Clarkstown moved quickly this week to start negotiations with the (RGHDS) Board of Trustees. The town attorney held discussions with board representatives on Wednesday and Thursday after the town board authorized the talks at its Tuesday meeting. The board’s president had announced to staff and parents on January 10 that the school was closing in June due to declining enrollment.
The resolution passed by the town board stated Clarkstown was interested in the property “to enhance its recreational facilities.”
Town Supervisor Alex Gromack confirmed the town is negotiating with representatives of the school to purchase the building and property for use as a recreational center.
Debbie Roth, vice president of the Board of Trustees, said, “I can confirm we are negotiating with them. We will consider any reasonable offers that come in.”
She said the board has received offers already and is speaking with other interested buyers. Roth said the board is meeting on Monday night to discuss the status of its negotiations with potential purchasers. Gromack anticipates the town board will be briefed on the progress of negotiations on either Tuesday or Wednesday.
He said the timing was optimal because the needs extensive repairs.
“Just as we were ready to embark on making some choices, this opportunity presented itself,” said Gromack. “This work at Street needs to be done. We’ve been reviewing that the last couple of years.”
The was built in the 1950s and needs renovations. The potential work includes removing asbestos, replacing the roof and original heating system and installing new windows.
The Street Center, which was formerly a school, houses the town’s pre-school, recreational and several senior citizen programs, a weight room, TV lounge and has a gym designed for students. Gromack said the Street Center has 30,000 square feet and RGHDS has 60,000 square feet. RGHDS has an adult size gym and is in move in condition.
“It certainly is a business decision,” said Gromack. “We’ll await to see how close we get to an agreed price.”
Gromack said it comes down to whether it is cost effective to purchase the building on New Hempstead Road and property compared to rehabilitating the community center on Zukor Road. The town expressed interest in the 10-acre Gittelman property last month and had it appraised.
The extensiveness of the work at the Street Center falls into three categories, which architects and engineers estimated to range from $2 million to $6 million. The minimum amount of work would be to install a new heating system for approximately $2 million. The next level of work would add the installation of new windows and asbestos removal. The most robust renovation project would include all that work plus the addition of an extension or a new gym.
If a purchase does work out, Gromack said the town might not need all the space but it would give the town the ability to expand programs and also possibly rent some of the excess square footage to generate income. At the same time it could consider carefully what to do with the Street Community Center.
“The good news is we don’t have to make any hasty decisions,” he said. “We’re under no time constraints to do anything. There are multiple options of what to do with Street.”
The town owns the building and property. Gromack said the town recreation department is located in a new section of the building and would remain there. The building is next to Zukor Park, which includes baseball, softball and soccer fields, basketball courts and a children’s playground. But the older part could be demolished, turned into a warehouse or rented to another entity.