BBP Library Board makes their case to the public
The former Ursaline Center

File photo

BBP Library Board makes their case to the public

Story By: ANTHONY PERROTTA
11/1/2018


BLUE POINT—The future of the Bayport-Blue Point Public Library was discussed during a regular meeting of the library board of trustees last Wednesday, Oct. 24. 

After months of frustration over selling the decades-old St. Ursula Center on Middle Road, the Ursuline Sisters of Tildonk have officially accepted a $3.65 million offer from the BBP Library last month to convert the space into a 28,000-square-foot library. 

The BBP Library Board recently announced an approximate tax increase for the average Brookhaven Town resident of about $19.11 per month, while Islip Town residents will see an average increase of about $18.88 per month, both over an 18-year bond. However, the BBP Library Board stated that those numbers could be about 10 to 15 percent lower once the existing library building, assessed at about $2 million, is put up for sale and subsequently sold. 

Representatives from BBS Architects, a Patchogue-based architecture firm, walked last week’s attendees through the proposed move to the convent. 

The $16.5 million bond would strictly include renovations to the site; no construction would be necessary, as the library is looking to maintain the aesthetic feel of the building. The stained-glass windows in the chapel (which would be converted into the main reading room) would remain, as they aren’t necessarily religious. Adult and children reading rooms would be installed on each side of the main reading room, along with additional community rooms on the first and second floors to accommodate groups who want to use the library’s space, which is largely limited at the current site. 

The outside of the building will remain mostly unchanged, besides some upgrades to the parking lot from 60 stalls to 100. An onsite cemetery will also remain, along with an existing home once rented by a nun, which, at some point, will be repurposed by partners with an outside organization. In addition, the gardens will be cleaned up to promote outdoor activities. 

Brookhaven Town Councilman Neil Foley briefly spoke during the meeting to endorse the move, adding that if the bond were approved, the new library would become a “treasure for the community.” 

Foley, a Bayport resident, previously said putting a library on that site is comforting, being that all libraries, schools and places of worship are zoned A-1 Residential. So, a zoning change would not be needed. 

While impressed with the proposal, many residents posed questions about the ever-increasing cost of living in the area, particularly in regards to rising school taxes. Others asked if a new library was even necessary since younger people are leaving Long Island at higher rates. 

Ronald Devine Jr., president of the BBP Library Board, told those in attendance that regardless of whether the bond is passed, renovations to the current facility are necessary; therefore, taxes would still be going up. 

BBS representatives also went through plans that were conceived last year for the original building, before the move to the St. Ursula Center became an option. These plans would have expanded the existing library south and rebuilt the front children’s section with a second story for a total of about 23,600 square feet. The library, as it now stands, has just about 10,000 square feet of usable space, making it one of the smallest libraries in the area, according to officials. 

Plans to stay at the currently limited site would cost $13 million, plus rent and transportation costs for a temporary facility during construction. Should the bond pass, construction and a temporary facility wouldn’t be needed, just renovations to the convent and additions to its parking. The entire building would be ADA compliant, something the existing building lacks. 

Back in 2007, controversial plans to expand the library to the south and possibly acquire a private home were denied by the community. 

The sisters at the convent listed the property for sale last year, referencing an aging population of nuns living there and the high cost for care. Earlier this year, after community opposition, the Seafield Center, originally slated to purchase the property for $5.2 million, retreated from building an inpatient treatment facility at the site. Seafield ultimately pulled the deal, recognizing the opposition. Earlier this year, John Haley, COO of Seafield Center, told this publication that the decision was up to the sisters; if not for them, he said he would still be going forward with sober housing. 

The nuns, according to sister and province leader Joanne Callahan, have owned the property since 1935, which in its heyday operated with about 100 nuns on-site. That number has since dwindled due to their aging population, making costs to maintain the property too high to keep up. Callahan said the remaining 14 or 15 nuns were placed in nearby assisted living facilities run by fellow sisters. 

Though the offer accepted was considerably lower than the original Seafield offer, Callahan said they decided to accept it. “More money would have, of course, helped us. It’s pure numbers,” she said, referencing the need for retirement, but also saying she is happy to see the building used for and by the community—should the bond be approved. 

The BBP Library Board will hold one more public meeting on Thursday, Nov. 29 at 7 p.m. before the bond vote, which will be held on Thursday, Dec. 6 from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Both will take place at the library on Blue Point Avenue. 

Register to vote at the Bayport-Blue Point School District Office, 189 Academy Street, Bayport, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The last day to do so is Thursday, Nov. 30.