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Library Plans, Mixed Reviews At Parkville

The library board’s traveling presentation, showing the various options for renovating/expanding the Main library, came to the Parkville branch area in North New Hyde Park and was cut short and met with protests that “it’s too much money and people are out of work here.” It appeared that the topic of spending money at Main tapped into a well of long held, simmering resentments and feelings of not really belonging to the Great Neck community, even though the residents there pay taxes and are served by the school district and library system.

A number of residents said that they had never stepped inside the Main library and that it was too far away to be practical for them. Others decried the fact that the shuttle van that once made rounds to Main had been eliminated a few years ago because of the stated reason that the ridership was too low to make it worthwhile. One woman said that the community has changed and that many grandparents are taking care of children and would use the shuttle if it were available.

Bianca Malhotra, a teenager, spoke and said that she would love to attend Levels, but with working parents, would not have a ride home. She pointed out that there are no services geared for teens at the Parkville branch nor are there private study areas. (There are after school buses that drop students off at the Main library, but there are no late pick-ups.)

Dana Epifan complimented the architects saying, “It’s a beautiful building, but it’s like my dream kitchen…it doesn’t feel like we can afford it.”

Stu Hockron asked how much money has been spent to- date on plans for expansion and renovation. Business manager Neil Zitofsky stated that going back several years, a total of $547,000 has been spent on plans and studies for renovation/expansion.

It was also apparent that some miscommunications or misunderstandings had crept into the topic as well. Some residents were under the impression that a renovation/expansion at Main would somehow lessen the money and services budgeted for Parkville. It was clarified by the board that those are “separate pots of money” and that a bond for Main would not mean cuts in the budget for any of the branches.

Others did not understand that the Parkville branch building is leased from the school district and that any hoped-for expansion there is not under the direct control of the library board. (Space is at a premium in the area and the school district runs its 3-year-old program at Parkville School.)

In fact, a few years ago, Parkville was renovated at a cost of $520,000. Money is budgeted every year to take care of upgrades and/or repairs at all the branches. The current budget has allocated $200,000 for those purposes.

The estimated cost of an increase in taxes of $86-$109 for the largest option, Plan B, is based on a home assessed at $1 million. The bond counsel for the library board has been hesitant to set an exact figure because of the fluctuation in the interest rates.

Questions were also raised as to whether or not the Town of North Hempstead would go along with the parking plans for a renovation/expansion. Although representatives from the library board have met with Supervisor Jon Kaiman to discuss the alternatives, it was pointed out by Carol Bernstein, a zoning board member from Lake Success, that by law, a zoning board is an independent entity and there can be no ruling on a case until it is officially presented to a zoning appeals board.

Frank Phillips, a former school board member and resident of the area stated, “Tonight is giving a false picture of who we are. You’re giving the impression that we’re being mistreated…Because of being in the Great Neck school district and library system, our houses are worth $200,000 more than the houses on the other side of Hillside.”

Other Parkville residents made it clear that they do favor “taking care of Main with a renovation, but not an expansion.”

Although the meeting drew about 100 people and was primarily composed of people from the neighborhood, there were also people in attendance who have been proponents of expanding Main as well.

Margery Binder said, “Main belongs to all of us..It is not subject to the whims of landlords, it is ours…I hope the board pulls itself together and that the community does as well.”

Michael Zarin, also a former board of education member, stated that although times are hard now, there is also no better time than now to upgrade Main. He stated that bonds are advantageous because “you buy at today’s money and pay it back over years to come…no buck is better spent than one spent locally…it’s the best investment you’ll ever make.”

Barbara Zeller urged the assemblage “not to get into a war between north and south (ends of town)…Let’s pull together and put money into our institutions. It’s not a frivolous plan…Main is the mothership that feeds all the branches.”

Three Options Re-Cap

Plan A

This plan would keep the current footprint, gutting the interior, installing up-to-date, energy efficient heating, lighting and air conditioning systems and would make the building accessible for handicapped patrons. Some usable space for programs would be lost because complying with American Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements takes extra space.

Hard cost estimates for this building would be $13.7 million. Soft costs are on average 20 percent of the total hard costs. Total would be $16.4 million.

Plan B

This plan would add 13,000 square feet of space and would raise the height of the building by 5 feet in a setback that would allow for a permanent mezzanine. The children’s section would be greatly expanded as well as the CD and DVD lending area. It would have a curved shape along Udall’s Pond and would be mostly glass on that side bringing in natural light and views. According to lead architect Daniel Heuberger from DattnerArchitects, this plan meets all the program requirements as developed months ago by observing usage patterns within the library and consulting with staff and board members in separate meetings.

Hard cost estimates for this plan would be $23.2 million. Adding in soft costs would bring the total to $27.8 million.

Plan C

This plan would expand the library by 10,000 square feet. There would be no change in height. It would have the same aesthetic exterior look as Plan B. It would remove the outdoor reading terrace, the children’s program room and the young adult dedicated space.

Hard cost estimates for this building would be $21 million. The total, including soft costs, would bring the number to $25.2 million.

Hard costs include construction costs for labor and materials along with profit and overhead. Soft costs include professional fees, environmental and zoning permit fees, legal bills, temporary relocations costs and the like.