Before St. Paul’s School was listed as one of our Endangered Historic Places in 2010, Preservation Long Island worked to preserve the site in partnership with local advocates for nearly 10 years. Over this period, several ideas for historically sensitive rehabilitation were proposed. Unfortunately, village resources now appear solely dedicated to research and planning towards a project that explicitly calls for inappropriate and destructive changes to a significant American landmark.
At a recent community meeting on July 17, 2018, the mayor and trustees of the Village of Garden City unveiled plans for “The Centre at St Paul’s,” a municipally funded project to convert St. Paul’s School into a sports complex. Attendees were presented with a host of materials developed by three architectural and engineering firms hired by the village in October 2017 for $100,000 to produce renderings, feasibility assessments, and other information.
After reviewing the plans and discussion presented by consultants and village officials on July 17, Preservation Long Island cannot support “The Centre at St Paul’s” as envisioned. The proposed changes to St. Paul’s School essentially amount to facadism, resulting in the demolition of more than half of the structure and complete loss of its distinctive E-shaped massing. Preservation Long Island is disappointed by the profoundly insensitive treatment proposed for one of Long Island’s most remarkable publicly owned historic resources.
We are especially surprised by the proposed destruction of St. Paul’s chapel and repurposing of salvaged chapel elements like pews for reuse as arena seating and custom-made stained glass featuring religious scenes for reuse as sports complex stairwell windows. As a historical sacred space, the chapel is one of the most important features of this National Register-listed property. Moreover, the chapel represents St. Paul’s conceptual heart and soul, reflecting the vision and religion of Mrs. Cornelia Mitchell Clinch Stewart (1802–1886), who commissioned the building as an Episcopal school for boys in memory of her husband, Alexander Turney Stewart (1803–1876), the founder of Garden City.
Preservation Long Island encourages Garden City residents to join in asking the mayor and trustees to sponsor immediate village action to secure and stabilize the building while alternative rehabilitation plans are developed in consultation with the community. To provide Garden City’s residents, business owners, and other stakeholders an opportunity to substantively participate in planning for St. Paul’s reuse, we recommend the village consider hiring a consultant to organize a series of community charrettes. Elsewhere on Long Island, charrettes are being used to foster productive community involvement in municipal decision-making and planning. For example, the Town of Babylon in its ongoing design and planning for revitalizing Route 110 in East Farmingdale, or the Town of East Hampton’s recent Montauk Hamlet Charrette in 2016.
Materials concerning “The Centre at St Paul’s” project are now available on the Village of Garden City’s website HERE.
Residents of Garden City should contact the Village Board of Trustees to communicate any concerns. You may also share your ideas for St. Paul’s historically sensitive adaptive reuse, or express your interest in the village organizing a charrette to foster engagement and collaboration with the community.
Comments and letters for the Village of Garden City Board of Trustees may be directed to:
Ralph V. Suozzi