The Kingston City School District has received bids on three of their former elementary schools, two of which were shuttered over the past two years as part of a comprehensive redistricting plan which sought to address declining student enrollment.
Frank L. Meagher Elementary was closed after the 2011-12 school year, with Anna Devine, Sophie Finn and Zena elementary schools following a year later. Of those four, Sophie Finn was quickly identified by Ulster County Community College as a future satellite campus. The remaining three, along with the former Tillson Elementary, were open to bids, with all but Anna Devine seeing some activity in a process Superintendent Paul Padalino said he hoped would be busier.
Zena Elementary received the highest bid, $926,000, which came from Potter Realty on behalf of Zena 4 Corners, LLC. Both sides have acknowledged the bid, but are playing it close to the vest for the time being.
“There are a lot of things to be worked out,” said Nan Potter of Potter Realty. “There are a lot of contingencies with every bid.”
Padalino agreed, noting that the Zena bid, along with all the others, are currently being considered by the district’s legal team. A decision is likely to be revealed no later than the Feb. 5 meeting of the Board of Education at Graves Elementary, Padalino said.
The bid on Zena was considerably higher than the pair of bids received from the Roslyn Heights, N.Y.-based Apollon Group, LLC, which has offers in on both Meagher ($220,000) and Tillson ($135,000) Padalino said simply comparing the dollar amounts of the different bids doesn’t tell the whole story.
“Each of the properties are in different conditions, in different settings, with different acreages and different appraisals,” Padalino said. “The Zena property is a very nice property. The school is in nice condition. It’s in a highly sought-after location in Woodstock. We expected Zena would be a school people would be interested in. When you get into the city, or out at Meagher, where the building is in significantly different condition and is 100 years old, I can understand bids maybe being lower.”
While the proposed use of Zena Elementary has yet to be revealed, Apollon Group this week confirmed their interest in converting both Meagher and Tillson into apartments, with Meagher likely to contain the majority of the planned combined 70-80 units. “We’re going to try to work with seniors, but it’s going to be free-market rent,” said Apollon Group owner George Fakiris. “Not Section 8, not affordable housing, nothing like that. The only time we make it affordable housing is when we’re forced by the United States government. Otherwise I don’t like affordable housing.”
Padalino said he understood that bids on some of the district’s available facilities would be lower because it might cost more to renovate them for a bidder’s needs, which Fakiris confirmed by estimating that it would cost around $4 million to convert Tillson and Meagher if the bids are approved. Tillson, Padalino noted, hasn’t been used by the district since 1983, and has remained vacant ever since Ulster BOCES stopped using the facility in 2005.
“Anyone who goes into Tillson is looking at significant environmental issues, significant rehab of the property,” he said. “If you’re buying a property and you have to put in a million dollars into it, is $125,000 a realistic bid? That building has been vacant for many, many years and there are issues with that building.”
Tillson has been on the market for several years, and last summer the school board approved a $100,000 bid from Chaim Moskovits, who then changed the bid name to Life With Light, LLC. At the time, Moskovits’ bid was the highest of two, but neighbors of the Rosendale property filed a 1,010-signature petition with the state’s Attorney General’s office seeking an investigation into why a building the district was hoping to receive $1.2 million for in 2007 was worth so much less in 2013. The Life With Light bid was later rejected by trustees.
“The bidder wanted to make substantive changes in the terms of the bid, and the board wasn’t comfortable with that,” Padalino said. “So they decided they would not follow through with that, and legally they have the right to accept or not accept a bid. They decided to not accept that bid at that time, so they put it back out.”
Life With Light also put in a bid on Tillson this time around, offering $65,000, a figure less than half of what Apollon offered. Coincidentally, Apollon was the low bidder last year, coming in at $50,000.
“I guess I wasn’t so surprised that party came back with a bid, but I was surprised they would come in so much lower,” Padalino said.
The review process
The superintendent said it was important for people in the community to know that each bid is being reviewed thoroughly, but that there are no guarantees of anything just yet.