$40M Mastic-Moriches-Shirley Community Library Proposal To Be Revised

B WA proposal to construct a new $40 million Mastic-Moriches-Shirley Community Library at Colony Preserve (the former Links) in Shirley has been taken off the table after the plan met with community opposition.

Library Director, Kerri Rosalia, said a bond vote for a revised plan will be scheduled after a basic building design and traffic impact study have been done, and upon completion of the SEQRA (State Environmental Quality Review Act) process.

Library Board Trustee, Wendy Gross, a lifelong resident of the community and kindergarten teacher in the William Floyd School District who is running for her second five-year term to retain her seat, said she is hopeful the vote for the bond will be scheduled for this fall. Gross said plans are now moving forward to create a proposal at Colony Preserve that will be scaled down from the original $40 million proposal. Acknowledging that a $40 million bond which would have cost the average-assessed homeowner $18 per month additional on their tax bill was too steep for the community to fund, Gross stated: “We’re trying to keep costs down, and we’re going to try to come up with a plan that will accommodate the community’s needs for increased and updated services, because a library is a community center for everyone, and we’re trying to make people happy. The library was built in 1981 and is too small for the needs of the community, and there’s no way to create more space (within the existing structure).”

But Ray Keenan, a retired FDNY firefighter, Manor Park Civic Association President and 31-year resident of the community who is running against Gross for the five year term, said he opposes the concept of building a new library. “My proposal is to enhance the current facility at its current location,” Keenan stated, noting that a major expansion of the library was done 20 years ago and that more recently, new carpeting and paint have been added to improve the current facility. Keenan asserts board members “have a fiduciary duty to act in the best interest of the library,” and that “training on fiscal oversight, accountability and fiduciary responsibilities is needed so board members fully understand their role and duties.”

With 37 parking spaces and less than a handful of handicapped parking stalls dedicated to the library for the estimated 1,000 patrons who visit the facility daily, parking is at a premium and is one issue everyone appears to be in agreement with. “The number one complaint is parking” Gross said, “and this is something that cannot be changed at its current location.” But Keenan argues, “There are parking issues, but there are solutions that have never been pursued.” Citing specifics, Keenan said library officials should pursue “buying outright parts of the parking lot and adjoining land.” Library President James Mazzarella and Gross assert that current landlords of the adjoining property or of the parking lot have “no interest” in selling. Correspondence obtained by South Shore Press dated October 14, 2016 to the library director from William Floyd Plaza LLC, Louis Lefkowitz Realty, reads: “the ownership of William Floyd Plaza has no interest in selling the parking lot in front of (your) current library building.”

Asked to contrast the pros and cons of building a new library in comparison to making capital improvements on the existing library, Mazzarella explained: “New site opportunities include outdoor space, additional parking, energy efficiency and daylighting, flexible, effective utilization of space for various age groups, state of the art technology infrastructure, ability to expand the facility in the future if needed.”

In contrast, Rosalia said “Our ‘usable’ space is low, and the building has little to no flexibility (for redesign to maximize space utilization).” “A renovation will not allow for future growth or an expansion of parking. Unlike many libraries,” she continued, “we will not obtain outdoor space for the public and programs.” Rosalia pointed out that library officials would be required to ask the community to pass a bond in order to complete a full renovation of the existing facility. “If it passes,” she said, “we will wind up with an improved version of our existing facility, but with no gain in square footage, parking or flexible space.” Rosalia added that “the building’s value is unlikely to increase as a result of the renovation.” Mazzarella explained that a full renovation would require the current library to close for about two years, during which time much of the collection would be in storage and not accessible to residents. Mazzarella reported: “Current estimates of a full renovation of a 45,000 square foot library including asbestos abatement, is estimated at $16.5 million.”

The original plans called for the library to be situated in close proximity to new homes at Colony Preserve being built by the Holiday Organization, but plans are being revised to situate the library across the development closer to the public schools. Gross said the original design was set around a lake much closer to the houses. Those plans, which Gross said were underway two years ago and before the homes at Colony Preserve were constructed and admits “residents were not happy” to have the library in close proximity to their homes. “We met with residents at their clubhouse and they were upset about the location,” Gross said, “so we thought we’d build the library closer to the schools.” Entrances to the library would be at William Floyd Parkway into Colony Preserve and off Lincoln. But Mazzarella said the expense for site work at the original location at Colony Preserve was “legal and legitimate.”

Gross said officials are hoping for an autumn bond vote.

Voting for library trustee is April 4 at the Mastic-Moriches-Shirley Community Library, 407 William Floyd Parkway. Polls will be open from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. A date for the bond issue vote will be announced.

Story by Barbara LaMonica



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