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Long IslandTowns

Residents: Reopen library at Point Lookout

Assemb.Harvey Weisenberg and local residents push to keep the Point Lookout Branch of the Long Beach library active after the library board's Jan. 31 deadline. Videojournalist: Patrick Whittle

The marble lions Patience and Fortitude might not stand guard outside Point Lookout's tiny library, a 1,000-square-foot storefront that shares its building with a real estate office and an Italian restaurant.

But a group of residents in the barrier island hamlet -- who say they have displayed more than a little of their own patience and fortitude since superstorm Sandy -- contend that reopening the weather-beaten library would be a boon to the hard-hit community.

The residents -- who have filled two public meetings of the Long Beach Public Library board of trustees, which runs the Point Lookout location -- say the little branch was ready to reopen weeks ago and accuse the library of stalling.

Reopening the Point Lookout library would give storm-weary seniors a place to socialize and children a place to study, the residents said.

It also would provide a temporary hub for the battered Long Beach Public Library System, which closed all three of its locations after the storm and still is struggling with heavy damage at the downtown and West End branches, residents said.

"If you don't get your doors open and show you're a vital part of this community," said resident Helen Stringer, "that would be a shame."

The Point Lookout library suffered about $20,000 in water and wind damage during Sandy, said Paul Gomez, who owns the building and leases space to the library system. He said he has paid for the repairs, which were finished about a month ago.

George Trepp, the library system's director, said library workers were scheduled to begin some final reorganization in the building Thursday. He said it's "hard to say" when the library could reopen.

"We're going to try to get it open as quickly as possible," he said. Trepp said the library has not been slow to reopen.

Trepp declined to speculate about the total cost of repairs to all three branches. The library system has spent about $172,000 on work for the main downtown library, he said. However, the downtown and West End branches still need major reconstruction, Trepp said.

Assemb. Harvey Weisenberg (D-Long Beach) said reopening the Point Lookout branch would fully reconnect Long Beach barrier island residents to library services. Residents have been allowed to use Oceanside's library, but many people still lack cars lost in Sandy -- and the Point Lookout branch is on the Long Beach city bus route.

"With all the pain and suffering, it's vital that we have a resource that provides respite," Weisenberg said.

Long Beach Public Library launched a Point Lookout branch in the 1960s at a different location. The library has been housed at the current location for about 15 years, said Gomez, who lives locally.

"We should be up and running," Gomez said. "They really have a responsibility to the public, the children, the older folks, to get this thing going."

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