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September 21, 2012

 

Center hails new East End site

Lease would give community center spot in former rail station

Center

Bob Ellis/staff photographer
The former East End Community Center has found a new home in the railroad station on Central Avenue. The community center is expected to be up and running in the building by mid-October.

By NEIL BENJAMIN JR.
Staff Reporter
nbenjamin@cortlandstandardnews.net

The former East End Community Center would have a new home for at least five years in an prior train station on Central Avenue, under a provision in a proposed lease agreement between the city and the railroad that owns the station.
The New York, Susquehanna & Western Railway is finalizing use of city property on Pendleton Street for a freight transfer station.
As a condition of the agreement, the railway will allow the community center to use, rent-free, the southern portion of the Central Avenue station for five years.
The group that ran the now-defunct East End Community Center would use the NYS&W depot to revive the center, which closed in 2010 when funding ran out.
The organization is now known as the Cortland Community Group.
City Administrator Mack Cook said Tuesday that the railroad would continue to use the north end of its depot at 94-96 Central Ave.
The agreement does not specify what would go into the depot, but Cook and Mayor Brian Tobin both confirmed Wednesday the community center is moving in.
“We’ve been trying to help the group find a permanent home for years,” Cook said. “This was perfect for it. Now we’re using a site that used to sit dormant for more than 20 years for multiple positive things.”
The city is still finalizing the lease for NYS&W to use the former Rosen Bros. site on Pendleton Street and the community center to use the depot.
Cook presented details of the lease agreement at Tuesday’s Common Council meeting.
“We’re ecstatic this is happening,” said Richard Stock, the Cortland Community Group’s chairman. “Hopefully this will put an end to our search for a new spot. Now we can focus on doing what we do for the community.”
The community center has provided free services, including computer lessons and English as a second language classes.
Stock said before the new site is up and running, which Cook said should be mid-October, he will meet with the group’s other leaders to see what the future holds for the organization.
The agreement with the city involves plans for the railroad to build three sets of tracks on the Rosen site, a polluted former industrial site that was partially cleaned through the federal Superfund program. All development there must occur at ground level to avoid disturbing buried and encapsulated pollution.
The city would lease the land to the company for a yearly rent of $7,200, and charge $100 per car that is either loaded or unloaded at the stop off Pendleton Street.
The rent, Cook said, was determined because if the property were privately owned, $7,200 is about what the owner would have to pay annually in property taxes. The agreement also relieves the city of maintenance responsibilities, as the rail company will take those duties.
The rail depot has received a face-lift in recent years. Cook said the roof was replaced, the interior has been fully repainted and the masonry work has been repaired.
“It’s really very beautiful in there,” he said. “It’s very well suited for the Cortland Community Group.”
The East End Community Center was formed in 2005 with a $75,000 state grant, and moved into the space at 46 Elm St. Once its funds ran out, the group had to find a new home. There have been many ideas floated, such as going to the city owned former National Guard Armory on Wheeler Avenue, which Tobin said was not a viable option. The group does, however, use space in the Armory for storage.
There was also a plan to move to the Dexter Park recreation building discussed earlier this year.
“This is a golden opportunity for people who want to volunteer,” Tobin said. “People will come together to address the needs of the community, and I think it’s a great thing.”

 

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