Newsday (Suffolk Edition) from Melville, New York on January 29, 1949 · 67
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Newsday (Suffolk Edition) from Melville, New York · 67

Melville, New York
Issue Date:
Saturday, January 29, 1949
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r ’ ' 30-Yf Battle FmaiiySndz i And happily — Curtiss building sold and village gets a park THE perennial slugfests between the Curtiss- Wright Corporation and the Eastern Garden City PropcrtyOwners Association over the occupancy of the Curtiss-Wright-owned plant in Eastern Garden City ended in 1947 but not without almost upsetting the village’s "Gentle- man's Agreement" form of government Battle had been waged for 20 years between the opposing factions but a split in the property owners’ sentiments did not occur until Trustee Ralph Custer and ex-Trustce Harry Maule nodded their heads to the rezoning of the residential district to a business district making possible the long-sought sale of the property In February 1948 Francis J O'Connell was nominated trustee from the Eastern Garden City Property Owners Association and elected but only after-he had defeated Maule who was placed on the ballot by a surprise roster of supporters It was the first time in Garden City political history that a nomination was contested and had Maule been elected it would have been the first deviation in the town’s political system since its organization in 1925 All the fussin’ and feudin’ began when the Curtiss Engineering Corporation started building 20 years ago and has recurred spasmodically duripg the lease years of the ISTassau Collegiate Center the Nassau Department of Welfare and the Sperry Gyroscope Company The plant site at Stewart Ave and Clinton Road was chosen in 1917 by the Curtiss Engineering Company as the ideal location for an experimental factory due to its accessibility 4o the metropolitan district and flying fields A handful of Eastern' settlers protested the coming of Curtiss how'ever a building permit was granted in view of the war emergency The village attached a few strings restricting the building to experimental aviation work with the general belief that- it was a temporary set up to be abandoned when the emergency was over The building assessed for $344000 proved a money-making proposition being the fourth largest taxpayer in the village This might partially account for the modification' of the deed restrictions made after the war to allow the finn to carry on general manufacturing At any rate the "ugly duckling" was not ousted at this strategic point The subsequent testing of Liberty motors brought a volley of protests to the Village Board and Curtiss moved testing operations elsewhere but continued in experimental work Zoning in Garden City began in 1921 — too late to do anything about the presence of the factory which W'as by this time thoroughly entrenched in Garden City soil Operations continued midst periodic protests and 1929 saw the merging of the Curtiss Company with the Wright Aeronautical Cor- r (ration the Keystone Aircraft Company and other aeronautical companies in a $70000000 holding company Henceforth the plant wras "known as the Curtiss-Wright building IN 1931 the-Curtiss-Wright Corporation whose style was cramped by the agitated citizens moved to Buffalo The Village Board had de- Curtiss-lVright Building filing supplies supplant textbooks and airplanes ‘ dared that though the corporation-could continue operations in the plant in accord with restrictions made prior to construction it could not lease nor sell the property without the approval of the Village Board The depression hit Nassau in 1933 and the building vacant for three years was offered to the Nassau County Emergency Work Bureau in exchange for non-payment of taxes As a result Nassau’s greatest experience in education began in the Spring of 1933 when the Nassau Committee on Adult Education comprised of five high school superintendents and Dr Edward T Devine director of the County Work Bureau founded the Nassau Collegiate Center in the Curtiss-Wright building The project which made possible the free matriculation of unemployed high school graduates was first supported by the New York State Emergency Relief Board at a cost of $3000 a month and later taken over first by the'Tempor-ary Emergency Relief Administration and even later by the WPA Equipment for the school was purchased chiefly with funds raised by Dr William B Gibson dean and acting president civic organizations and interested educators throughout the county THERE was a strong belief that the temporary junior college would continue after the emergency as a county junior college supported by tiie state The ax fell in the Spring of 1936 when the state declared the emergency over and the educational institution closed A year’s stay w'as granted and the edict went into effect in July 1937 Between 1936 and 1937 the college alumni group which numbered 500 and the local organizations went into action for the continuation of the program or the establishment of a permanent county junior college Despite strong ublic sentiment in favor of such plans the tate Board of Education cooled to the idea with the growing popularity of Hofstra and Adelphi Colleges Property owners of the Eastern section remained at ease when the Nassau County Department of Welfare took over but got back in their saddles when Curtiss-Wright asked for permission in the Fall of 1937 to use part of the building for the fabrication of steel used in building operations by the McClellan Steel Corporation The appeal w’as denied The Sperry Gyroscope Company's invasion of the building following the moving of the Welfare Department to Mineola in 1940 was generally accepted with little controversy in that the laboratory and experimental w’ork conducted was vital to the national defense program A stipulation was made however that upon the close of the war all additions made to tliejbuild-m ing must be removed The crisis came in 1944 when the Sperry lease expired and Curtiss-Wright sought permission to renew the lease Permission was not granted for Curtiss-Wright w’ould not agree to the stipulations formerly made Though the lease was not renewed Sperry wras allowed to remain in the plant Sperry's landlord smoldered until February of 1945 when court action was brought against the village seeking rc-zoning of the territory The verdict of the court read tliat the area would remain in residential classification and that the building could not be re-entered after the emergency by any other concern for manufacturing purposes without the approval of the Garden City Zoning board Sperry was allowed to remain in the building until April of 1946 Betw’een that time and February 1947 the building remained idle while various bids were made sales permission asked ?nd all" in turn - refused In June a heated battle W’as staged with final negation to the proposed occupancy of the Jamaica Gertz Company who Wished to use the plant as a warehouse Gertz had already signed a contract with Curtiss-Wright and needed only the approval of the board for immediate occu-' pancy TIIE Oxford Filing Supply Co Inc turned out to be the fair-haired child llie company proposed using the building for the production of filing systems and office supplies without the aid of to(f noisy machinery After a series of town ' meetings all well attended representatives of the Garden City Estates West and Central Property Owners Association enouraged the reclassification of zoning to admit the sale of the building to the Oxford Filing Supply Co Ino Despite the storm of protests of some members of the Eastern Property Owners Association the Board of Trustees voted to reclassify the area as a Business District and the sale of the property w'ent through in February 1948 A staff of 300 employees moved into the building in the Spring andihe converting of paper to pendj-flex filing systems continued to date In the deal however Curtiss-Wright lost to the village by deed a frontage area of 1250 feet von Stewart Ave to be ued for park purposes thus completely removing the building from sidewalk frontage -Beryl Howell 27 Saturday January 29 1949

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