Written by Melissa Argueta Friday, 02 March 2012 00:00
After years of debates and discussions, the question of what the village will do with the site at St. Paul’s main building still remains a mystery. However, Garden City Village Trustees Brian Daughney and John DeMaro recently updated board members on the feasibility of erecting a new community center on the site or at another spot in the village.
On July 21, Daughney and DeMaro jointly proposed a motion for the village to hire a consultant to evaluate the feasibility of turning the building into a recreation center at the St. Paul’s site. After much discussion, many trustees expressed concern about spending village funds to conduct the study.
The board subsequently gave authorization to Daughney and DeMaro to gather information and obtain input from the community, including the four property owners’ association (POA) groups, other groups, outside entities and individuals to gauge interest in whether the village should proceed with formalizing the concept of building a recreation/community center at the St. Paul’s site.
Daughney, who spoke on Trustee DeMaro’s behalf, updated the board on the progress of developing a concept for a center on Feb. 21.
“Our approach has been to start with the consideration of using some or all of the buildings at St Paul’s. Notwithstanding, any information we gather, we believe, will be useful if it were decided to build a recreation/community center somewhere else in the village, such as at Community Park,” Daughney said.
Daughney went on to say, “To be clear, we are not asking this Board to approve spending any amount of money on any center without obtaining a broad and specific consensus, probably through a village-wide referendum or survey to build any such facility. The exact nature of such input will have to be worked through this board, the recreation commission and legal counsel.”
All future proposals will be fully vetted with respect to function and cost, according to Daughney. “We have no intention of asking residents to approve a center without full knowledge of what facilities would be included in the center and what the costs of constructing it would be. We also would want to include operational costs as well. Perhaps an outside firm with expertise in operating these centers should run it. We are going to get that information,” he added.
The community center would not be viewed as just a sports facility but would be used for a variety of needs, Daughney said. “The center should, we believe, address needs with cultural and community groups in general. For example, in any discussions we have had, we have stated that we envision there to be more general type space for community use, such as theatre or performance space and general flex space,” he explained.
After discussing the concept with three of the four POA groups, Daughney and DeMaro expect to meet with the fourth POA this month or next month. They have also talked about the concept with members of the executive staff of the Men’s Association and Garden City Basketball and intend to meet with other cultural and community and sports groups as well.
As liaison to the Recreation and Cultural Affairs Committee, Daughney additionally reported that he and DeMaro have had discussions in the committee about the center’s concept and how to proceed.
“The Committee is considering, no formal vote have been taken, whether we should undertake a formal survey through a third party, of all residents which would be designed to solicit interest in the concept. We envision, based on our conversations with one of the third party consultants, that the survey would include questions to solicit interest in the concept, what facilities would be included in any such facility and how much residents would be willing to spend in tax dollars,” he said.
To date, the two trustees have had discussions with three architectural firms about the concept and toured the building with two of those firms – one firm with Michael S. Fillipon, the village’s superintendent of buildings, and the other with Recreation Department head Kevin Ocker. Daughney maintained that all of the firms have experience in building community centers and recreation facilities, and historical renovations.
In order to envision the type of spaces that can be created, the trustees have also met with the Adelphi University facility managers. “We were told that a cost figure of approximately $25 million is a good starting point if we were to copy what they have done. These figures do not include any costs associated with any renovation or demolition of the St. Paul’s building. They walked us through their facilities, gave us recommendations on construction and architectural firms and suggested ideas about the concept.”
It was also reported that the Adelphi officials and the architectural firms indicated that a formal survey about “needs and desires” of the community was a very important part of the process, according to Daughney. He also said they will continue to visit other community centers in the future.