The Onteora Central School District Board of Education approved the sale of the former West Hurley Elementary School at its $800,000 asking price, at its February 7 board meeting at Phoenicia Primary School. The 32,262 square foot Levins building and 11,282 square foot Ryan building sold with a $40,000 down payment to secure the contract.
Four of the seven trustees (Bobbi Schnell, Laurie Osmond, and Bennet Ratcliff were absent) voted unanimously to approve the sale to Kerry Danenberg of Brooklyn. The four voting in favor were Kevin Salem, Dale Allison, Lindsay Shands, and Valerie Storey. Board vice president Salem, filling in for board president Schnell read the resolution to secure the deal. “This has been a very long time coming and I’m thankful this negotiation has gone as it has,” said Storey, just before the vote.
Danenberg’s partner Kenan Gunduz was reached via phone February 8. He explained who they were and their plan for the two buildings. “We are independent developers specializing in adaptive reuse of buildings.” The two own houses in the area, are musicians, and as Gunduz explained, “have a deep connection with the area.” Their purpose is to convert the buildings into “reasonably priced apartments.” Their vision is to attract young professionals, creative types, grad students, tech professionals, and overall local people seeking to start out. He said they have no plans for offices, and instead are focused strictly on creating much needed housing in the area. Additionally, their vision is to bring the Ryan building, built in 1935, back to life, noting the charm and good quality of the original structure. This will come as good news to locals who at one time sought to restore and landmark the old original schoolhouse.
Danenberg recently attempted to purchase the Anna Devine Elementary School in the Kingston School District, however the apparent failure to agree on a payment in lieu of taxes program contributed to squashing the deal.
According to the contract, Danenberg will have 180 days (two consecutive 90 day periods) to conduct and review any feasibility studies. The school is considered to be part of residential zoning with district officials acknowledging in the contract that Danenberg is “…seeking to obtain a zoning change, variance or use permit which will permit the premises to be utilized for 50 residential units.” The contract has a 30-day window in the event ten percent of qualified voters in the school district petition to challenge the board’s decision on the sale that would require a passive referendum.
According to the contract, this is considered an “all cash sale,” with no financing. In October 2015, West Hurley School was announced as sold to Archeologist Phillip LaPorta of The Center For The Investigation of Native and Ancient Quarries for $700,000. The deal never came to fruition and West Hurley was put back on the market. John J. Lease Realtor of Newburgh was the broker with a finder’s commission of five-percent.
Mascot finale tabled again
The Onteora Eagle mascot in logo form continues to evolve and has been narrowed down to four images. The most popular image among school officials is an eagle having smaller talons than the original form, and extended wings in either black or white. Superintendent Bruce Watson said, “Let’s put this to bed tonight, if you agree we can all start working with getting this eagle where it needs to go, for whatever we want to use it for…for uniforms, etc. etc., so — I want to say this again — this is it!”
Salem and Shands were ok with the change and expressed wanting to move forward, but Storey and Allison put on the brakes. Storey said, “I can’t go for any of these quite honestly. I’m thinking about all the students last year when this came up, our student rep said the option to keep the Indian is going to be on the survey.” She noted that the option was never on the survey. “I’m speaking for the students that did not vote because they were not given the option to keep it.”
Watson said, “I need to get a straight answer because I’m not spending anymore time with this if I don’t have to. I was asked to take this and get it done, it’s done, this is what the administration, High School, Athletic Director, the Superintendent recommendations are, this is an eagle, it incorporates what the students have drawn and makes it look a little more like an eagle than a phoenix. I need a direction, you want us to go forward with this and I need the other board members to let me know — is number four acceptable?” Two trustees said yes, two said no.
Allison said, “I also speak from my heart and it is difficult for me, I kind of stand neutral on it and don’t have an answer right now.”
Salem explained that the board made the decision for the eagle last year. “The question is…is this the eagle we want to go forward with?” Storey replied, “You cannot tell me that I’m not being a good board member or following board 101 because I’m following my conscience.” Watson looking exasperated suggested that Salem table the topic until next board meeting when other trustees are present.