No lull; library efforts underway
Bayport-Blue Point Library director Mike Firestone says work is being done behind the scenes at the former St. Ursula Center.

SCN/Leuzzi

No lull; library efforts underway

Story By: LINDA LEUZZI
6/27/2019


Exterior activity on the former St. Ursula Center is quiet, but Bayport-Blue Point Library director Mike Firestone commented that interior investigative work is being conducted from the architects to the builders at the new library site. 

“They’ve ripped up ceiling tiles, some Sheetrock, and pulled up carpeting to see what’s underneath, and we also had to test again for asbestos and lead paint,” Firestone said. “Those reports are feeding back now, but we don’t anticipate anything new.”

Right now, BBS Architects, Landscape Architects & Engineers PC is preparing the paperwork for New York State Education Department Facilities Planning approval, estimated for completion and submission in early July. 

“The state has its own architectural review staff and inspect the project to ensure the safety of the patrons,” he said. “It’s similar to what a building goes through with a town, but there’s more scrutiny.” 

There is a state backlog, Firestone said, of about four to six months.

Once the green light is given by the state, BBS and project manager Park East prepare the bid documents. “If we get approvals by October, we’re hoping to get the bids out in early 2020, then have the shovels in the ground by March.”

Firestone said there would be language in the contracts so that the work would move along on time. “Park East and BBS built in an inflation fee and a contingency fee,” he said.

BBP Library board president Ronald F. Devine hailed Firestone for his skill in moving the project along. “He’s very good at working with the architect, and I think because he’s on site a lot, he also asks library patrons what they think,” he said. “The makerspace has been tweaked. It’s like when you put in a mudroom, you allot a certain amount of space and then decide it won’t work. It’s not so much a cost factor but a practical decision. I imagine when the builder goes in, he’ll suggest, ‘we can make this bigger here or the lighting better there.’” Devine also discussed the possibility of initiating revenue enhancers. 

Councilman Neil Foley commented that there have been preliminary conversations about the possibility of moving the Henrietta Acampora Center to the library. “Probably when they file their paperwork, we’ll all sit down with the town attorney,” Foley said. “The town’s mission is to work with other school districts and other municipalities to utilize shared services.”

After pulling up chairs from adjacent offices, Firestone talked to the Suffolk County News in the former chapel. The beautiful wood pews were gone, sold by the Ursulines.  The blue rug would be coming up. “They may potentially put in carpet tiles here,” he said. 

But the three blue-hued stained-glass windows on each side in the front will stay; the double-paned ones will be replaced to let in natural light and a view of the pretty grounds; those removed will be repurposed elsewhere in the building. Windows with religious messages were destined for the history room.

“We moved some stuff around,” Firestone said of the plan, which would stay basically intact. “Prior to the bond, we knew it could work. After the bond passed (in a $16.5 million library bond referendum vote last December), we had to concentrate more on how the space would flow. For example, the makerspace room we allocated upstairs originally was too small, so we moved it to occupy two rooms that we’ll open up as one.

“We’re thinking of putting in a music room, where you can practice your instrument that’s more soundproof; also, we have to find out if that second-floor room can hold a piano.”

The 35,000-square-foot convent, which had dwindled down to a low occupancy with small staffers, also had different requirements for their sprinkler system and fire protection; that changes with a library that currently averages 9,000 to 10,000 patrons a month. “We anticipate this will be a bigger draw,” he said.  

Firestone said an arborist would be hired for assessment. A few of the majestic towering pines are diseased, but most will stay.

The Ursuline Sisters of Tildonk have owned the property since 1935, and made the difficult decision to sell in 2017 because of the dwindling number of nuns living there and high cost of health care. The library’s $3.65 million offer was accepted last September. The Seafield Center, which had offered to purchase the property for $5.2 million, pulled out because of harsh community opposition. The bond vote to convert the building to a 28,000-square-foot library passed with 1,758 yes votes to 835 no votes.

Firestone said the possibility of turning a portion of the almost nine-acre parcel, with its one-acre cemetery and walking trails, into a small county park won’t be decided until the state approves the plans.