Demolition of modern addition to historic school begins

Garden City began demolition of a part of the historic St. Paul’s Episcopal School for Boys in the village on Aug. 27, 2014. The 48.6-acre site was a boy’s college preparatory school for more than a century, but debt and declining enrollment forced its closure in 1991. (Credit: Steve Pfost)

Garden City has begun demolition of a newer part of the historic St. Paul's Episcopal School for Boys in the village.

"It is a remediation project," said Village Administrator Ralph Suozzi, adding the city-owned site was being demolished because of mold and asbestos. Demolition of the building -- Ellis Hall -- began Tuesday and is set to be finished next month, he said.

"The job is also being monitored . . . by an environmental firm" for air quality, he said.

Suozzi said the demolition will cost about $825,000, with $300,000 being reimbursed through an environmental grant from Nassau County. "The job is moving along so quickly that we're hopeful of saving some money," he said.

Ellis Hall was built in 1969, attached to the school, which was built on Stewart Avenue in 1879. The 48.6-acre site was for more than a century a boy's college preparatory school, founded by Cornelia Clinch Stewart, widow of Garden City founder Alexander T. Stewart. It housed a coeducational school from 1988 to 1991, when debt and declining enrollment forced its closure.

In the early 1990s, the village bought the site from the Episcopal diocese through eminent domain for $7.25 million with the intention of using the four-story main building as a village hall and the open space for a park with playing fields.

After deciding an estimated $18 million to $25 million rehabilitation of the interior was too costly, village officials tried to lease 10 acres for housing. Neighbors, who had helped approve the money for the property's purchase, stopped the leasing with court action. The courts decided the only way the property could be used for private enterprise would be with State Legislature approval. Suozzi said the plan is for green space to replace Ellis Hall, "and I know of no plans for the entire site."

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