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Board Grants CNS License Agreement Extension

This latest approval, however, includes a $6,000 rent increase.

Cathedral Nursery School operates out of four cottages near St. Paul's on Rockaway Avenue. (Credit: Carisa Giardino)
Cathedral Nursery School operates out of four cottages near St. Paul's on Rockaway Avenue. (Credit: Carisa Giardino)
Garden City trustees again granted Cathedral Nursery School (CNS) a one-year extension of its license agreement between the school and village to enable the continued use of four cottages near St. Paul's.

The current lease expires June 30, 2013; trustees approved the extension to expire on June 30, 2014.

This latest approval, however, includes a $6,000 rent increase ($500 more a month). The nursery school currently pays the village $1,000 a month in rent to use the four cottages, which they extensively renovated on their own dime (approximately $350,000 in renovations and maintenance over the past decade).

The school will now pay $18,000 annually in rent versus the current $12,000.

Trustee Nick Episcopia, who approved this latest extension but has voted against the renewal in the past, wanted residents to know the rent increase is the first since the school took over the cottages in 2002 while fellow trustee Dennis Donnelly assured residents that at no time was any member of the board looking for a new tenant nor was the rent increase profit-motivated.

"The license agreement is on parkland," he said. "That's what prompted the issue."

Apparently rumors were circulating that certain trustees were looking for a more profitable tenant, which concerned CNS parent Bonnie Porzio.

"I was quite distressed to learn that members of this board were questioning the benefit that Cathedral provides to this community," she told trustees Thursday. "I was quite shocked to hear the village was considering a revocation of the school's license agreement or alternatively raising the school's rent so high that it becomes cost-prohibitive for the school to stay."

Porzio added, "This is not some fly-by-night operation."

More than 250 families, a majority of which live in the village, send their children to the CNS preschool program. The school is run by a staff of 33 women, 21 of which reside in Garden City. Porzio said shuttering the school's doors would make them jobless.

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Back in July when the request first appeared on the agenda, trustees debated whether or not renewing the license agreement was appropriate before a formal market value analysis was performed on the four cottages.

Trustee Brian Daughney, at a July meeting, prefaced his remarks by saying he has nothing against the school and that one of his own children once attended the program, said the public owned property should be opened up to the best bidder. "There should be no sweetheart deals - maybe this is one and maybe it isn't," he said. "It may be that the school is the best bidder - but we should undertake that process."

Trustee Donnelly shared some of Daughney's concerns, stating the school's rent is "way under market rate." "Are we subsidizing one nursery school versus others?" he asked, further questioning the legality of renting public property for under market rate.

According to Cathedral Nursery School director Diane Cina, the request for renewal is made a year in advance for nursery school registration purposes. 2012 marks the 43rd anniversary of the school. For more information call 516-746-3311.
Jack O'Niel November 16, 2012 at 03:30 PM
"Are we subsidizing one nursery school versus others?" he asked... Yes, yes you are and it's not fair. I don't care what they did to the cottages, without owning them or having a long-term lease (10 years or more) it was foolish to spend so much money on them. This is yet another stumbling block in the way of doing something to St. Paul's and it's by design.
Melanie Donus November 16, 2012 at 07:20 PM
Sorry, Jack, but I hope that we can respectfully agree to disagree on this issue. All three of my children have Autism so therefore we were not able to take advantage of this wonderful program, however, I have many friends who have children who have attended. Labeling the CNS as receiving a "sweetheart deal" is a deplorable lack of disrespect to an organization that has added an invaluable and historic service to our village. Shame on Daughney and Donnelly for demonstrating no loyalty to this school and dedicated employees. Looks like they are learning from other public officials.