The January 2012 edition of the “epoa news” included articles about St. Paul's and the CSSP plan in the “Trustees’ Update” section. Regrettably the arguably biased rhetoric contained in the articles only adds to the cloud of misinformation being disseminated about St. Paul’s and the Community First Plan as proposed by CSSP and The Garden City Historical Society.
Residents read these articles and conclude that the content is gospel truth. So much is at stake here; at the very least, residents of the East (and throughout the village) need to be kept accurately, calmly and objectively informed.
While not endorsing either trustee Episcopia or challenger Jon Segerdahl in Tuesday’s primary election, I nonetheless think it appropriate that the most obvious and compelling corrections to the newsletter articles be presented:
1) ...“who themselves had initially proposed the development of apartments in the building...”
A misleading and inaccurate assertion. The CSSP responded to a village RFP in 2006 that was issued after a major expenditure by the village with Backus and Associates. The recommendation, which the board blindly followed, was that the best use of the site would be high-end condos, and this became the basis of the RFP. No developer responded with a feasible proposal. CSSP, at its own expense, submitted a proposal that would confine development of rental apartments to the existing building (unlike Avalon’s, which added considerable density to the plot).
2) . . . “the plan was not intended to restore the building or even properly mothball the unused portion, but simply to make basic repairs to the existing windows, mortar and roof. When members of the BOT asked the contractor who serves as a consultant to the CSSP how long the repairs he proposed were expected to last, he stated “approximately five years” and that the plan should only be considered “as a start.”
The plan does in fact include protecting the entire building with fire and alarm protection, and indeed includes an entire full new roof. As far as the five-year comment, the contractor was asked about the repairs in June 2010 when CSSP first made its proposal for restoration and creation of public space. At the time, he did not state that the repairs would only last five years but in fact that additional work could be done, at the desires of the village residents, in five years’ time. None of the work that the plan includes is throw-away. The plan was in fact a start, but a start that the board has been unable to begin over 18 years and $1,000,000 in consultant fees.
3) ”This scheme was vetted with both village and bond counsel and deemed to be on the cusp of legality.”
Really? The sequence of events was as follows: The proposal by CSSP in June 2010 called for the Conservancy to issue bonds. The debt on those bonds would be repaid by the Conservancy through lease payments made to the Conservancy by the village for use of the 10,500 sf of public space. By the way, the board of trustees never responded to CSSP’s offer to discuss the plan presented in 2010. In October 2011, CSSP prepared to present its plan again to the board and the public. Before meeting with the board, CSSP met with the Mayor’s Committee on St. Paul’s and concerns were raised about the lease back structure. Upon discussion between CSSP, some trustees and village and bond counsel, it was decided that the village would be more accepting of general obligation bonds. Therefore, CSSP made that adjustment when presenting in 2011. It should be noted that the structure originally proposed by CSSP has been used in the past in other restoration projects.
4) “The CSSP promised a new plan in early December, but instead are now insisting that the BOT have a referendum on their original plan. Their argument - that residents did not vote to demolish the structure, therefore the majority of residents are willing to spend $20 to $30 million or more for meeting rooms - is specious.”
In October CSSP made the offer to address further work deemed necessary by several trustees, and additional discussion was planned. However, the writer of the piece in the epoa newsletter makes no mention that the board was unwilling to sit down and meet with the CSSP and search for a meaningful compromise. Therefore, CSSP determined that without clear direction from the board, it would be meaningless to suggest any modifications. Also, no idea where the $20-$30 million figure comes from. Our numbers were reviewed by Lawless & Mangione, at the insistence of the village, and found to be accurate. In addition, a request in the fall to have Turner Construction review our financials showed that Turner confirmed our costs within 5 percent. CSSP’s plan does not call for the expenditure of $20-$30 million. The board of trustees has not discussed the CSSP proposal made this fall in public session and has not taken any vote on the proposal as a whole. In an effort to bring the proposal to the residents for them to decide if they want the CSSP proposal or not, CSSP asks that a bond referendum be held. Let the people decide.
5) “The majority of the BOT has approved funds to review ideas for preservation of the façade and the creation of some public space. This would include the removal of parts of the main building that have no practical use. However, at this time no specific plan has been presented.”
Basically, an accurate statement. However, it is sad to say that despite assurances that there would be discussions with the POAs and residents in the fall, this simply has not occurred.
(Editor's Note: Albert Intreglia is Garden City Historical Society president. The Garden City Historical Society and the Committee to Save St. Paul's jointly submitted a proposal to the village board of trustees for St. Paul's in October.)