February 18, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Library Expansion in Posh NY Hood Goes On

A year after SLJ reported on the contentious dispute over a proposal to add a children’s room to the East Hampton Library in New York, the kids of the posh summer community are no closer to seeing it become a reality.

Library Director Dennis Fabiszak has said that the East Hampton Village Board of Zoning Appeals has expressed concern that an expanded children’s collection would lead to more library usage by those who live in the less affluent areas of Springs and Wainscott.

As recently as July 2, the village zoning board is still requiring that the library submit to an environmental review, adds Fabiszak. The local zoning board has taken this position despite a statement from the Office of Counsel for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) stating that the library is an “educational institution” and according to regulations is exempt from such a review. The NYSDEC letter to the zoning board reaffirmed a prior determination from the state’s Department of Education.

The proposed 6,800-square-foot addition to a community that includes Martha Stewart, Rudolph Giuliani, and Katie Couric as summer residents would enable the library to add 10,000 additional children’s books to the library’s collection. Last year, the Long Island library ranked last for books available per child.

In the past, the zoning board had raise questions regarding the children who would use the library and the communities from which they came. The library serves not only the Village of East Hampton but also the less affluent communities of Springs and Wainscott.

The $4 million price tag for the expansion has been entirely raised through private donations. The planning process has cost the library $200,000 and the dispute with the zoning board has added an additional $60,000 expense.

“We do not think it is fair for the library to waste more time and money complying with a state law from which the state says we are exempt,” Library President Doreen Niggles told the East Hampton Star. “Since the village will not abide by the state determination, the library will seek a legal ruling on the issue.”

Despite the disagreement with the village government, its celebrity-laced community supports the library. On August 8, Alec Baldwin, Candace Bushnell, and Jay McInerney will be joined by more than 100 other authors to support the library expansion at an authors’ night.

Rocco Staino About Rocco Staino

Rocco Staino @RoccoA is the retired director of the Keefe Library of the North Salem School District in New York. He is now a contributing editor for School Library Journal and also writes for the Huffington Post.