March 18, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

East Hampton Library Addition Opens After Long Struggle and Lawsuit

EH Library c. Richard Lewin

At the June 21 ribbon cutting of the East Hampton Library;
Board Members (l to r): Maureen Egen, Gail Parker, Brooke Kroeger Goren, Charlie Soriano, Robert A.M. Stern (architect), Bruce Collins, Dennis Fabiszak (library director), Tom Twomey, Alec Baldwin, Don Hunting, Sheila Rogers, and Debbie Walter. All photos courtesy of Richard Lewin.

The new children’s addition of New York’s East Hampton Library had its official opening on June 21 after several contentious years fraught with zoning deputes, heated exchanges between village officials, and a lawsuit that went to the New York State Supreme Court. The addition adds 6,800 square feet to the existing library of which 4,000 square feet is dedicated for youth services. The children’s new interior space, designed by Lee H. Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership (as featured in the following photos), has a whimsical design that draws upon the nautical heritage of the surrounding seaside community which includes tall, blinking lighthouses, a large windmill with shelves and seating, and a boat-shaped librarian’s reference desk. Designed by the famed architect Robert A.M. Stern Architects (RAMSA), it features space for an additional 10,000 children’s books, new computers and technology, ample seating, and dedicated areas for toddlers and teens.

EH Library c. Richard Lewin-resizeAlmost the entire $6.5 million cost of the addition was funded with private funds including a $1 million donation from actor Alec Baldwin for the creation of the state-of-the-art Baldwin Family Lecture Room on the lower level of the library that provides space for community programs, meetings, film screenings, readings, lectures, and book events. This donation was on top of a $375,000 that Baldwin’s foundation provided at the outset of the project. In addition to the $5.8 million in private donations, the library also received $417,000 in New York State grants. $250,000 remains to be raised.

EH Library c. Richard Lewin-use“We fought for many years to build this amazing educational space for the children of our historic East Hampton Community,” library executive director, Dennis Fabiszak to School Library Journal.  “We have been overwhelmed by the heartfelt emotional reaction each of the members of our community have expressed when they see their new library for the first time.”

Conceived in 2001, the official plans for the addition were presented to the zoning board in 2003. Through the years, the zoning board thwarted plans for the building to go forward, arguing that the addition would increase traffic at a busy intersection and take away from the town’s greenery. Instead, the board suggested building a satellite library in the heavily Hispanic hamlet of Springs. In 2009, the zoning board requested an EH Library c. Richard Lewin -resizeenvironmental impact statement, which the library claimed they were exempt from as an educational institution. This led to a lawsuit brought upon by the zoning board that was settled by the New York State Supreme Court in May 2011. The court found in favor of the library and stated that the zoning board’s position was “arbitrary, capricious, and irrational as it is unsupported by the record” and directed the village to issue necessary construction permits.  The lawsuit cost the library a total of almost $500,000.

The past difficulties were not evident at the June 21 ribbon cutting that was attended by 1,000 members the community, state and local officials, and benefactor, Alec Baldwin.

To see a video about the opening of the addition of the East Hampton Library, click below:


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.



  1. It’s an incredibly beautiful children’s area…but I can’t help but think that the boat-shaped reference desk is going to be the focal point of about a thousand Spongebob jokes. :) It’s very Krusty Krab, don’t you think?