The former Bank of America building that was donated to the village earlier this year will be remade into the long-anticipated new Village Hall, which was originally slated to be built at its former location.
“It’s been indicated that we can raise the Bank of America at a more economical and fiscally prudent expense than if we continue banging our heads against the wall on this piece of property,” Island Park Mayor Michael McGinty announced at a village board meeting on May 18.
Original cost estimates for the new Village Hall — made by architects shortly after the building was damaged during Hurricane Sandy — were less than $1.5 million, McGinty said, and a $660,000 reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency had been secured to offset the expense. After several years of a long bidding process, design changes and other construction delays, the village was ready to build as early as last month. But after more recent estimates spiked to $2.2 million, officials sought other options.
Residents urged the village in recent months to consider using the vacant bank on Long Beach Road as its new headquarters. Though McGinty had previously expressed hesitation about retrofitting the building due to cost concerns, he told the Herald last week that estimates done by structural engineers this month to raise the bank two feet above base flood elevation and renovate its inside are well under the price of rebuilding Village Hall on the adjacent former site. No price has been finalized, he added.
“I think it’s a brilliant idea … and I’m glad they finally have come around to not trying to replicate something that already exists that they own,” said Harbor Isle resident Gabriele Kathryn Libbey, adding that the building is already handicapped-accessible and has a fireproof vault for record storage, as required by state law.
U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice’s office had discussions with FEMA about the village’s struggles to build at the headquarters’ former site, McGinty said, and whether the $660,000 could still be used. He added, though, that even without the reimbursement, estimates still show that the bank plan is less expensive.
“I know that municipalities tend to do things to skew to available funds and grants,” said Libbey, a former administrator for the Village of Atlantic Beach and a former deputy mayor of the Village of Great Neck Estates. “But that’s not necessarily the right way to go for its citizens.”
McGinty also announced at the meeting that the land between the trailers housing the temporary Village Hall and Long Beach Road would become a “passive park,” which could include a clock tower and a bench or two. The plan comes from Perkins Eastman, an international planning, design and consulting firm based in New York City, as part of a transit-oriented planning study funded by the New York State Dormitory Authority. The village plans to seek reimbursement from the state for the project, McGinty explained.
Just weeks ago, the fence that surrounded the intended Village Hall building area was removed, and the land smoothed and prepared for grass — the first step toward creating a green space that McGinty said would enhance Island Park’s business district.
“The outside there, that should have been done two or three years ago,” Nick DeMatteo, clad in a “Remember I’m a Taxpayer” T-shirt, told the board, pointing to what he called the “gorgeous” manicured soil. “That fence should have never been put up. It was disgusting.”
In conjunction with the park, the village will plant in the triangles along Long Beach Road, and will finish its September 11 Monument on the corner of Long Beach and Parma roads, which includes steel from the north World Trade Center tower.
McGinty said the village would also follow the study’s suggestions by not issuing parking violations in the lots around local businesses after 6 p.m. during the rest of spring and summer, in order “to hopefully enhance the dining experience and continue to bring people into the village for our restaurants.”
Timetables for the park and Village Hall projects are yet to be determined, but with grass being planted where the old Village Hall stood, the vacant lot will offer residents and visitors a different look than they’ve seen the past few years. “It’ll add to the curb appeal,” McGinty said. “It’ll enhance the business district.”