Written by Aliza Schauder, firstname.lastname@example.org Saturday, 03 August 2013 00:00
One of Manhasset’s oldest landmarks—Christ Episcopal Church on Northern Boulevard—is slated for a major facelift, according to Rev. David B. Lowry.
Parishioners established the church in 1802 and its current chapel—the third in the congregation’s history—stands on a former cow pasture. Its cemetery provides a resting spot for individuals who belonged to prominent local families (Van Wyck, Nostrand and Whitney, to name a few), as well as George Washington’s physician. The chapel even houses the oldest church window in America, created in France between 1290 and 1310.
Lowry values all of Christ Church’s ties to the past, but realizes that the congregation must alter its ties to the land in order to continue serving the community in its historical manner.
The parish house—a dilapidated white building containing asbestos, lead paint and assorted other toxins—will soon contain a church auditorium, a privately owned daycare center and privately owned offices, according to Lowry. A new Citibank branch that is currently under construction will stand in front of it on church property, bordering Northern Boulevard.
“All of this together produces the potential revenue to make this work,” Lowry said, adding that his not-for-profit church could not singlehandedly generate enough revenue to pay off the loans required for the approximately $5 million project.
This plan was not the first that Lowry and developer Michael Puntillo, Jr. generated. Lowry said that it seemed unfeasible to preserve the parish building and previously favored a plan to build a senior housing community, as it would stand within walking distance of Manhasset’s businesses. When that idea was rejected, however, he and Puntillo collaborated to propose the idea that is coming to fruition to the Town of North Hempstead.
Norman Nemec, president of the Manhasset Preservation Society, is pleased that the parish building will remain intact, and from the outside resemble its original collegiate gothic architectural design.
“When it comes to preservation, it’s always an uphill battle. It was worth the uphill battle, because we saved the building,” he said. “I think when it’s all complete, the residents in this area can sleep a little better [because] we won’t have to worry about large apartment buildings.”
Nemec did, however, state that representatives of Apple Bank—Citibank’s soon-to-be neighbor on Northern Boulevard—opposed the project, due to “the presence of a competitor right next to them.”
Apple Bank spokesman Brian Maddox said representatives attended a Town of North Hempstead meeting to learn about related zoning issues and gain clarity on points of concern, but that there was no conflict.
“It’s Manhasset, you know how hard it is to park. If something’s changing, you want to make sure that your interests are protected,” he said, adding that Apple Bank opened on Northern Boulevard in the 1960s and has inhabited the same neighborhoods as Citibank for years. “Citi is a money centered bank and Apple is a savings centered bank. It is a commercial bank versus a savings bank.”Town of North Hempstead spokesman Ryan Mulholland said a traffic study confirmed that the project would not have a significant impact on parking in the surrounding area.
The question that does remain, however, is whether one of Manhasset’s two Citibank branches will close in order to make room for the one under construction. Lowry said the branch on Bayview Avenue will remain in business, while the Northern Boulevard branch that lacks a drive-up teller and ATM lanes will close.
Mulholland confirmed that Citibank will occupy space on the former church property, which is now subdivided, but does not have information on either of the existing Manhasset branches closing.
Citigroup spokesman Andrew Brent said the company has not officially announced any openings or closings of Manhasset branches, but that 74 of New York’s 249 branches offer a drive-up teller, ATM or both.
Citibank customer Maritza Casiano does not mind that the Northern Boulevard branch lacks drive-up lanes, as she prefers walking into the branch. “I just feel the drive-through is a little impersonal,” she said.
Roy Johnson, Citibank’s Bayview Avenue branch manager, said the split between walk-in and drive-up customers is approximately 50-50. “It depends on what day it is and how many kids are in the car,” he said.
While employees and customers of Manhasset’s existing Citibank branches await confirmation of their fates, Lowry and his Christ Church parishioners are looking forward to re-inhabiting their portion of the parish house. The plan involves conversion of an old fashioned bowling alley into classrooms for Sunday school students and vibrant performances from a renovated auditorium stage, the likes of which housed organizations such as the Children’s Orchestra Society for 20 years.