Nearly simultaneously last week, the Village of Lawrence and the Peninsula Public Library each approved a $3.333 million deal that was nearly a decade in the making.
The village agreed to sell the library roughly 30,000 square feet of land by Zion Park, were a new library will be built.
Lawrence board members voted 4-0 on Sept. 14 to authorize Mayor Alex Edelman to enter into a contract with the PPL. Trustee Uri Kaufman did not attend the meeting.
On the same Thursday, the library’s five-person board voted 5-0 to purchase the land. Officials from both entities signed the contract on Monday on the site of the proposed new library, near the intersection of Central and Lawrence avenues, across the street from Village Hall.
“We are very happy that this agreement has finally come to fruition, and view this as a win-win for the residents of the village as well as the wider school district,” said Samuel Francis, PPL’s board president. “This occasion marks the beginning of a historic opportunity to work together on constructing a beautiful new state-of-the-art library community center, serving all of our patrons with materials, programs, services and meeting space, from toddlers to seniors and everyone in between.”
Residents of School District 15 — the Lawrence School District — must approve the transaction through a referendum. The date of the public vote is yet to be set.
In 2009, the library offered $700,000 for a 9,000-square-foot parcel adjacent to the Lawrence Long Island Rail Road station and Zion Park. A year later, the village board voted not to sell the property. In 2010, PPL signed a letter of intent to buy a half-acre of Temple Israel of Lawrence’s campus for between $2.5 million and $3 million. A year later, the library decided against the purchase.
Edelman said that this transaction benefits the village, the library and the community. “The village will benefit from the proceeds of the sale of this property, and the eventual sale of the existing library building will likely generate additional tax revenues,” he said. “This deal will also keep the library in Lawrence and transform the Zion Park area into a community hub.”
The current Peninsula Public library has .38 square feet per patron — the smallest space per user of any library in the Nassau County Library System, according to report issued by the county system in 2008. The building at 280 Central Ave., in Lawrence, measures 13,500 square feet, and has 23 parking spaces.
“I’m ecstatic that this is coming to fruition. It’s long overdue, and our community needs and deserves a state-of-the-art library,” said library Director Carolynn Matulewicz, an Inwood native who lives in Atlantic Beach. “It’s an ideal location — by a bus stop, a train station and a park.” She added that concerts in collaboration with the village and the library’s children’s programs could be held in Zion Park.
The new building is expected to be twice the size of the old one, and there will be nearly 50 parking spaces. The village is also looking into making other spaces available nearby. PPL serves 34,000 people, has 17,900 cardholders and made nearly 345,000 circulation transactions in the past year, library officials said.
“When I was elected to the board of trustees of the Peninsula Public Library in 2011, my dream was to build a new library for my children and the community to enjoy,” said Jeff Leb, a library trustee and Building Committee member. “I am elated that I now have the opportunity to do that, and plan to work with my fellow trustees to build a magnificent new library, which, once completed, will serve as an invaluable resource to the community for many years to come.”
Should the referendum be approved, the new location would be the library’s fourth. In 1932, what became known as the Peninsula Community Library, a fee-based center for school-age children, was established at 493 Central Ave. in Cedarhurst.
Four years later, the library expanded to a barn on Cedarhurst Avenue. In 1950, Lawrence district residents approved the creation of the Peninsula Public Library, and it opened a year later in a house on the site of the current building. That three-story building opened 56 years ago.
Former PPL board president Joan Lepelstat said she envisions children reading and playing outside. “I’m thrilled, and it will be beautiful,” said Lepelstat, who is president of the Peninsula Library Foundation, a fundraising organization. “We will work closely with the library to do whatever is necessary to raise funds for the beautiful new library.”
Lawrence schools Superintendent Dr. Ann Pedersen said she has fond memories of her family’s visits to their library in Wantagh when she was a child, and that the prospect of a new library is “wonderful news.”
“The resources of a public library enhance the educational life of a family,” Pedersen said. “I look forward to continued and expanded partnerships with Peninsula Public Library.”
Library officials said they encourage residents to submit any questions or comments in person at the library or to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have an opinion on the proposed new library? Send your letter to the editor to email@example.com.