The clock is ticking on an agreement between the Village of Lawrence and Peninsula Public Library for the village to sell a roughly three-quarter-acre parcel of land next to Zion Park to the library for $3.33 million. The contract was signed in September 2017, but is set to expire in mid-December, unless the village board passes a one-year extension. The purchase needs to be ap-proved in a public referendum.
In July, library officials publicized their plans for the new building that they hope to build on the site. On Oct. 24 they hosted a presentation at a meeting of the Lawrence Association, offering updated plans and the findings of a parking study they conducted, and answering residents’ questions.
Nearly 50 people, including library and village officials, traffic and architectural consultants and residents of the village and the Lawrence School District attended the meeting. A majority of the residents ex-pressed concerns about the plan, zeroing in on the available parking for library patrons.
Those who opposed the plan suggested relocating the new building to a less central location where there would be more space for parking. “If you want this library built, don’t build it in this spot,” said Israel Singer, a Lawrence resident. “I recommend that you move this, because you’re not going to beat the people here who are unhappy . . . It’s a failed project, because it upsets people who commute to the train; it upsets people who lives near it . . . Find another spot.”
Library officials based their updated plans on the results of a survey conducted in July. Some 89 percent of 868 respondents agreed that more parking would improve their library experience, PPL officials said. The existing building, at 280 Central Ave., about a third of a mile east of the proposed new site, has only 23 parking spaces.
The new plans include a parking lot with 38 spaces and reconfigured parking at the village Long Island Rail Road station. While the library and its parking would be built over a section of the lot used by commuters, the number of commuter spaces could be increased from 162 to 164 by implementing the plan, devised by BBS Architects, Landscape Architects & Engineers and VHB Engineers.
Some residents, however, said they were still concerned. “As a daily commuter . . . I can tell you that the spots being eliminated by the library are the most coveted spots in the entire lot,” said Josh Eisenberger, of Lawrence. “I’m all for the library, and I think we should do a project. I just don’t know if this is the right location.”
Many attendees claimed they didn’t believe the increase from 23 parking spaces to 38 would be enough for the new building. The original plan was for a 37,500-square-foot, five-story building that included rooftop seating. A revised proposal removes the rooftop area, as well as a café from the first floor, and divides a large theater in the basement into two community rooms, creating a roughly 34,000-square-foot building. The current library, the smallest in Nassau County, measures about 16,500 square feet.
Library officials said that the land next to Zion Park was chosen in part for its central location — its proximity to public transportation, Inwood and the shopping district to the east on Central Avenue. Some residents suggested that the library buy land on Rock Hall Road in Lawrence where the sewage treatment plant was housed. Library board President Samuel Francis said he believed that parcel would be much more expensive that the Zion Park site. In fact, village officials have discussed selling the Rock Hall Road property for $7 million.
Daniel Solow, of North Woodmere, said he often uses mass transportation, or rides a bike. “I’m worried that we’re not letting this project go ahead because of parking,” he said. “I think [mass transit] should still be a major concern. I think mass transit should be available at every possible location this library will or will not be.”
Should the village approve a one-year extension of the contract with the library, officials would look to coordinate the required public referendum. If the survey conducted by the library is accurate, the referendum would pass in a landslide: Nearly 95 percent of respondents said they would vote to approve the plans.
“Our only interest is to get a better library for the entire school district, and to make it work as best as we possibly can for the Village of Lawrence as well,” Francis said. “We’re not trying to impose something on the Village of Lawrence … I want this to work for everyone.”
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