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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?

Court Ruling Allows Residents to See How They Are Being Betrayed by Their Trustees
July 11, 2006

Shortly before the past holiday weekend, the judge assigned to the St. Paul’s lawsuit issued a ruling that the Village’s consulting contract with K. Backus & Assoc. for the marketing of St. Paul’s was not “entirely illegal”. However, the judge emphasized “no sale -- conditional, contingent, or otherwise -- can occur, or will occur, absent the requisite [state] legislative approval.” Furthermore, he acknowledged that the Legislative approval process “is complex and difficult” and that the Village’s marketing strategy “can be viewed as unwise or inopportune.”

Most importantly, the judge freed the plaintiffs to reveal documentary evidence, evidence the Village has been trying to suppress, of the Board’s efforts to deceive the public about its ultimate true condo development plan. Here are highlights of what the Village has been concealing:

The “C Plan” we were never told about
In a confidential report to the trustees last November, Village consultant K. Backus recommended demolition of nearly the entire historic structure, leaving only the façade, with a massive “C” shaped new building replacing the elegant “E” shaped footprint of the existing edifice. They even contemplated erecting a new fifth floor. The consultant advised that only the C plan was likely to succeed and that development within the existing “E” footprint was deemed highly risky and likely to fail.

However, Trustee Mauk, chairperson of the condo committee, knew that this C recommendation, calling for more density and the demolition of virtually all the most important historical features inside the building, would be met with public opposition. So, prior to the public December 15 presentation, he told the consultants, in writing, to keep quiet about it and pretend the C plan didn’t exist. In an email dated December 5, 2005, at 6:32 PM from his office at CB Richard Ellis, the real estate development firm, he instructed those participating in the presentation to “not breathe this as the direction for the future.” At another point he tells them, “We don’t even want to mention the C option” as part of the public presentation to be made in a few days.

He tells the consultants he wants them to “plant the idea for now that some minimal new construction may be required,” thereby hiding the true scope of the construction.

Karen Backus wrote a confirming, and equally damning email to her cohorts the day before the December presentation. On December 14, at 12:14 PM she wrote:

“…it’s not going to be fun, as we have to walk a fine line between saying the redevelopment within the envelope is feasible BUT SETTING PEOPLE UP FOR US TO COME BACK, AFTER TALKING TO THE DEVELOPMENTCOMMUNITY WITH A REDEVELOPMENT PLAN THAT MAY INVOLVE CONTROVERSIAL AND UNWANTED THINGS LIKE NEW CONSTRUCTION OR INFILL…[emphasis added]”

So, there we have it. The people were being set up through a deceptive Dec. 15 presentation regarding a development scenario that the consultant and Trustee Mauk knew would involve either a high risk of failure or unwanted extensive development and construction.

The property is worth at least $20,000,000
But they didn’t want to tell us!

The deception went further.

When a resident at the December 15 meeting asked how much the St. Paul’s property was worth, the Board and its consultants deceived us again. What they did not reveal was that they already had in their possession an appraisal from a prominent real estate firm, Grubb & Ellis, which valued the historic building and 7 surrounding acres at $20 million! (Oct. 13 email from Karen Backus).

Now, why didn’t the Board want us to know that? They claimed in their court papers that revealing the appraisal would hurt their negotiations with developers. But developers already knew all too well what the property is worth. No, they tried to hide this $20,000,000 number from the residents because they didn’t want people to know how much of a steal the sale of St. Paul’s would be for a developer if he could get his hands on it for much less than market value. They also knew that this appraisal of $20 million will be a major issue in dealing with the Parkland designation of the property. If the Village does not obtain full, fair market value from the chosen developer, you, the taxpayers, will have to make up the difference if the Village is to have any hope of obtaining State Legislative Approval under NYS Parkland Alienation Guidelines.

The documents summarized above prove convincingly that the Village’s statements and assertions about the plan for St. Paul’s cannot be trusted. They have another agenda. The Trustees have violated the trust we have placed in them, and regrettably, some of them are acting as pawns for commercial developers.

The Committee to Save St. Paul’s expects to show the residents an alternative plan for St. Paul’s in the early Fall. That plan will be fiscally affordable and will incorporate considerable public use. In the meantime, we urge all residents to express their unhappiness with the direction this Board is going. We believe it is time for some of our Trustees to face the fact that selling out to developers is wrong and is a breach of public trust.

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