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Letter: Who Should Pay for the Rehabilitation of St. Paul’s?

The Committee to Save St. Paul’s and the Garden City Historical Society presented their plan to the Garden City Board of Trustees on June 29, 2010. It was also distributed to some of the property owner’s associations. The idea is for the village to turn over the building to the Conservancy. The Conservancy could then raise private money and grants to rehabilitate parts of St. Paul’s. In addition, for the initial renovation the Conservancy would issue 15-year bonds paid for by lease payments made by the village. In other words, the taxpayers of the village would pay for the rehabilitation through increased taxes.

At present, their plan is to rehabilitate about 10,500 square feet of the first floor and the chapel, with minimal repairs to the rest of the building. According to the Committee’s consultant, the anticipated repairs are predicted to last at least five years. After that, more money may be needed for continued maintenance of the building. The Conservancy would also need village tax dollars for ongoing maintenance. The total expense of the plan is presently estimated at $10,000,000 plus the maintenance payments for the first five years. They assume that this figure is not much more than the cost of demolishing the building.

Private Conservancies are working well in many parts of the country. The Central Park Conservancy in NYC is an example.

Many residents of the village are passionate about saving the building. Therefore, we applaud the establishment of a conservancy. So the question is not: Should the building be demolished? The question is: Who should pay for the rehabilitation and future maintenance costs of the building?

We believe that instead of granting the Conservancy the authority to rehabilitate the first floor and chapel at the expense of the residents, the village should deed the building to the conservancy for a nominal payment. The conservancy could then renovate the space over a number of years as funds become available from the grants from public institutions and contributions from private donors. This is the procedure the Garden City Historical Society has been using for many years to improve their Apostle house on 11th Street.

Under these conditions, we would be willing to make, tax exempt, charitable donations to the conservancy and applaud their work. But, the expenses of the Conservancy should not be the burden of the taxpayers of Garden City.

Arnold Finamore

Thomas Whalen