Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s preliminary budget, released in mid February, included $6 million in funding to begin the process of purchasing 15 of an eventual 38 acres of the Goodhue Center property from the Children’s Aid Society to create a city park.
In recent years, the Children’s Aid Society has had to serve more children with less money, and that was before the recession hit. In 2005, the organization announced that they needed to sell off one of its most valuable assets, a large portion of the Goodhue Center property, in order to continue to provide the programs and services to the community.
The Society’s Goodhue Center in New Brighton has been a haven for tens of thousands of Staten Island youngsters over those years, offering after-school activities, a summer day camp and a variety of social services.
In October of 2005, the city’s commitment to buying Goodhue seemed a certainty after officials in the Borough of Staten Island including Borough President James Molinaro, former Rep. Michael McMahon and former North Shore Councilman Kenneth Mitchell, put aside discretionary funds for the eventual purchase of the property.
The Society officials were fine with that decision. They made it clear from the start that they preferred that this beautiful, hilly, wooded tract remain as public open space, and they pledged to do what they could to make it easier for the city to acquire the property. The society’s director at the time, C. Warren Moses, declared that the city’s acquisition of the property would be “a win-win for everybody,” but he added, “We can’t wait five years.”
By 2009, Borough officials had combined a pool of funds totaling $9 million to buy the property and even had Mayor Bloomberg talking about the success of this project when he ran for re-election.
But last year, the Parks Department, where the Goodhue funds had been directed, reallocated most of that earmarked money to avoid deep service reductions necessitated by mandated budget cuts. In the end only $1.5 million was left and the city seemed unlikely to be able to raise enough money to buy Goodhue.
Just before the mayor released his executive budget, the current president and CEO of the Children’s Aid Society, Richard Buery, said in a statement, “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.”
The mayor’s capital budget did contain a new allocation of $6 million to begin buying the Goodhue tract in phases. That’s a total of only $7.5 million, enough to acquire 15 of the 38 acres for sale, but still well short of the eventual total purchase price, estimated to be almost $20 million. The crisis seems to have passed and the Children’s Aid Society has expressed optimism at this “great first step.”
“I am thrilled that the funding was included in the budget,” Mr. Buery said. He said the Society can soon use the money from this installment to provide services and the city, in a tight financial bind, can still acquire the property in stages.
So it’s back to a win-win situation, again, thanks primarily to the Children’s Aid Society’s remarkable patience and willingness to work with the city despite the latter’s maddening on-again, off-again commitment.
Next year will mark the 100th anniversary of the presence of the Children’s Aid Society on Staten Island.
Capalino created a targeted campaign of support for the restoration of funds for acquisition of 15 of the 38 acres of the property located at Goodhue Center in New Brighton. Working closely with City Hall, the Children’s Aid Society and the local community the Mayor moved to restore $6.5 million in the Parks Department capital budget to purchase the property.