East Meadow residents have been without full inside access to their local library since June 22, 2019. The library, which has been under renovation for just over two years, has no set opening date.
There was an initial timeline for the $14.6 million renovation, but the coronavirus pandemic delayed the project because of concern for workers’ safety as Covid-19 spread, library Director Carol Probeyahn explained.
An update on the library website last September said that officials would try to open it by early spring 2021, and another update this May said they hoped the library would open by July.
“We don’t have a specific date as of yet, unfortunately. The fine details have yet to be worked out,” Probeyahn said. “The book movers are now putting the books on the shelves, which is a great thing. We hope to be opening very soon. We are doing our best to open up as soon as we can because we know the residents are eager to go to the library.”
She added that anyone could call the library and ask questions about construction.
Residents said they understood that Covid-19 has impacted construction, but didn’t understand why library officials have been quiet about it. “If they would say what was actually happening, I would be more understanding about the delays,” Melinda Geraghty said. “They’ve said nothing. I just wish there was transparency. They’re very closed off. I understand Covid affected things, but you can’t keep blaming Covid.
“I grew up in East Meadow, and I love this library, and I wanted my kids to grow up knowing this library,” Geraghty said. “The renovations have taken too much time now.”
Residents said they miss services that the library provided before the construction closure. “Our library has a great history in East Meadow, and to me, it’s my favorite thing about this town,” Marion Smith said. “When I was able to walk, it was my favorite place to bring my granddaughter, Savannah, and it’s a great place to escape this crazy world.”
“Our library had really fun programs. I do many things alone and always felt safe attending things there,” Cindy Rein said. “Sometimes you’d see the same people show up for all the same things, and it was nice. I loved it and really miss it.”
Parking at the new library is a concern for some, as well. Probeyahn said there would be enough parking for patrons when construction is complete.
She added that she believes patrons will be pleased with the new facility. “There is so much light streaming through, and the library seems brighter, whereas before it seemed dark,” she said. I’m sure the residents will be very pleased with the renovations and changes.”
In March 2017, the East Meadow School District and the library partnered to bring a joint resolution to East Meadow voters that asked for support on improvements and renovations for the school district and library facilities. The bond vote took place March 7 at the district’s elementary schools. Library officials determined then that the cost of the renovations would be roughly $14.6 million, and the bond passed, with 2,031 voting “yes” and 835 “no.”
“The residents voted to do this renovation,” Probeyahn said. “We have an architect and a construction manager, and they oversee the construction. In my capacity as a director, I have input as well, but the physical building and construction itself is the construction manager and architect.”
The library closed for periods starting on June 22, 2019, before fully closing in March 2020 because of the pandemic. Since then, residents have been picking up materials curbside at the Samanea New York Mall in Westbury.
The library’s initial construction budget has not changed since the 2017 vote, Probeyahn said, and the architect and construction manager developed the budget.
“We’re right within where we need to be,” she said. “We’re not over budget. We are very careful to provide a quality project to the public.”
When the library’s $8 million 2021-22 budget passed in May, the library did not receive additional money for the renovations. The biggest budget increase was for debt service, which was about a million dollars. The budget, in total, pierced the state-mandated tax-levy cap, with an increase of 4.27 percent. The tax levy is the total amount of money that the library needs to meet its expenses.
“The library itself didn’t pierce the cap by much,” Probeyahn said. “The library board was careful that we kept the operating budget within reason.”