Written by Carol Frank Friday, 29 January 2010 00:00
A rapprochement between the Great Neck Library Board of Trustees and the Mayor of Saddle Rock Leonard Samansky means that they will present a united front when the plans for a renovated and expanded library go before the Town of North Hempstead’s Board of Zoning Appeals. The library board passed a motion at its Jan. 19 meeting that was a culmination of intense negotiations between the two parties after last week’s meeting when the mayor threatened to oppose any variances.
The items of agreement include a number of points. First, the board unanimously supports a parking plan that will leave the mature trees in the current lot protected. In fact, during the meeting, they arrived at a consensus to direct the architect to draw up a modified plan that might forfeit some parking slots in order to create a pedestrian walkway that would make the lot safer than it is now. In addition, the board will also explore the idea of carving out a curb cut on the east side of Bayview Avenue that would allow a bus to pull up in front of the building, discharge passengers and even wait there for pickup.
Mayor Samansky endorses this concept and with the village board, will continue to grant parking on Bayview that will give ample space for everyday usage and even peak events. Street parking on both sides of Bayview can accommodate up to 200 cars. Without street parking, the library would most likely not be able to meet zoning board requirements even if they chopped down every tree on site and made the biggest park lot possible on the parcel.
Building committee chairman Andrew Greene called the other “requests from the village within reason,” and they are: keeping to the plan of providing vending machines instead of a café; lowering the height of the extension that would be visible to people living across Udall’s Pond by 1 foot; keeping the mezzanine as it is; making sure that no dumpsters would be visible from the street and not pursuing off-site parking at the next-door Water Pollution Control District.
The final request would be to reject the idea of making the community room a slanted floor for theatre style seating. The board will take that request under advisement, as a decision about that is not required now. This issue has been simmering on the sidelines ever since the new plans were introduced by DattnerArchitects. The board, knowing that many people feel strongly, for or against, are still mulling over the pros and cons. Certainly, for lectures, concerts and presentations, theater style seating is more comfortable and makes for greater visibility. On the other hand, it limits the flexibility of what would be the library’s only large public room. The mayor’s stated objection is that if the room has theater seating, events might be better attended and thus, generate more traffic.
One height-challenged resident told the Record, “Well, I guess it doesn’t matter to the mayor; he’s tall and can see over people’s heads. I can’t.”
The agreement does not mean that the village is officially endorsing the bond issue for the library; rather, they are stating that the plan, if approved by the public, would be appropriate for a residential area. These matters will be discussed at the village’s board meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 6 at 8:30 p.m.
The zoning attorney for the library, Paul Bloom, informed the building committee at its meeting, which proceeded the full board meeting, that in an informal meeting with a town staff member, he learned that the zoning board would probably require the library to submit a “utilization” report. Such a report would integrate traffic study information and programming information to help the zoning board better determine normal patterns of library usage. Mr. Bloom told the Record that in his dealings with the town’s zoning board, he finds them to be very “knowledgeable and reasonable.”
Library director Jane Marino and business manager Neil Zatofsky have met with Great Neck Public Schools Superintendent Thomas Dolan and the district’s Assistant Superintendent for Businesss John Powell to discuss the possibility of gaining more space at the Parkville Branch. As the school district grapples with trying to cut its 2001 budget, two rooms, currently being used for a program may be cut. In that case, those rooms, each with 700 square feet of space might be available. The other option which all agree would be more expensive, even without any professional input, would be to build an extension. Ms. Marino said, “It was a good first step and discussions will continue.”
Negotiations continue on the matter of acquiring a larger space at the Gardens shopping center for the Station Branch. As we go to press, this is what we know: Currently, the library is paying $9,900 a month/$118,000 a year for the space at this branch. If they rent the larger space upstairs, they would have that space rent-free for eight months while they renovate the space for library use. They would continue to use the current space at the current rate. In September 2010, the cost of the new space would kick in and the rent for the new space would be $16,000 a month. In October of 2011, the rent would go up to $18,000 a month/$216,000 a year. Each year the rent would go up by 2 percent to 4 percent, which would be based on an inflation index. Any increases in taxes would be passed along as well.
If there were construction delays and the new space was not in move-in condition by October 2010, the library would be paying for both rents, $25,900 a month. The projected cost of utilities including insurance would be $24,000 a year. Additionally, increased staffing for a larger space is estimated to cost $66,000 more a year. The lease would be for 10 years. Ms. Marino expects to have cost estimates for reconstruction from Park East this coming week.
The HVAC units for which the library would be responsible have been checked by the library’s engineer and according to him, the units are fairly new, about 5 years old.
A discussion came up at the meeting regarding tax abatements and adjustments. Mr. Zitofsky called the Nassau County Assessor’s office to inquire about the matter. According to a spokesperson from the nonprofit division, landlords are not given tax abatements for rentals to not-for-profit groups.