By Charles Hamma and Jim Lo
At least 1,500 residents in Mastic, Mastic Beach, and Shirley will vote on February 7 on a $38.5 million proposal for a new library that would be built on the William Floyd Parkway.
The vote for the proposal will take place at William Floyd High School, town officials said. One of the points of contention has been an expected increase in taxes and land use. Opponents of the proposal have also questioned the need for a new library.
“It’s not that we don’t see the value of a library,” Maureen Felicciardi, a 62-year-old Shirley resident, said. “But we have to think of what the whole community wants.”
The current library, on the corner of Roberts Road, has been at that location for approximately 45 years and is plagued with issues, current library director Kerri Rosalia said. They have no American with Disabilities Act-compliant bathrooms, no insulation, and also have asbestos in the ceiling in the older section of the building. The inflexible design of the library coupled with limited land space prevents major renovations from being done.
Parking, though, is their biggest problem, Rosalia said. “Our number one complaint from our customers is our parking. We get about 800 to 1,000 visitors a day at the building and the parking doesn’t suffice.”
The parking lot in front of the library only has 37 spots to accommodate the high volume of visitors that come daily. A bond was proposed in 2006 to take private business property through eminent domain and purchase it in order to build out and add more parking spots, but it was overwhelmingly defeated, Rosalia said.
The new, 50,000 square foot library would give officials the needed space for more parking, but would also provide more space for more programs, an amphitheater outside the library, and outside nature classes for children as well. It would be constructed on the old Links golf course in Shirley, land that was offered for free by the Town of Brookhaven.
Some residents say the new library is a much needed investment for kids of all ages.
“You’ve got the library right next door to a high school, one of our middle schools, and one of our elementary schools,” Joseph Furnari, a 32-year-old Shirley resident and leader of a Facebook advocate group for the library, said. “Those kids will never have to leave the safety and security of the school district’s property.”
Some residents, however, think that the current library provides kids with enough resources.
“People who support the proposal already have their kids in these programs and they’re doing well,” Patricia Spieler, a 72-year-old Shirley resident, said. “So having a new library isn’t going to change that.”
The proposal seems fiscally irresponsible to Spieler. People with a fixed income like herself and who are affected by the new tax bill, will see their taxes increases unnecessarily.
Other residents say that the predicted monthly tax increase of $12 is incorrectly calculated.
“We don’t know where the numbers are coming from,” Ray Keenan, the president of the Manor Park Civic Association, said. “Nobody has actually seen a budget for this thing.”
In addition, the land, according to Keenan, was meant to be used to build active and passive recreation sites, not a library. But Rosalia said that the deal made between the Town of Brookhaven and the Links developer gave the town the land for community use, allowing for a library to be built if possible.
The benefits of the new library will come in time, Furnari said.
“Once we get the new library in, all of the local civic associations can start advocating for what they want, including a recreation center,” he said.
The fate of the proposal will go to a vote on February 7.
“The overwhelming vast majority of residents want what is best for their families and their children,” Dan Panico, Deputy Supervisor for the Town of Brookhaven, said in an email statement. “It comes down to if people feel they are getting value for their 12 dollars per month. Ultimately, it is up to the people.”