Voters on Wednesday are to determine the future of the Mastic-Moriches-Shirley Community Library, which hinges on a $33.5 million bond to build what opponents say would be the most expensive library on Long Island.
The bonding, along with $5 million in cash reserves, would be used to create a $38.5 million, 50,000-square-foot, energy-efficient building one mile south on the former Links golf course.
Having a new library would improve the lives of those who use it and who have been without upgraded facilities for too long, project supporters say.
“The thing that holds us back is the [existing] facility,” library director Kerri Rosalia said. “We don’t have enough meeting room space, we don’t have enough quiet space for people to read and study.”
The expansive, handicapped-accessible building would be nestled in a woodland setting and offer large rooms, learning labs, new technology, an outdoor amphitheater seating up to 300 people and a nature area for children’s research. The facility would have five times as many parking spaces as the current library, officials said. And the non-airborne asbestos in the existing facility would not be an issue in the new one.
Bond opponents said they prefer keeping a new library closer to the existing location, either through renovation or building a new facility at a vacant bowling alley next to the current library.
“It’s too expensive of a project and it’s in the wrong location,” said Ray Keenan, president of the Manor Park Civic Association.
John Sicignano, president of the Mastic Park Civic Association, filed a petition with the New York State Department of Education last month to cancel the referendum. He is represented by Keenen, a Shirley-based attorney. The action was denied Friday.
Library officials say purchasing the bowling alley would cost $3 million to $4 million in addition to $400,000 to demolish the vacant structure. With construction costs, the price would be comparable with the proposed library but without the extra amenities and space, library officials said. Brookhaven Town is donating the land at the Links for the new library if the project proceeds.
Several years of failed renovation plans led officials to the bond referendum, they said.
“We’re building the newest library and of course the newest thing is the most expensive,” Rosalia said.
Brookhaven Councilman Dan Panico, who represents the area served by the Mastic-Moriches-Shirley library, said the decision lies with the 56,000 residents in the library district.
“The vast majority agrees the project would be beneficial for the community, but ultimately it’s the people’s money and their decision,” Panico said. “I think it’s a great project. The new library would be a beautiful, dynamic space.”
The project itself grew out of the community’s desires and is the result of a series of meetings starting in 2015 in which the majority of the roughly 100 residents who participated supported a new facility.
Rosalia and library board president James Mazzarrella said the average homeowner would pay an extra $144 per year in property taxes. Rosalia and Mazzarrella initially said interest from the bond would be $1.9 million annually, or about $57 million over the 30-year life of the bond, but they have since said a rough estimate couldn’t be determined.
“I think that it’s overpriced,” said Shirley resident Maureen Felicciardi, 62. “No one here is against the library, but we want something everybody can afford.”
Library officials called the project a good value for residents.
“There are going to be services that are expanded and added that the community is asking for that we cannot provide in this facility,” Mazzarrella said.