Written by Carol Frank Friday, 14 October 2011 00:00
Representatives from the Great Neck Library Watchdog who are advocating against the passage of a bond issue that would renovate and expand the existing 47,000 square foot Main Library by 8,600 square feet met with this reporter last week in a two-hour meeting to outline the reasons they are against the proposed project.
Shirley Samansky, who served on an Ad Hoc Committee to study the needs of the library a number of years ago is a Watchdog member. Ralene Adler, a former trustee of the library board, attends board meetings and finance committee meetings regularly. Norman Rutta, also a former trustee of the library board, is a regular attendee at board meetings and both report on the actions of the board in their online newsletter.
The first point that the group stressed was that they are not opposed to a renovation of the Main library; rather they are opposed to the proposed expansion. They strongly support Plan A which would gut the building and completely renovate the interior and upgrade the exterior while keeping the existing footprint.
Ms. Adler said, “Unfortunately, you have to defeat plan D in order to get to plan A. Plan A, as developed by the architects, will mean less closure, be less costly and we’ll still have a modern library. All the systems, plumbing, air-conditioning, heating would be replaced and we would have new furniture, new fixtures and we would protect the beautiful pond by not building too close to it...I would walk door to door to gain support for Plan A.”
Mr. Rutta commented, “We have been painted as ‘naysayers’ but I believe that the Main library needs renovating...I’m just against waste and overbuilding on the site...I believe that the proposed plan wastes $10 million.” The current estimate for Plan A is between $10-11 million.
Ms. Samansky said, “The community was given a survey years ago and attended a visioning meeting a few years ago...The community never said, ‘We need more space at the library,’ but they did say, ‘We need more flexible space, more well-thought-out space.’”
Ms. Adler added that the library system, including the branches, has 59,552 square feet of total space. She said, “After the board expanded the library system by just over 6000 square feet (including the expansion of Parkville)...this board never updated their plan..they had ample time to pull back and reconsider their plan in light of the additional space at Station and Parkville.”
The Record asked about how space could be reallocated at Main so that there would be more space for the children’s library area and for programming. Ms. Adler explained that currently technical services uses 2,000 square feet at Main... “prime real estate that has beautiful views of the pond on ground level.” Technical services, she says, which inventories books, puts them into the computer and distributes them could be relocated at Station which has unused space. Publicity and programming could also be relocated to Station, according to Ms. Adler.
The consensus of the group was that space should be utilized for more than one function.
Mr. Rutta added that certain seasonable materials that are stored at Main could be housed in a storage center.
The Record discussed the concept of a Young Adult section. The concern of the group was that people would be “labeled by their age” and perhaps sequestered. “You can have a young adult book section, of course, but should teens be sent off to a special section for research and study?”
The Watchdog group strongly believes that the board should have budgeted for an owner’s rep to oversee the entire project. Mr. Rutta said that at the last board meeting, a resolution was presented by the director to the board to award $485,000 to the architect for the cooling tower for the building. According to board policy, for expenditures over $7000, three bids must be acquired. The action was tabled.
Mr. Rutta said, “This board doesn’t know how to handle a relatively small project...so how are they going to be able to oversee a big project...The renovation at Station went over their budget by 40 percent.”
It was pointed out that trustee Anna Kaplan is running for the town council and will not continue on the library board and that trustee Martin Sokol has expressed an interest in running for the park district board. He said: “People are walking away from this board...not seeing this project through.” (In an interview after this meeting, Mr. Sokol told the Record that he is having second thoughts about running for the park district board and will “probably not run,” but that he would have resigned from the library board if he were pursuing the park district position.)
Ms. Adler said, “This expansion would be a tremendous undertaking...with possibilities of overruns...or not being able to reopen in two years...that’s a real concern we have.”
The group is confident that if the referendum is defeated, it will not set the community back to the beginning of the process. They are asking people to think independently and are asking people to go to the polls and vote...there is another viable alternative. The group has printed a card which they are distributing which gives all the details about where to go to vote.
The website for the group is http://sites.google.com/site/gnlwatchdog/home.