Written by Melissa Argueta Friday, 06 May 2011 00:00
The people have spoken and a Garden City village landmark has been saved. On April 27, Garden City residents flocked in droves to St. Paul’s Fieldhouse to cast their votes on the $3.75 million bond referendum to demolish St. Paul’s Main Building and Ellis Hall. The overwhelming majority voted to defeat the bond, with 1,120 yes votes and 3,290 no votes, according to Village Clerk Brian Ridgway.
In a statement sent to Garden City Life, Mayor Donald Brudie reacted to the results of the vote. “I am elated at the wisdom of our residents in preserving not only their very own history but an iconic treasure that Garden City and no other village on Long Island has. The residents were intelligent enough to realize that demolishing St. Paul’s would not only cause a tax increase to pay the bond but also their very own homes would suffer a loss in value that would also result in another tax increase to make up any deficit,” Brudie said.
The mayor also thanked those who supported the ongoing efforts to save St. Paul’s from demolition. “I thank the Committee to Save St. Paul’s, the Historical Society, Susan Lucci, Nelson De Mille and everyone who worked so hard on the campaign to save the building. But most importantly I thank our village residents,” Brudie concluded.
Peter Negri, president of the Committee to Save St. Paul’s, who proposed and presented an alternate plan to rehabilitate and restore the structure last year, commented on vote. “The 3,290 to 1,120 vote is a clear indication of how the residents feel about St. Paul’s. I’m just thrilled that people finally had a chance to voice their opinion. The Committee to Save St. Paul’s looks forward to working with the Board of Trustees, its new leadership, Mayor Donald Brudie and Deputy Mayor John Watras, and many, many community members from senior citizens to high school students to bring about a solution for the use of our historic building,” Negri said.
In a vote of 5 to 3, Garden City Board of Trustees approved the demolition of the 128-year-old gothic building at its March 17 meeting. Former Mayor Robert Rothschild, along with Trustees Dennis Donnelly, Nicholas Episcopia, Laurence Quinn and Brian Daughney, voted to approve demolition and former Mayor-elect and Donald Brudie and Trustees John Watras and Andrew Cavanaugh voted against the proposition. At that time, the village board adopted a resolution authorizing the issuance of bonds subjected to a public referendum to pay for the cost of the demolition.
While last week’s vote indicated that residents do not approve the floating of bonds to pay for the demolition, the decision about what to do with the building still remains with the village board, according to Village Counsel Gerard Fishberg. “Let’s make it very clear, it’s solely the village board’s decision to make the decision to take the buildings down or not. That decision cannot rest with the voters,” Fishberg said at a March 17 meeting.
Fishberg also stated that while using the village board’s reserves to pay for demolition is a possible course of action, trustees have said there are no such monies available in the operating budget. “If the bond resolution is defeated the board will be unable to go forward to fulfill the decision,” he said.