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Letter: Public Comment on Draft Environmental Impact Statement

(Editor’s Note: The following letter was sent to Mayor Robert J. Rothschild).

I have been watching with interest and anxiety over the past few months the news about your plans to push for a referendum on the demolition of St. Paul’s School.

As someone who has lived in Garden City for 35 years, and who is bringing up a young son – hopefully to understand the value of true beauty, architecture, craftsmanship, tradition, and the meaning of history in shaping our lives – it disturbs me greatly to see you leading the effort to tear down such a remarkable emblem of that beauty and tradition of Garden City.

I know you will argue that you are merely following the will of the residents, as it was expressed in the public opinion survey that took place many months ago. However, we both know that the survey was an attempt to validate the choice of AvalonBay as a developer for the site. The residents were not given much of a choice between AvalonBay, demolition, and a ridiculously expensive “mothballing” option that would give us nothing in return.

The truth is that we were not given much choice, and we were led to believe that these were the only three options left for St. Paul’s. What we have learned instead is that there are, in fact, a number of other options that still make sense and are very affordable. I’m sure there may be even more, if people use their imagination and work together toward a solution. It is your responsibility as Mayor to thoroughly examine those options, and to give them the full and honest attention they deserve before you push us down the irreversible path of demolition. In fact, as Mayor, you should be leading that effort.

As the Village’s own consultant so eloquently stated in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, the demolition of St. Paul’s will have a permanent adverse impact on the character and aesthetic of this beautiful Garden City. I believe it will also irreparably harm my property value and the value of my neighbors’ homes as well.

My two older children, ages 32 and 30, were born here and grew up here, and on a recent visit home they expressed to me their amazement and sadness that St. Paul’s was in danger of being demolished. They asked me if I was involved in any attempts to save St. Paul’s and I said I was, though not actively. They urged me to be more active, which is one of the reasons for this letter.

I also want my 4-year-old son to grow up in a place whose citizens and leaders respect the beauty, tradition and human spirit that St. Paul’s represents. It is a priceless treasure that symbolizes all that we have come to appreciate about this wonderful Village. We owe it to future generations to continue to explore only options that would preserve St. Paul’s. Destruction should not be an option.

Nelson DeMille

Garden City