Furniture and filing cabinets were sprawled haphazardly across the room, cables dangled from the ceiling and a sea of boxes loaded with documents, phones and computers filled the remaining floor space.
Without the Village of Island Park logo emblazoned on the side of the bright orange crates, it would have looked like any other move. But on this breezy, early-fall day, the supplies were loaded into containers and onto handcarts as the village’s seat of government moved to its new home across the street — the donated former Bank of America branch building.
The village travelled a long, winding road to get to this point, after Hurricane Sandy destroyed its original headquarters. The building, which lacked flood insurance, was demolished in 2015, and initial estimates, made by Ehasz Giacolone Architects shortly after the 2012 storm, pegged the reconstruction cost at $1.2 million.
After subsequent bidding for design work, the price ballooned to $2.2 million in April, when village officials met with the Hauppauge-based Axis Construction and Cameron Engineering, of Woodbury, for a pre-construction meeting. The two firms were hired in 2016 to redesign the foundation of the new building, a process that delayed the project, Mayor Michael McGinty told the Herald in January.
The increase forced the village to halt construction, lest it run afoul of New York General Municipal Law 101, commonly known as Wicks Law, which mandates that municipalities hire multiple contractors for projects exceeding $1.5 million. The cost increase would have required the village to restart the bidding process to remain in compliance, and that forced officials to consider other options.
Last winter, however, Bank of America announced the closing of its Island Park location. The change was part of a consolidation effort as more customers bank online, according to Bob Isaksen, the bank’s Long Island market president. The 1950s-era building sat across the street from the site of the former Village Hall, where the government had been operating out of a temporary structure.
Isaksen said that the bank began discussions with the village early this spring about the newly vacant building, adding that McGinty had expressed interest in moving to the location.
“Seeing the space they operated out of, and being that we no longer needed the building, it made perfect sense at the end of the day,” Isaksen said of the choice to donate the roughly 3,000-square-foot structure. On Aug. 26, the transfer became official with a “passing of the key” ceremony.
McGinty told the Herald that using the former branch location served dual purposes: The lot that housed the former Village Hall will be converted into a small park, which he said would add to Island Park’s green space.
Additionally, he said, the donation would allow the village to save between $65,000 and $85,000 annually in debt servicing costs on a 28-year bond, and that while he was still unsure of the total cost of moving into and converting the donated building, it was somewhere in “the thousands.”
McGinty also announced at a Sept. 14 village board meeting that the building would not be raised for floodproofing. Instead, he said, his office was in discussions with the Federal Emergency Management Agency on less expensive flood protection options.
They could include berm work or floodgates for the building’s doorways — “the choices are myriad,” the mayor later told the Herald, but added that his office would not settle on a solution until after consulting with engineers from the Oyster Bay-based Walden Environmental, the design firm hired for the project, and FEMA representatives.
McGinty also said his office had submitted an updated project worksheet to FEMA, and that the village would be eligible for reimbursements up to $500,000. That is less than the $660,000 the village had originally been eligible for, but because of the reduced costs of using the donated building, he said, “Relatively speaking, it’s a better deal.”
The village plans to have the new Village Hall operational ahead of its Nov. 4 ribbon cutting, which falls on the 91st anniversary of Island Park’s incorporation as a village.
At the new headquarters, Department of Public Works employees drilled into sheetrock, information technology specialists set up server racks and workers from Cornerstone New York, the construction firm hired for the project, carted chairs and furniture the short distance to their new home.
There was an urgency to the effort because, after all, Isaksen said of his hopes for the former bank’s future use, “Every village needs a Village Hall.”
Ben Strack contributed to this story.