The vacant Child Development Center of the Hamptons building on Stephen Hand’s Path is being considered by East Hampton Town officials for use as a senior citizens center and community facility.
David E. Rattray
The former Child Development Center of the Hamptons school on Stephen Hand’s Path in East Hampton could become the town’s next senior citizens center.
A report commissioned by the East Hampton Town Board and released this week indicated that the 22,000-square-foot building was in excellent shape.
Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell said on Tuesday that the cost to convert the former C.D.C.H. building into a community center would be significantly less than the estimated cost to construct a new senior citizens facility from the ground up to replace the inadequate one on Springs-Fireplace Road in East Hampton.
While the town owns the land — part of a 44-acre complex that includes soccer fields — the building itself is apparently owned by Family Residences and Essential Enterprises of Old Bethpage, which managed the school. D.L. Bennett Consulting, which prepared the report for the town, said that the bill for repairs and converting the former school to a senior citizens center would be roughly $2.1 million. However, a purchase price has not been discussed and would be the wild card in ultimately deciding whether or not the plan to operate a senior citizens center there would be cost-effective, Drew Bennett said in his report.
The charter school closed at the end of the 2015-16 school year due to declining enrollment and financial losses. Students who had attended programs there have been largely accommodated by their home school districts.
The cost of a new senior citizens center has been estimated by the town at between $5.3 million and about $6.2 million. “Clearly, there is a substantial savings in that,” Mr. Cantwell said during a town board meeting at the Montauk Fire House on Tuesday.
Diane Patrizio, the director of the town Human Services Department, spoke favorably about the concept at Tuesday’s meeting. She said that in addition to the daily programs for older residents, the center houses a range of other services. These include a transportation program to get senior citizens out for grocery shopping and to medical appointments. A nutrition program is run there, as are individual case management services and youth programs.
In all, about 331 residents took part in nutrition programs at the senior citizens center in a 2015, according to the town, with more than 17,000 meals served.
Several 12-step groups use the senior citizens center during the off hours as well.
There are about 30 employees who work there in all, Ms. Patrizio said, many of whom are forced to park elsewhere, including at the nearby Calvary Baptist Church and others at Town Hall on Pantigo Road.
“We don’t have a lot of room there, and we have to use the same areas for different programs,” Ms. Patrizio said.
The C.D.C.H. site would allow the town to open a real community center with space for nonprofits and others to use the building.
Older residents who use the current senior citizens center like the location, Ms. Patrizio said, concluding, “We need more room.”
“People don’t like change, but once we made the move, the possibilities there outweigh any negatives,” she said.
“There are limitless options about how it could be laid out. It’s a really great building,” Eric Schantz, a member of the town planning staff, said at Tuesday’s meeting.
Mr. Cantwell said that there was a possibility that the East Hampton Food Pantry, which is facing the loss of its space in the Windmill II housing complex on Accabonac Road, might be able to move into the C.D.C.H. site, though he said that he was not sure yet if it would be an appropriate location for it.
“This is all attractive, but I am most concerned about traffic and getting there,” Councilman Fred Overton said at Tuesday’s meeting. He said he wondered about senior citizens making left turns from Stephen Hand’s Path onto Montauk Highway, particularly during the summer months. Mr. Cantwell responded that drivers could instead head east via Stephen Hand’s Path, crossing or entering Route 114 at the traffic light there.
The Child Development Center had been considered a potential solution to crowded classrooms at the Springs School. However, the Springs School Board concluded this summer that it would be legally unable to do so because the site is outside of school district boundaries. The Springs School announced in August that Family Residences and Essential Enterprises, the nonprofit organization that had managed the charter school, had agreed to give it a number of fixtures, including desks, chairs, and bookshelves.
Plans for a new senior citizens center on the Springs-Fireplace Road property have been under discussion for more than two years. A third of the East Hampton Town population is over 55, and officials say that the need for services for older residents will only increase.
Last year, the town’s transportation program run at the center accommodated 250 clients, making about 17,400 trips.
The current senior citizens center has been in use for more than 30 years in a former bar and restaurant estimated to be more than 100 years old. The town also operates a program for older residents at the Montauk Playhouse Community Center, where an extensive renovation project and fund-raising campaign has been ongoing for a second phase of improvements that would include an aquatic and cultural center.