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After Sandy: Plainview’s Safe Haven

Residents without power flock to POB Library for warmth, companionship and a helping hand

When the staff of the Plainview-Old Bethpage Public Library decided to help the community after Hurricane Sandy, they didn’t just mean giving people a place to charge their phones. Of course, many residents whose homes were without power flocked to the library for an opportunity to charge their electronic devices and access the Internet, but people also came to hold appointments, use the microwave in the staff kitchen, do their hair in the ladies room, and even plug in medical equipment.

According to Library Director Gretchen Browne, the staff made a decision to do everything within reason to help those affected by the hurricane, and patrons took them up on the offer in a big way: making the library a second home. The library has been a spiritual center of the community for a long time, but for the last few days, it’s become a community center in every sense of the term.

The library actually did this before in 2011, albeit on a smaller scale. “We did it after Hurricane Irene. We felt that there was a need for people to use the library because again, we were one of the only places that had power,” said Browne. “I think people realized last year that the library was the place to go with power.”

Ever since reopening post-hurricane on Thursday, Nov. 1, the library has been open extra hours to accommodate residents without electricity at home; on Saturday night, the lobbies were kept open until 8 p.m. instead of the usual 5:30 to give people a warm place to hang out. When the library opened two hours early on Sunday, 350 people were waiting outside the doors.

In addition to taking advantage of heat, light and Internet access, people have been utilizing the facilities in all kinds of ways. Several people brought nebulizers, a kind of medical breathing device, which they had not been allowed to plug in at the hospital for insurance reasons. Two children received a physical therapy session in a back office. One young lady, preparing for a party, even ironed her dress on one of the library’s tables.

Browne praised the custodial staff for going out of their way to accommodate people, and her entire staff for working extra hours. Of course, with such a large number of people in one place, not everyone can be happy, but according to Browne, residents have by and large been pleased to have these resources at their disposal.

“Of course we’ve had a couple of complaints here and there, but they’re minor compared to the praise that we’ve received,” said Browne.

Browne went on to say that almost everyone she spoke to had a positive attitude, wanting electricity back but being able to put the situation in perspective and realize that they were fortunate compared to those who had lost their belongings or their homes in the hurricane. In fact, a sense of camaraderie has developed among the library patrons; people are getting to know each other, sharing supplies, making informal tech support teams, and even playing mahjong together.

“They’re bringing their own surge protectors, they’re bringing their own power strips…they’re being really accommodating, allowing other people to plug in next to them,” said Browne.

In addition, the library isn’t the only place in town looking out for residents without power: Gold and Meyer’s Gourmet Deli, located across the street from the library, sent over two shopping bags full of free bagels for everyone to eat on Sunday.

During a difficult time, it’s always nice to see hardship bringing out generosity and kindness rather than anger and selfishness. It’s perhaps a credit to the residents of this community that they have adapted to the situation with such grace— but having a warm, friendly place in the neighborhood to hang out makes it a little easier.

News

Temple Chaverim is hosting a new member open house Friday, May 2  at 8 p.m. The program includes Shabbat services followed by an extensive Oneg Shabbat. The Temple invites prospective members to take this opportunity to meet their dynamic clergy and innovative education director as well as members of our community.

According to Jody Steifman, member of the Temple Chaverim Membership Committee, Chaverim aims to bring the community closer together.

Due to what appears to be a colossal error on the part of the Nassau County Assessor’s office, military veterans and Gold Star families will have to wait for their tax break until next year.

Plainview is one of several local school districts that recently approved resolutions extending an exemption to local veterans, even though budgets and Albany’s tax cap make it a tough choice. Last month, despite concerns about lack of confidence in the validity of eligibility information provided by the county assessor’s office, the Plainview trustees voted to provide a school tax exemption for veterans living in the Plainview-Old Bethpage School District, starting with the 2014-2015 school year.


Calendar

Matzah Balls

Thursday, April 17

Craft Fair

Saturday, April 19

Rainbows

Friday, April 18



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