Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect the property is owned by St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish. We apologize for the error.
IRONDEQUOIT, N.Y. (WROC) — On the corner of St. Paul and Colebrook Drive in Irondequoit stands St. Thomas the Apostle Church —still active— and behind it, an empty building that used to be the St. Thomas Catholic School. St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish is looking to sell the vacant structure for development.
Michael Yaniga lives down the street. He and others are not thrilled with the idea. “The new developer is proposing apartments with mixed-use commercial. They’ve said they’re looking at storage units, coffee shops, retail stores,” he said.
Yaniga says that’s a problem. “This neighborhood is zoned R-1 residential, which does not allow that,” he said, adding it would change the whole character of these streets.
If rezoned to R-5, “any business can come into the neighborhood, any one of these homes can be converted into multi-dwelling rental units, they can be converted into businesses,” said Yaniga.
When it comes to the ideas for the old school —apartments or commercial space— Joe Paladino says “no thank you,” especially to a coffee shop.
“In this neighborhood, the wives make the coffee for their husbands, okay?” said Paladino.
He says this idea came up years ago, and the community struck it down. “The town is full. We don’t need any more people,” he said, adding, “I saw the (new) developer in the men’s room at the town hall, and I told him ‘save your money,'” said Paladino.
That developer is Joel Barrett, an Irondequoit native with 43 North Real Estate.
“There aren’t a lot of residential apartments in the area, it is an R-1 neighborhood,” said Barrett.
Barrett says the apartments would be high-end but adds people are worried about what that —or residential shops— will do to property values. In short, he understands where folks like Yaniga and Paladino are coming from. “They don’t want their neighborhood to change, and I can respect that. I grew up there,” he said.
Barrett wants to hear from the public about what they want here. He warns though, the clock is ticking for any kind of re-development.
“It’s getting to be dangerous. There are boarded-up windows, there are people breaking into the building, there are animals getting inside,” he said.
On Wednesday the community is invited to a feedback forum at the St. Paul Exempt Fireman’s Home on Thomas Avenue. It is expected to be a large turnout, so you do have to pre-register. You can do so here. Barrett says the meeting will be the first in a series for the community.
Those in favor of redevelopment have started a petition.
The Town of Irondequoit told News 8 they have not received an application for rezoning the area yet, and would not comment further on the matter.