Actor and Long Island native Alec Baldwin has donated $1 million to the East Hampton public library, a gift that brings its efforts to fund an expansion "close to the finish line," officials said Monday.
It took a decade for the library to get the $6.2 million expansion approved and raise the money to cover the project. The work, to be paid for completely through private donations, is expected to be finished by spring.
Baldwin, an Amagansett resident and founding honorary co-chair of the event, has made two other gifts to the East Hampton library -- $250,000 in 2011 and $10,000 in 2010 -- and regularly takes part in its annual Authors Night program. But library chairman Tom Twomey said the gift announced Monday was overwhelming because of its ". . . generosity to so many people at just the right time."
Baldwin, in a conference call, said Monday that when he was growing up in Massapequa, the library bookmobiles were parked in the gravel lot of Peninsula Golf Club across from his house. When bookmobiles were phased out, he bought one. "It's up on blocks in a hidden corner of my property. I don't know why I bought it . . . I'll turn it into a playhouse for my daughter."
Libraries are still special places for Baldwin. "I go to the chair or table with the least amount of people. There's privacy and quiet," he said.
The library's new 60-seat auditorium will be called the Baldwin Family Lecture Room. Because of the donation, it will become a high-tech facility that can link to the New York Public Library and cultural organizations across the world, letting people in East Hampton interact with people at the remote locations in real time.
Library director Dennis Fabiszak said the special equipment -- including a retractable 7-foot-by-12-foot screen -- had been on the library's wish list, but its cost was a problem. Baldwin's gift made getting it possible, Fabiszak said.
Baldwin's donation is being made through his Alec Baldwin Foundation, which gave more than $2.8 million to more than 100 organizations in the first nine months of this year, including the Stony Brook Foundation and the Group for the East End.