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Land swap could trigger demolition of dilapidated school

The Grand Street School in New Cassel, shown

The Grand Street School in New Cassel, shown here on Jan. 22, 2014, has been demolished. Credit: Barry Sloan

A land swap between the Town of North Hempstead and its housing authority is expected to pave the way for several projects, including the spring demolition of a shuttered school, long an eyesore for the New Cassel community.

Officials must decide what will replace the former Grand Street School, which the town took control of in 2012 and which the town plans to relay to the authority. In exchange, the authority is granting an easement on nearby property, to become parking for the town's community center.

The authority will also help secure an easement to the town at the site of the closed Alvan O. Petrus Park in Port Washington, where the town plans to install and maintain recreational improvements. Councilwoman Dina De Giorgio, who represents Port Washington, said the changes include picnic tables and a basketball court.

Town Councilwoman Viviana Russell, who represents New Cassel, said she hopes an affordable, senior housing complex is built on the New Cassel school site at 252 Grand St.

"I'm really looking forward to it being taken down -- because it is such an eyesore -- and bringing back some of the vitality to the community," Russell said. "Taking that building down will be an improvement to that area."

The building -- its windows and doors having vanished in recent years -- was identified through a townwide visioning process in 2002 as being among blighted properties communities wanted demolished.

The Environmental Protection Agency in May awarded the town $200,000 to clean up the abandoned school, classified as a brownfield site.

Mary Ann Allison, a Hofstra professor who has studied revitalization in New Cassel, said the senior housing is "in line" with what was sought during the visioning talks. The town has recently seen the opening of a community center, housing complexes, and its first full-scale supermarket.

"The biggest thing is that the revitalization is continuing; one of the things that often happens in the revitalization process is people run out of time or interest or money, and it stops," Allison said. "There's an initial enthusiasm, but often it stops. The fact that it's continuing at all is a very good sign."

De Giorgio said the swap, approved at a December town board meeting, means the town can move forward on creating the recreational space, on 1.5 acres next to the Harbor Homes development. Petrus Park had been closed for several years after the housing authority had made plans to redevelop the site.

While the town has a conceptual drawing of the new recreational space, it still needs to be designed by an engineer. De Giorgio said she didn't have an estimate as to how much creating the space would cost.

She said she hopes to have the space open by fall.

"The community wants to see it done, the town wants to see it done, and I fully expect that it will get done," she said.

With Jennifer Barrios

The swap

New Cassel

North Hempstead town gives about 2 acres of property, a portion of the former Grand Street School site, to the town's Housing Authority

The Housing Authority grants a parking easement to the town to allow for more parking space at the neighboring "Yes We Can" Community Center

Port Washington

Housing Authority causes Harbor Homes LP to grant an easement on 1.5 acres of Port Washington land to the town, paving the way for the redevelopment a former park for recreational space.

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