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Bayport-Blue Point library reaches deal to buy St. Ursula Center convent

Library district residents will decide Dec. 6 whether to approve a $16.85 million bond referendum to acquire the site and turn it into a 24,000-square-foot library.

The St. Ursula Center convent in Blue Point

The St. Ursula Center convent in Blue Point is shown on Nov. 24, 2017.  Photo Credit: John Roca

The Bayport-Blue Point Public Library has reached a $3.65 million deal to buy the St. Ursula Center convent and convert the home for retired nuns into a new library.

Library officials said Wednesday they had a tentative agreement to buy the 8.27-acre convent property on Middle Road in Blue Point, if library district residents approve a $16.85 million bond referendum to acquire the site and turn it into a 24,000-square-foot library. Residents will vote on the plan Dec. 6.

The Ursuline Sisters of Tildonk put the property up for sale last year, citing a dwindling number of aging nuns living there and the high cost of caring for them.

"If, God willing, this moves forward, we will deliver to the community a world-class library center," library board president Ronald F. Devine Jr. said after the board voted 4-0 to approve the project.

Sister Joanne Callahan, province head of the Ursuline Sisters, said Thursday that leaving the convent would be bittersweet, but the nuns are happy that the facility may become a library.

“I think the library on our property would be a beautiful property. What's not to like?” Callahan said. “I hope the community is as excited as we would be and that this goes through and we don’t have to start all over again."

Library officials said they could not estimate how much the bond would increase taxes for library district residents. They said they would release the estimated tax hike on Oct. 10 and hold a Nov. 29 community meeting to discuss the plan.

Architects hired by the library board presented plans to build a new entrance at the converted convent and turn the religious center's chapel into a spacious reading room. The plans drew applause from 14 people attending the meeting.

The Ursuline order late last year announced a deal to sell the property for $5.3 million to the Seafield Center, a Westhampton Beach-based drug rehabilitation facility. Seafield dropped its plan to buy the site earlier this year amid opposition from community residents and Town of Brookhaven officials.

Jason Borowski, of the Blue Point Civic Coalition, which had opposed the Seafield purchase, said the library's proposed plan is "exciting" and "could have a positive impact both on our community and Bayport for generations to come."

He added that he and other residents would "have to wait and see" what the tax increase is before deciding whether to support the project. "That will be up to the individual homeowners to make," he said.

The Ursuline Sisters have owned the former Joseph Senger estate since 1935. The convent's remaining nuns would move to new homes and care facilities “as soon as we know the bond has gone through,” Callahan said.

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