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Board Rejects CSSP Plan for St. Paul's

Erwin & Bielinski report states CSSP/GCHS proposal for former boys school is "unrealistic and flawed."

E&B report concluded the proposal is "unrealistic and flawed."
E&B report concluded the proposal is "unrealistic and flawed."
Village trustees voted 5-3 in favor of formally rejecting the Committee to Save St. Paul's/Garden City Historical Society (CSSP/GCHS) plan for partial reuse of St. Paul's.

Trustees Dennis Donnelly, John DeMaro, Brian Daughney, Laurence Quinn and Nick Episcopia rejected the proposal while mayor Don Brudie and deputy mayors John Watras and Andrew Cavanaugh voted against rejecting it.

The vote followed a report from Erwin & Bielinski principal architect Don Erwin, which the board also accepted via a 5-3 vote, which states the plan fails to address a number of "very serious issues."

"Not through any malice I suspect," Erwin told trustees at the Dec. 20 board meeting, "but almost any way I looked at it there were drawbacks."

Erwin said a fatal flaw of the building is its footprint, which, he said, doesn't lend itself to any conceivable use other than some that have already been rejected or elected not to be pursued by the village.

The report analyzed the condition of St. Paul's, as well as the CSSP/GCHS June 2010 and updated October 2011 proposals for limited reuse of the former school.

Trustee Andrew Cavanaugh, a CSSP member, said many of Erwin's observations are well taken. "I accept the report for how it's written but I'd like to point out ...  that it may not be the last word on how these issues should be addressed."

He added, however, that the report, in his opinion, has a sense of animus towards the building itself and the committee's proposal. Cavanaugh further stated that it appeared from the beginning that the firm has tried to discredit the efforts of the CSSP.

Mayor Brudie added, "It looks to me when I'm reading this report it's like putting the nail in the coffin of St. Paul's. It looks like overkill. You review the same papers you reviewed before but you come up with four onerous obstacles in this report."

The firm concluded that the most recent proposal "does not meet minimum current safety and building code requirements, and is unlikely be approved by the building authorities as currently envisioned." (The village originally retained E&B in connection with the preparation of the Final Environmental Impact Study (FEIS) completed in February 2011.)

Garden City building superintendent Mike Filippon, in a Nov. 29 letter to village administrator Robert Schoelle, said he agrees with the report's findings. "I concur with the findings of the report in that partial reuse of the building without significant remediation to the entire building is not only impractical but could not achieve code compliance," he wrote.

The report concluded that the committee's proposal is "unrealistic and flawed."

"It also does not address the issues relating to the long-term cost of full renovation and the viability of any potential future use for the building. We believe that there are significant, perhaps, insurmountable financial, administrative and technical problems with any proposal to reuse the school," the report states.

The report does offer alternative options:

Option 1: Remove the Wings and Restore Front Wing and Chapel

Option 2
: Remove All But Center Bay and Chapel

Option 3
: Preserve and Restore Front and End Facades Only

Option 4
: Restore Facade as Part of Larger Project

Option 5
: Use Portion of Facade as Part of Interior of New Facility

Option 6
: Select Pieces of Building to Preserve, Incorporate Them in Creative Way in New Facility

Trustee Daughney said the board, moving forward, should focus future options.

"I would disagree with the attempt to say we're now looking to take down the building," he said. "I am very interested in the second part of the report which gives us some variations on what we can continue to do or try to do with the building..."
Jack O'Niel December 28, 2012 at 09:11 AM
How long until the Mayor accuses the 5 others or being in collusion and that they are holding the village hostage again? Mr. Mayor, tear down that building.
lisa_c_clark December 28, 2012 at 07:33 PM
I grew up in GC and have returned often to visit, especially recently as my dad was in assisted living in Westbury until he passed away. Was just there in mid-December for his memorial "party" and I had occasion to take visiting family on the usual driving tour. We passed St. Paul's and I told them that it had been the focus on unresolved maintenance and usage issues for decades. They thought it was a crime that such a magnificent building hadn't been long since utlized to its potential. Granted I don't live in the Village, am not a voter there nor am I a taxpayer, so these are just my comments. But family and town/school alumni have recently described places like the revamped GC Hotel as "the end of an era" when it was destroyed, so I'm writing this to express to residents and administrators that there are likely many, many folks out here in the Webosphere who are hoping the Village makes long-term decisions and investments to preserve the utterly unique history of their gorgeous community, in which so many I know are so proud to have been so privileged to have been raised. Having lived for 12 years in a historic Southern California community where businesses were allowed to tear down such properties, I've seen first-hand the rancor that can exist. But it's not about the individual people -- it's about the town and its legacy. Please develop St. Paul's into a condo, an artist's co-op, another school, even office space -- something to bring it alive again -- while keeping the structure looking as it has for so long. Thank you.
Bill Sweeney January 05, 2013 at 12:07 AM
I say tear down St. Paul's and replace it with a 7-11, Dunkin Donuts, and a CVS.

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