated by Negri that the CSSP’s intent is to work in conjunction with village officials on this project and needs support in regards to all activities. “It will not be possible to make progress if we simply sit passively and wait for something to develop. We need to work together in taking an active role in moving this program forward,” Negri said.

In order to flesh out the updated plan for the future of the building, Negri requested that CSSP needs certain resources of the village, specifically the village administrator, in order to provide information and access to the building when necessary. “We’re asking for your formal support via a resolution to allow us at virtually no cost to the village to work with you to bring this thing to a head,” Negri stated.

As a result of this request, Trustee Andrew Cavanaugh offered the resolution to be considered by the board to make village resources available to assist in the project in various tax filings and tax credits; and to make the premises itself on a reasonable basis available to facilitate what kind of inspections and engineering reviews the CSSP may be arranging.

Cavanaugh stated that CSSP should present a formal report of its conclusions to the board of trustees no later than Sept. 9.

Trustee Dennis Donnelly said he looked forward to seeing the updated proposal and inquired as to whether there would be a limit on village staff’s time to devote to the project.

While Trustee John Demaro commented that he had no objection to provide village assistance to the Committee, he said the board should open it up to other groups who have a proposal.

Cavanaugh said if another group generated a proposal, the board would be foolish not to listen to it.

Trustee Nicholas Episcopia said he didn’t think anybody on board objected to cooperating with the CSSP’s request, but expressed concern that the village’s staff may be busy with the budget planning process. “This is way too open-ended...We don’t know how much time this is going to take,” Episcopia said.

Negri clarified that the CSSP had already accomplished a grassroots campaign and proposal without any help from the village. He said, “I don’t anticipate having great burdens and demands on anyone’s time but we do ask for a reasonable amount of support.”

Subsequently, the village board voted 7 to 1 in favor of the resolution.