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For the latest news, see the St. Paul's Sentinel Newsletter

News Stories:
July 11, 2006 - Court Ruling Reveals Trustees' Deception
June 6, 2006 - Committee to Save St. Paul's Conducts Tour
May 17, 2006 - Lawsuit Uncovers Shameless Deception by Village Officials
January 12, 2006 - What's Behind the St. Paul's Private Development Plan?

Consultants for Committee to Save St. Paul's Conducts Tour of Historic Building
June 6, 2006

On Tuesday, June 6, the Committee to Save St. Paul's arranged a tour of the historic St. Paul's building for its consultants. The purpose of the tour was to give the two consultants hired by the Committee – Mr. Murray Gould and Mr. Stephen Tilly – an opportunity to inspect the interior of the building and view firsthand the condition of the structure. The tour was conducted very thoroughly and professionally by Mr. Brian Ridgway, Village Clerk.

Stephen Tilly is an architect who specializes in historic preservation. He has been involved in a number of projects in the greater New York area that have taken older, historic buildings on the brink of demolition, and restored and saved them for public and private purposes. Murray Gould, the head of Gould & Associates, is a former executive of Lilco who, for the past twenty years, has headed his own real estate development and consulting firm specializing in the redevelopment of historic properties for public and private commercial uses. This was the first opportunity that both gentlemen had to examine the interior of the historic St. Paul’s building.

While there were clearly areas of serious decay visible, both men were extremely impressed with the overall condition of St. Paul’s. As Murray Gould noted, “Compared to the condition of many of the buildings I see, St. Paul’s is in remarkably good shape. Setting aside code and safety issues for the moment, I saw many areas that could, with a little TLC and cleanup, be put to use right away.” Of course, Gould was not advocating immediate use, but he was pointing to the incredible resiliency of a building that has received no attention in many years.

Stephen Tilly examined many of the holes that had been drilled by previous engineering inspections in order to calculate the solidity and condition of main support beams and other structural elements, and was impressed with how well the building is withstanding the onslaught of the elements. He cautioned, however, that this situation could not go on forever. “What you have here,” he said, “is demolition by neglect. The greatest threat to most structures is water, and the longer this is allowed to continue, the greater the likelihood that the building will come down.” The greatest damage is occurring in the two top floors, where un-repaired leaks are allowing water to slowly destroy walls and ceilings.

Tilly also waxed poetic about many of the interior features of the building, including the magnificent stained glass of the chapel, the imported English Minton tiles on the floors of the entryway, the terracotta wall panels, and extensive period wood moldings throughout the building. As Tilly said, “Most of these features could not be reproduced today. There are no longer the artisans capable of making such beautiful fixtures. The salvage value alone of these features could run into the millions.”

Importantly, both consultants believe that the building is constructed in such a way as to make adaptive re-use highly feasible. “Of course, it all comes down to money, but there is no doubt in our minds,” said Gould, “that this building has all the potential for a combination of public and private use. The key is putting all the pieces of the puzzle together to find the right combination. But we’re confident that it can be done. “ Both men pointed out that, contrary to the claims made in the recent Village Facts, there are many, many examples throughout the country of projects that combine public and private investment in the same re-development project. “That’s the way to make the project affordable,” concluded Gould, “and it can be done. It’s being done all the time.”

Following the tour, a luncheon was hosted at the Garden City Hotel by Mr. Thomas Poole, a fellow resident and Secretary of the Committee to Save St. Paul’s, to allow the consultants to hear from residents of the Village who represent various groups with an interest in St. Paul’s. They included representatives of the Property Owners’ Associations, as well as those speaking for seniors, civic groups, and athletic organizations that have contributed to the discussion of how St. Paul’s could serve a variety of needs for meeting space, as well as social and recreational activity. It was clear from the comments of all those present that there is a very significant need for additional space – the growing senior population, the cultural, social and recreational activities of our younger citizens, and the civic needs of many organizations – that could be addressed by many of the rooms within St. Paul’s.

The next step for The Committee to Save St. Paul’s is to work over the next two months to develop a plan for the restoration of St. Paul’s that provides a reasonable and affordable alternative to the plan of the Board of Trustees, which calls for sale to developers for high end condominiums and demolition of virtually all of the building except for the exterior façade.

As Peter Negri, former village trustee and President of the Committee to Save St. Paul’s, said “Our goal is to show the residents that there is a way to save St. Paul’s that will keep the building under Village control, truly preserve its most important historic features, and make it affordable for all the residents. There are many conclusions in the Village Facts that are simply not accurate or downright misleading.”

He noted that those misstatements included the idea that private development would preserve many historic features for the residents to “enjoy,” or that the Village would be required to finance preservation with 15-year bonds. “These are just a few of the opinions, not facts, that certain members of our Board are trying to use to convince us that private development is our only alternative,” Mr. Negri said, “and they are simply not true.” The private development plan calls for the demolition of almost everything in the building except for a few walls, the magnificent chapel included. On the other hand, the idea that the Village would be limited to 15-year bonds is also patently false. “With special legislation it is likely this project could be financed creatively over a much longer period, perhaps as much as 50 years, and at a much lower cost to residents. We want to explore every option,” Mr. Negri concluded. “It would be an enormous tragedy to have this magnificent treasure sold out from under our feet.”

The next step is for the Committee’s consultants to review the many hundreds of pages of studies and engineering reports previously conducted on St. Paul’s and then begin to develop a plan that combines the best public and private recommendations into an alternative that is reasonable and affordable for the residents. It is expected that this plan will be available in the early Fall of this year.

To date, the Committee to Save St. Paul’s has raised over $60,000 in private donations to help fund the development of a plan to save St. Paul’s for public use. All of the money will be used for that purpose and no funds raised so far are being used to support the lawsuit against the Village. Anyone wishing to help the cause of saving St. Paul’s can send their tax deductible donation to:

“St. Paul’s Conservancy Corp.”
c/o Maureen Traxler
Committee to Save St. Paul’s
PO Box 7642
Garden City, NY 11530-0731

Committee to Save St. Paul's / P.O. Box 7642 / Garden City, New York 11530-0731
©2006 Committee to Save St. Paul's