The Garden City Casino on Cathedral Avenue at Sixth Street.
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As of the start of August, there will be just five months left on the current license agreement for use of The Garden City Casino (Tennis and Social Club) at 51 Cathedral Avenue, as its license agreement with the Village of Garden City is due to expire on January 5, 2021. Last September the Village Board of Trustees requested proposals for “what could ultimately be done there”. As of now what those proposals contain is still unknown.
Get information, directions, products, services, phone numbers, and reviews on Garden City Casino in San Jose, undefined Discover more Amusement Services companies in San Jose on Manta.com Garden City Casino Inc - San Jose, CA - Tennis Club in San Jose, California. 1, members from the Garden City Casino hosted a tennis match against the Cold Spring Valley Tennis Club. The two clubs have been playing in similar “interclub” matches for many years to raise funds for Charlie’s Champions Foundation and the United Way of Long Island.
Established in 1895, the Casino is membership supported and one of the oldest tennis clubs in the United States. Famed New York City “Starchitect” Stanford White designed the Garden City Casino, contemporary to his Newport, Rhode Island Casino design which was built in 1881. White is best known for his design work of the second iteration of Madison Square Garden in 1891, the Washington Memorial Arc, also completed in 1891; the New York Herald Building built in 1892 (and demolished in 1921) and Madison Square Presbyterian Church, completed in 1906.
Between now and the January 5th expiration date there are just seven confirmed dates for the Board of Trustees to meet and formalize an extension of the agreement beyond that point. The Casino building dates to 1885, when the use was undetermined and the village was barely being constructed (St. Paul’s main building was completed in 1883).
As first reported in The Garden City News on September 27, 2019, members of the Board were contemplating plans for the Casino in terms of its existence as a Village asset.
At the time of officially voting on the latest renewal of the license agreement, 11 months ago, Trustee John Delany explained that the date of early January in 2021 was agreed to in order to allow the Garden City Casino to again hold its annual New Year’s Eve Party for the December 31, 2020 and January 1, 2021 celebration.
Last September, Trustee Delany as well as Trustee Brian Daughney referenced the opportunity for the village to put out an RFP (request for proposals) for the municipally-owned facility, in order to establish some ideas “on what could ultimately be done there.” Trustees Daughney and Delany as well as Village Attorney Peter Bee comprise the current Board of Trustees’ Legal Committee.
License agreement, restrictive covenant
Casino Board President Patrick McNamara explains that the land the Casino and its tennis courts and well-manicured grounds sits on — the entire block from Hilton Avenue to its east and Cathedral Avenue to its west — is part of a restrictive use covenant in the original deed of the property dating to the time when Garden City was not yet the incorporated village it is today, as incorporation was in 1919.
“The property can only be used for the recreational use of Garden City residents. The Village does recognize and look at this as a village facility, which it is, but the specific use requirements would be maintained. The Casino Board had talked with Village trustees about their fall 2019 comments on the RFP process. As a taxpayer and CPA here it is hard for me to argue against an RFP process but this needs to happen, and we have been waiting for this process to take place,” McNamara said.
The parcel of land was confirmed by the Village of Garden City as grantor in the original deed; the parcel subject to restrictions for any future development or change in its layout is on a prime Central Section block of real estate, south of the LIRR tracks and on the north side of 6th Street, and around in rectangular shape, from Cathedral to Hilton. Guy says “in order to do a major change here” the current Board of Trustees would need to be in contact with and form a binding legal agreement with descendants of the original Garden City Company organization (as a municipal entity).
In a Letter to the Editor of The Garden City News published last fall, the Casino’s Board of Governors examined the costs involved in maintenance of plant at the facility, noting that the Village of Garden City does not pay any of the expenses of repairing, operating or managing the facility.
“From roof repair and replacement, to installation of a more modern HVAC system including boiler replacement, to court maintenance, the Casino has not asked the Village to contribute to the repair or upkeep of the premises. In each of the past 10 years, the Casino has averaged approximately $50,000 in Capital cost in the physical plant of the Casino. Prior multi-year license agreements — the 20-year prior agreement signed with the village prior to the end of the 20th Century — enabled the Casino to spread the cost of improvements over a relatively long period of time and to recapture outlays from the Casino’s customary revenue streams.”
Though the Casino organization is a nonprofit, it is classified under the IRS as 501c4 because it exists to be a social organization — in this case, serving the residents and community in Garden City with the activities at this prime location.
Not-so timely with New Year’s
In a July 20 interview members of the Casino’s Board said the New Year’s Eve 2020 benchmark — exactly 5 months from the date of this publication — is not a goal that the Casino prioritized.
According to Garden City eastern section resident Patrick Guy, counsel on the Casino’s Executive Board, a longtime member and the treasurer for the Cathedral of the Incarnation’s board, the annual New Year’s Eve party at the Casino has changed from a “save the date” special night among the longtime residents of the Village to a smaller gathering, one that has to compete for residents’ time and commitments.
“A long time back, members would show up in tuxedos and this was a gala — a great big deal for Garden City residents. With the balloons and champagne coming around on attendees at 12:00, by 12:10 there would be few people left inside. Over time we have seen that crowd dwindling because there are more bars and restaurants and corporations that have gotten into the business aspects of hosting New Year’s Eve,” he said.
A practicing attorney and guest lecturer at major universities, in 2018 and 2019 Guy negotiated for the Casino’s license agreement extension in the last round of negotiations with Village trustees. He says a focus on extending the license agreement through New Year’s was something they (the Village Board members) thought of as a great benefit for the Casino, adding that 16 months out (September 2019) it seemed as a guarantee of some extra time.
“I was not going to disagree with them that the notion of our New Year’s Eve celebration was a big deal. I left that out there,” Guy says. There’s irony, he says, because the 20-year license agreement for the Casino from 1999 to 2019 was signed by the then-mayor of Garden City, who was a Casino member. Then the issue first came up before the present Board of Trustees for expiration in May 2019, current Mayor Theresa Trouvé had not yet been sworn in. The two extensions in 2019 the Board authorized have not been commented on or reflected on any of the Board’s 2020 meeting agendas to date.
Casino member Dom Valente says that the concept of ending a license renewal agreement for the venue around the spring (May 31, 2019 was the original date of expiration) would have worked against the organization, “as we would have been left at projecting a revenue-less season.” McNamara said it was important that the agreement run through tennis season and not impact that playing time for members.
Guy says late May of 2019 was the peak use season for the Club, and the trustees extended the license agreement through to the fall and again for the short-term, with the 16 months determined last September.
McNamara says at a few times this year the Casino Board reached out to the Village for an update, “but I don’t believe we have received one.”
“We don’t know what to do in this case and we cannot book the venue for events in 2021 (past January 4). Right now we’ve had many people reschedule with us for their booking or they’ve asked to reschedule. But we still have the two major unknowns — COVID-19 and when we would be able to open for gatherings and events within state-mandated restrictions — and the second unknown remains if we (the Casino as a facility and venue) would be in place,” he commented.
Projects and Cost Considerations
Dom Valente says that as longtime residents and observers of village government affairs, it is well-known — “as well as respected and appreciated” among the Casino Board of Governors that the Village Board of Trustees at this point has its hands full, with the COVID-19 pandemic and revenue shortfalls, in particular for Recreation & Parks but also felt in the Village Building Department and elsewhere. Lingering cost considerations and concerns also have taken shape during Board meetings in 2020 that detailed major projects such as the Garden City Fire Station No. 2 (Edgemere Road and Stewart Avenue) as well as millions of dollars to spend on infrastructure to ensure clean drinking water free of emerging contaminants, the new water tower’s completion (scheduled for fall) and the historic St. Paul’s main building as well as projects for capital investments at Village Hall, the Garden City Public Library and in the Department of Public Works.
The Board of Governors said last October, with the sentiment continuing now as there’s uncertainty over how a planning process can evolve, that another short-term extension agreement with the Village “makes large-scale projects prohibitively expensive for a not-for-profit organization like the Casino.” The Casino Club organization also must take operations including the salaries of employees and contracts and services from “1099 vendors” into consideration with every decision on running the place, especially with the pandemic impacting schedules and much more.
McNamara said the high costs associated with running a prime, often-used venue are evaluated by the nonprofit’s Board, “project-by-project” and as with any physical plant, things can randomly happen to cause a major expense.
At one point in recent years there was a major drainage issue with the property, and the Board of Governors contacted the Village about this, considering that the municipal engineering department would need some oversight and that “the village could give us an OK to fix this.” Patrick Guy says there was no indication of examination needed, or any involvement by the village, other than the Casino hearing “if a repair needs to be made it is on the organization (Club) to do it.”
“The way this license agreement is worded, if the Club wanted to get involved to do any major renovations or additions to the building, it would not just need to go to the Village, submitting plans for approval — the regular administerial process — but we’d also need to have Village Board’s approval formalized,” Guy explained. He says the Casino had contacted Village Administrator Ralph Suozzi a few years ago about a potential project, and simultaneously with hopes to extend the prior 20-year license agreement.
“In the past the organization could have had more due diligence in its maintenance of the building, now for over 125 years. That planning and fiscal exercise in operations and ‘house and grounds’ has long been rectified. Currently, we believe we are in good shape with this property and the building,” Patrick McNamara explained.
The example of the boiler potentially breaking gives pause to how much the nonprofit ‘Club’ organization contributes to keeping up all aspects of the village-owned facility.
Almost a year ago in their Letter, the Casino Board stated that In addition to capital costs, the Casino organization pays approximately $90,000 annually in Operating costs to maintain the premises. As the grounds and block is village-owned, this amount would otherwise be paid by the Village to maintain the premises, according to the Casino Board of Governors. During a July 20, 2020 interview with the News, the Operating cost was stated at approximately $100,000 a year.
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“The building has been maintained so well and thoughtfully for the purposes of contributing to the overall Garden City community and the Central Section, just blocks from the 7th Street commerce and shopping hub and right off the LIRR tracks and station. The property contributes to our overall community’s value and this Tennis and Social club, which is a nonprofit organization, is run for the overall benefit of its members — while the members are and can be anyone in the village who would like to join,” Guy said.
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