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Officials: Little Red Schoolhouse in Moriches won't be torn down

The library board reversed course on demolition plans

The library board reversed course on demolition plans during a meeting Friday after a petition drive to save the Moriches schoolhouse, seen on Oct. 7. Credit: John Roca

The Little Red Schoolhouse in Moriches likely will be saved.

The 94-year-old brick structure on Montauk Highway will be preserved and turned into a branch of the Mastics-Moriches-Shirley Community Library, instead of being demolished, library officials said Tuesday.

The school — currently owned by the William Floyd School District — was to have been razed as part of a $26.6 million plan to renovate the public library's main branch in Shirley and add new branches in Moriches and Mastic Beach.

The library board reversed course during a meeting Friday after a petition drive to save the schoolhouse and declare it a landmark.

"It became apparent that the building, despite not being on a historical register, was of historical importance to many of our residents," library board president Joseph Maiorana said.

The library board also reset the cost of the bond proposition to $22.6 million. The board plans to use $4 million in reserves to lower the cost of the bond, leaving the district with $1.7 million left in reserves, Maiorana said. 

If the bond is approved by voters in a Dec. 10 referendum, taxes on the average home would go up about $86 a year, library officials said.

Joe May, the Mastic resident who led the petition drive, said he had “a big smile on my face” after learning the schoolhouse may be saved. The online petition garnered 2,300 signatures, he said.

“I would love to cut the ribbon when this happens," May said. “My fingers are crossed and I hope the community gets together and makes this happen.”

The plan to save the schoolhouse still faces some hurdles. The school could be torn down if the bond is defeated and the school district retains ownership of the property.

In a statement, William Floyd spokesman James Montalto said: "Since the district does not need the classroom space and has no long-term viable use for this building, it would not be fiscally responsible to our residents to make a substantial investment into a building that serves no practical purpose. Therefore, if the library’s bond referendum fails, it is the district’s intention to take down the building."

Knocking down the schoolhouse was part of a plan to close the main library for renovation for about two years and construct a new branch in the former Mastic Beach Village Hall for $4.5 million and another on the grounds of the Little Red Schoolhouse for $5.8 million. Library officials proposed to build a replica of the schoolhouse to replace the original.

Maiorana said he didn't know how much, if any, of the remaining funds would be used to save the schoolhouse, but said multiple civic groups have volunteered to help raise funds to save the building.

"I'm glad they saw the outcry in the community to save the building," Manor Park Civic Association president Ray Keenan said. "We were working with them to save the school. We wanted to come up with a solution."

May said he has asked Brookhaven Town officials to host a public hearing to declare the schoolhouse a local landmark.

“This is going to get done," he said. "I’m not letting go.”

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