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Wyandanch library has stayed closed since pandemic shutdown

Wyandanch public library has not submitted a reopening

Wyandanch public library has not submitted a reopening plan, officials said. Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

The Wyandanch public library is the only library in Suffolk County to have not resumed any services because of what the library said are COVID-19 health concerns with the building, which will be the site of in-person voting next month.

Wyandanch, like all libraries, shut down in mid-March in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and moved to virtual programming. It is the only one of Suffolk’s 56 libraries not to resume services in some fashion, according to Kevin Verbesey, director for the Suffolk Cooperative Library System. The county’s other libraries began offering curbside service in June or July, he said, and most followed with limited services in buildings. Wyandanch has not submitted any reopening plans, he said.

"The other fifty-five libraries in Suffolk have provided us with that information and shared it with each other,” Verbesey said in an email.

In a May 28 Zoom board meeting, library director Shadd Jamison said Wyandanch was working with other area libraries on a coordinated phased reopening in which some services would resume in June.

Jordan Thomas, a Wyandanch resident who is running for library board trustee, said the library didn’t send any communication to residents, and the reopening was not addressed again until a July 20 Zoom meeting in which board president Ghenya Grant said the library was still examining the safety of the building and making sure they followed Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

Jamison and Grant did not respond to a request for comment.

Neither the CDC nor the state has mandated public building upgrades, but both offer guidelines and recommend improved ventilation, including the use of enhanced filters.

According to meeting comments from board vice president Nancy Holliday, the library does not have windows that open and the HVAC system does not properly circulate air.

In meetings Grant also has mentioned liability issues and Wyandanch’s high COVID-19 rate, which ranks third in Suffolk for cases per 1,000 residents, behind Brentwood and Central Islip. Libraries in Brentwood and Central Islip have made HVAC modifications and have been open for curbside service, with limited public access starting this month.  

“People can be disappointed about the fact that they don’t have the library opening exactly in the way they want, and we truly understand that,” Grant said in an Aug. 11 board meeting. “However, our main goal is to make sure that the community and the patrons and our staff are safe.”

Grant also noted that “we haven’t received any offers or been contacted by any officials asking how they can assist or help us.”

Town, county and state officials said no one from the library has reached out and they only learned of the library’s reopening delay from a Newsday reporter.  

“Something like not opening for ventilation, that’s something urgent,” said state Assemb. Kimberly Jean-Pierre (D-Wheatley Heights). “It’s unfortunate because at the end of the day, if you’re not offering services, it’s the community who is losing out.”

The library is due to be the site of a public budget meeting on Sept. 1 and a budget and trustee vote on Sept. 15 that was delayed from April. It's not clear if the bill signed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Thursday to allow absentee voting because of COVID-19 concerns will impact this election.

In the Aug. 11 meeting, Grant said the HVAC system is “something that we’re working on now” and mentioned an “exchange” of paperwork with a consultant and contractor but provided no further details.

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