The West Hempstead School District may have at least one new tenant for the school building on Eagle Avenue that it will no longer be leasing to Nassau BOCES come June.
At the final meeting of the district's Space Utilization Committee Tuesday, Schools Superintendent John Hogan and Deputy Superintendent Richard Cunningham explained that the Gersh Academy, a private educational institution that specializes in teaching students with Autism, has expressed serious interest in leasing at least part of the former Marian Delaney School, beginning with the 2013-2014 school year.
The district also recently received "a second feeler" from another educational interest regarding the building, Hogan stated. Since it appears Gersh may only be interested in leasing part of the building at this time, perhaps growing into the space later on, the district is open to renting the space to multiple tenants to recoup the roughly $582,283 in annual revenue it stands to lose when BOCES leaves in June.
If the building were to remain vacant, the district would not only lose nearly $600K in revenue, but it would also have to pick-up the operating costs ($2.27 per sq. ft.) for the 51,155 sq. ft. building, and upkeep expenses, estimated to be $2,757,235 for the next five years.
After months of meetings, where they learned about the demographics of the district, toured the school buildings, and discussed different scenarios, the committee members, which included residents, board, and faculty members, were in agreement that the district should try to find a new tenant, or multiple ones, to lease Marian Delaney before considering to sell or demolish the school.
Their recommendations were shared with the Board of Education, which is already working with its legal counsel to move forward with this plan. The board received lease/sell appraisals for the building, Cunningham explained, but the information was given to them in executive session as "advice from counsel," so it can not be shared with the public at this time. Instead, the board's attorney is using the information to negotiate with the potential new tenants.
If Gersh were to open up in Marian Delaney, Cunningham did not see it having any major impact on the West Hempstead School District as the academy would not draw staffing or services from the public schools. Transportation would be paid for by the district that each Gersh student resides in. Although the specific arrangements of any new lease will have to be fleshed out through negotiations, Hogan said Gersh is aware that the district wishes to continue to use the adjacent sports fields at Marian Delaney for its school teams as well as community athletic programs.
At this point in time, Cunningham said, the district does not see the need to spend the money to hire a mortgage broker to market the building since it already does have some interest in the building.
"If it starts to dry up, then it will be something we discuss with the board again," he added. Cunningham also encouraged any resident who hears of a potential tenant for the building to put them in touch with school officials.
Noting that there are a number of school buildings across Long Island either vacant or coming onto the market soon, Hogan stated, "We want to act prudently, but also strike while the iron is hot."