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Library Renovation/Expansion Fleshed Out

Plans, Cost Estimates Revealed

Just as people return from vacations, school begins and community activities swing back into full gear, the Great Neck Library Board of Trustees have readied the options and cost estimates for a Main library renovation or expansion and will be discussing the choices at a special public meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 9 at 8 p.m. in the community room at Main.

On August 11, a presentation was given for the public at the library in which the various plans were presented and hand-out sheets with the cost estimates were distributed. DattnerArchitects and the library’s construction manager, Park East Construction Corporation, developed cost estimates independently and then sat down together and worked on reconciling and better understanding the basis for cost estimate differences. The estimates that follow will be for “hard” costs, which include construction costs for labor and materials along with profit and overhead, a design contingency, a construction contingency for unforeseen conditions during construction as well as cost escalation due to inflation.

“Soft” costs, on the other hand, include professional fees, environmental and zoning permit fees, referendum-related costs, legal costs, temporary relocation costs, financing costs and the like. These costs run from between 20 to 25 percent of the total hard costs.

All of the options would require closing the library during construction for a period of 18 to 24 months. The following is a brief summation of the options:

Plan A

Under this scheme, the current building would be gutted and totally renovated with new efficient systems for air conditioning, heating, electrical and mechanicals. It would be brought up to current codes and would be handicapped accessible. There would be space modifications and re-allotments, but essentially it would be the old building made new. While it would be spruced up and more comfortable, according to the architects, it would not meet all current demands for program requirements. The present building has a 47,000 gross square footage. The estimated hard costs from Dattner are $13.7 million while the estimate from Park East is $13.3 million.

Plan B

This scheme is the preferred plan proffered by the lead architect, Daniel Heuberger, because with 13,000 more square feet of space, he thinks it would meet the program requirements and would add flexibility to the library for future changes in library services. (The architects held interviews with staff members regarding current and future programming needs, and those, along with the Visioning Report and community surveys provided needs assessment data.)

The exterior of the building would keep much of the original fieldstone facing Bayview Avenue; the addition would be glass and copper, which would in time take on a green patina. The eastern exposure of the building would be primarily glass and very open to allow unrestricted views of Udall’s Pond. The south side of the building would be more closed with its openings shielded from heat and glare by louvers and overhangs. The architects stress that a new building would have a unified look on the exterior as well as a unified functionality inside.

In this plan, the existing mezzanine, which is supported by racks of books, would be redesigned and would rest on columns instead. It would require a roof height increase of 5 feet toward the rear of the building, only for the portion where the mezzanine would be located.

Skylights would bring natural light into the center of the expanded floor plan. Staff offices would be relocated to the Bayview Avenue side of the building, leaving the floors open for the collections and seating.

The two-story addition, reminiscent of the shape of a baby grand piano, follows the shape of the current outside terrace that sweeps around the back of the building.

Within the framework of Plan B, the architects have developed three versions of where the various departments could be placed. If Plan B were to be embraced by the public and trustees, those determinations would follow.

The estimated cost of this plan given by Dattner is $23.2 million; Park East estimates $22 million.

Plan C

This plan is in many ways similar to Plan B, but it is smaller, calling for an additional 10,000 square feet. It would shave some space from the children’s department, leave the mezzanine in a fixed position resting on shelving and trim the young adult space. The main objection to keeping the current support system for the mezzanine is that it would limit the flexibility of the space underneath.

Dattner’s estimate is $21 million; Park East’s estimate is $20.4 million.

What Would Be Gained with More Space?

One might reasonably ask: Why is there a need for an additional 13,000 square feet of space? How would it be used?

The children’s department would receive the largest increase in square footage. Currently, the department has 3,226 usable square feet of space. Under Plan B, the space would increase to a total of 7,969 square feet. Newer library designs make books accessible to children by making shelving scaled so that they can see and reach for books themselves. In addition, there would be spaces for activities and projects separate from reading areas.

The audio/visual department has increased in popularity and has outgrown its current 1,919 square feet. It would have 3,449 square feet instead. The young adults section currently has 529 square feet and it is proposed to increase to 2,442 square feet. The public meeting rooms currently have 3,420 square feet of space and those rooms, the community room, multi-purpose room and snack bar area, would have a total increase to 4,955 square feet. No proposal has been made regarding whether or not the community room should have a sloped, theater-style floor.

The Adult collection, currently at 12,546 square feet, would grow to 14,510 square feet of space. Levels would see a modest increase from 3,260 square feet to 3,510 square feet, mostly a gain in storage space. The reference department, currently at 6,375 square feet, would go up to 7,229 square feet. The circulation department, now at 937 square feet, would have 1,064 square feet. Administrative space, now with 1,675 square feet would go to 2,005 square feet. Finally, technical services, the area where books are catalogued, repaired, stored before being returned to the shelves and so forth has 4,119 square feet and would go to 4,806 square feet.

Some outside work would be required as well, no matter which scheme is chosen. The steps and retaining wall at the rear of the building are slated to be replaced.

In addition, there would be increased space for additional walls, restrooms, corridors, storage spaces, staircases and mechanicals. Making a building accessible to people in wheelchairs also requires more space for wider passageways, turnarounds and restrooms.

Parking

The parking lot with its mature trees will essentially remain unchanged although the architects have found a way to eke out 13 more spaces. Earlier in the evening of August 11, Mayor Leonard Samansky of Saddle Rock met with some of the trustees to discuss his concerns regarding the proposed idea of leasing space from the next-door Water Pollution Control District for employee parking. His most pressing concern is that increased traffic entering and exiting would pose safety issues on Bayview Avenue. Currently, both sides of Bayview are available for additional parking at the library, a situation which has worked from the inception of the library on the location. Mayor Samansky told the trustees that if the visual impact of a new building is not problematic to him and his board, he would be happy to support an expansion. He has been adamantly opposed to a true third floor, saying it would overwhelm the site. The architects proposed to erect a framework on the roof that will show precisely where and how the recessed rise in height over the mezzanine would affect the look of the building.

The Town of North Hempstead Board of Zoning Appeals will eventually make a determination on the parking. The town does not have specific zoning requirements for libraries.

Add-On Choices

There are some features that could be added to any of the plans that while not essential, might make the building more environmentally cutting edge and more energy efficient.

For example, if a “green” roof were installed, it would require an irrigation system and a water retention tank.

There are choices in a heating and air conditioning system between water-cooled A/C units and an open loop geo-thermal system. Motorized window shades on the eastern side of the building could be installed. Radiant slabs could be installed on the lower level of the building.

The estimate for furniture, finishes and equipment hovers around $2 million for Plans B and C and would be $1.5 for Plan A.

All of these alternatives will be explored in more depth as the basic project decisions unfold.

Financing

Although everyone would like to know exactly how much one’s taxes would increase in each plan, the consultant, Noah Nadelson of Ministat Services, Port Jefferson, hired by the library to help them with financing issues, argued that until timetables become more exact, it is impossible to predict interest rates.

However, the library business manager stated that if a bond for $25 million was approved at a 5 percent interest rate, a homeowner assessed at $1 million would see an increase of $82 a year in library taxes.

It was pointed out at the meeting that LIPA and the NYS Power Authority provide incentives and attractive rebates and financing when cleaner, more efficient energy systems are installed.

What’s Next?

Documents, renderings and the model for Plan B will be available for public perusal at Main in the coming weeks and it is expected that the 100-page report from DattnerArchitects will be available online at www.greatnecklibrary.org.

The meeting on Aug. 11 was sparsely attended by the public and it is critical that the next meeting on Sept. 9 have a better turn-out.

Building Committee chairperson, Andrew Greene is hoping that the trustees will arrive at a consensus regarding key decisions by October. If a final proposed plan is given the go-ahead by the public in a referendum, we could move into a newly renovated or expanded building by 2013. He told the Record, “This is not a razing of the old building; it is a making-better of the old building with many of the exterior materials used. Although it will take more money to expand the building, our needs have changed and grown…just renovating the building at its present size would, in my opinion, be a waste of public money. We will be getting a new functionality to the whole library if we expand. We want to create a structure with the flexibility that will allow for change and adaptation with time. We need to invest in our community and this is a key way to invest in our future.”