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Portion of Goodhue may soon be for sale

Portion of Goodhue may soon be for sale

SILive.com 02/16/2011

By Stephanie Slepian

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — The Children’s Aid Society, tired of waiting on the city to buy part of the Goodhue Center in New Brighton, will put part of the property on the market if the mayor’s preliminary budget — expected to be released tomorrow — doesn’t include the funds for the purchase.

It’s a likely scenario, especially since $9 million allocated by elected officials to the Parks Department to buy the site no longer exists. A market sale means the bucolic land that has served generations of Staten Island kids for nearly a century could fall into the hands of a developer, instead of being preserved as a public park.

Included in any sale — whether to the city or another party — would be 38 of the Manhattan-based non-profit’s 42 acres. The proceeds would be used by The Children’s Aid Society to continue its programs on the remaining four acres.

“The Children’s Aid Society has worked with New York City government in good faith to structure a sale that would protect 38 acres of public park land, and keep it open to all,” said president and CEO Richard Buery.

“If funds are not allocated in Mayor Bloomberg’s preliminary budget toward the purchase of this land, we have no choice but to put the property on the market.”

CONSIDERED SELLING 5 YEARS AGO

That’s a fate elected officials tried to prevent more than five years ago, when The Children’s Aid Society first considered selling a portion of its 42 acres because of cuts in government funding and the rising cost of maintaining its aging facilities around the five boroughs.

“I understand [The Children’s Aid Society’s] frustration, I share it,” said City Councilman James Oddo (R-Mid-Island/Brooklyn). “If this ever comes to pass, where they sell this property and the ultimate use is not a net positive for Staten Island, it will be another stain on the legacy of this Parks Department, the commissioner and this administration.”

Back in 2005, the Children’s Aid Society — which has run a summer camp and after-school programs for underserved children at its Goodhue Center since 1912 — announced plans to sell most of its land to private developers and use funds from the sale to build a new facility on what remained.

But elected officials weren’t about to see any swath of public land turned into another housing development.

The City Council delegation and Borough President James P. Molinaro set aside $9 million in discretionary funding to purchase 38 acres at Goodhue since 2005. Another $1 million was allocated in July by then-Rep. Michael McMahon, who was one of the driving forces in preserving the land when he was a city councilman.

Today, less than $2 million of that money remains.

The Parks Department has told elected officials that the money was used to meet mandated cuts to their capital budget.

BUDGET CRISIS

“I was distressed to receive notification that the Children’s Aid Society is considering placing a portion of the Goodhue Center property on the market for sale,” said Councilwoman Debi Rose (D-North Shore). “Many of Staten Island’s elected officials have worked very hard to preserve the Goodhue property for public use and had committed funding. Recognizing our current budget crisis and limitations, I will continue to work with Goodhue and government offices to preserve this wonderful North Shore natural resource.”

Oddo has discounted promises made in recent meetings with Parks that the agency will “find the money” to move forward on the purchase in stages, especially with bigger cuts looming this year.

“Like robber barons, they stole this money in the middle of the night,” Oddo said. “Their credibility was already extremely thin. I have very little faith. I have no reason to have faith. With a 20 percent cut in the capital budget, we knew how to connect the dots.”

So did The Children’s Aid Society, which served 800 children at its mental health clinic and 500 children at the Goodhue summer camp last year.

“It is our strong preference that the land remains public park land,” Buery said. “We have negotiated with the city for five years about this property because we’d prefer it to be parkland. However, if we don’t sell a portion of our property, we will have to cut services at a time when children and families need them the most.”