History has passed the Great Neck Village Hall by.
The structure, gifted to the town by the Baker family to use as its municipal building, has outlived its usefulness as a municipal headquarters, according to village leaders.
County records indicate that portions of the structure at 61 Baker Hill Rd. date back to 1838.
The village’s board of trustees authorized Mayor Pedram Bral to purchase a vacant plot to construct a new village hall.
When that is completed, the old village hall will then be sold to the Great Neck school district, which has expressed a wish to acquire the one-acre parcel its property surrounds on three sides.
The resolution, passed at the June 16 trustees’ meeting, will enable the village to buy a 79-by-123-foot lot at 756 middle Neck Rd. currently owned by Nexgen Properties LLC of Lake Success.
Once a private residence, it was later converted to commercial space and has recently been demolished. A municipal parking lot adjoins the property and can satisfy the parking requirements, according to the mayor.
Peter Bee, the attorney for the village, noted at the meeting that “this board has from time to time discussed the need for a new village hall.”
One of the resolutions before the board declared that the sale would have a negative impact for purposes of the state’s Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA).
“The proposal to go ahead and build a [new] village hall would require an entirely different SEQRA analysis,” Bee observed.
The purchase price for the lot will be $800,000.
Bral said the price was “fair and reasonable.” The assessed value was higher, he added, but the village was able to negotiate a lower price because of the various restrictions and conditions in the sale agreement.
These include the proviso that the village must use the property exclusively for a village hall for a period of 25 years. Further, it cannot sell the parcel to the adjoining property to the north for a period of 50 years and for the same amount of time it cannot be used for residential purposes.
Fixing and updating the current village hall, Bral asserted, “would be extremely destructive financially and as far as time goes. It will prevent us from carrying on the day-to-day work of the village hall.”
He added, “It’s a very old building with old pipes and no elevator. It’s a better move to move it to a new place.”
The current village hall property has not been assessed of late, Bral stated, though a few years ago it was determined to have a value in excess of $2 million.
As far as the cost of land purchase and building construction, it should not present a burden to the village, the mayor affirmed.
“We are doing very well financially,” he said. “We do have enough reserves and we also money in the community benefit fund. Financially, there is not going to be an issue.”
Though he admitted that the pandemic will impact the village’s revenues, Bral said that, “in the past five years, we have done amazingly well in the financials. I have not raised taxes for the last four years. Despite that, we’re doing very well financially.”
Bee, in the June 16 meeting held over Zoom, told trustees that “you have a 60-day due diligence in which you could decide not to use this parcel as a village hall. If that determination were made, you have the option to terminate the contract and return the down payment.”
The motion to authorize the purchase passed unanimously.
Resident Jean Pierce is a critic of the proposed sale of the current village hall and spending money to erect a new one.
“It needs modernizing,” she acknowledged. “Why don’t we spend money on modernizing the building? It’s a big piece of property—spend money modernizing.”
Pierce mentioned Breezy Hill, a memoir by Mills Baker of growing up on the farm. His family gave the name both to the street and the elementary school adjacent to the village offices.
Bral acknowledged that there were critics of the village’s plans, but he’s also heard from supporters.
“It’s not set up to be a proper village hall,” he said of the current municipal headquarters. “The new one is going to be beautiful and more in the center of our village.”