Great Neck Library requests $22.5 million for renovations

Evan Nemeroff

Representatives of the Great Neck Library asked the Town of North Hempstead’s Board of Zoning Appeals last Wednesday afternoon for five zoning variances needed under current plans for a $22.5 million construction to renovate and expand the library’s main building at 159 Bayview Ave.

“The library’s board of trustees decided it was in the public’s interest to be here and seek variances for this project,” said Paul Bloom, the library’s counsel. “We feel the variances we are seeking will benefit the community as a whole if they are granted.”

Daniel Heuberger of Dattner Architects said the purpose of the construction project is to renovate and expand the main library by 8,645 square-feet with an additional wing on the east side of the building. He said there will be changes to the children’s area and the audio and visual room. Other different features at the library will include a new young adult area, a new reference area, removal of the mezzanine area and a glass window overlooking the pond.

The five variances sought by the library include lot coverage, parking deficiencies, building a fence around the library, floor area, and rainfall retention.

With the construction of the new wing, the library would occupy 21 percent of the lot coverage, which is 1 percent over the town limit by 1,500 square-feet.

“We told the community there would be no plans to raise the height of the building,” Bloom said. “We need this additional building because the age of the building is showing and it is time to keep the facility up-to-date with modern times. This 1 percent difference is de minimis and we hope the board will realize this.”

Severak residents who spoke at the hearing said the most substantial problem with the library site is that there is insufficient parking available and that the library’s plans don’t sufficiently address the problem.

The town requires the library to have 165 spots for library patrons, but the current lot only has 92 parking spaces. Bloom said there is an additional 66 spots on Bayview Avenue for library patrons to park which is within walking distance of the facility.

Ralene Adler, who uses the main library three to five times a week, said the variance the library is asking for ignores residents’ requests for more on-site parking.

“This variance is not justified because there is ample space at the library,” Adler said. “The library has not made any attempt to remediate the situation and is only asking the town board of zoning appeals for relief forcing residents to park on the street. Bayview Avenue has fast moving cars and would not be safe for seniors and toddlers who have trouble crossing the street.”

Jane Totura said she can never find any parking at the facility and does not think the variances should be granted.

“Parking on Bayview Avenue is not the answer,” Totura said. “Bayview Avenue is very dangerous, especially at night, because there are parts of the street that does not contain a sidewalk. If it is snowing, raining or any type of bad weather, I don’t want to walk from Bayview to the library. It is also not fair that the elderly can’t use the facility because there is a lack of parking.”

Zoning Board member Paul Aloe questioned if the library would have sufficient parking with the proposed plans to build an additional wing and how many parking spaces are occupied by library employees.

Harold Lutz, a traffic engineer from VHB Engineering, conducted a parking analysis report on two weekdays and one weekend and found that with an 8,600 square-foot expansion, the library would be able to support all of its patrons with the available on-street parking.

“We have a study that shows no increase in attendance will occur with the additional building,” Bloom said. “The study took special events under consideration and we don’t anticipate additional hoards of people coming to the new facility. We want to efficiently utilize our space and needs to continue serving the public.”

Great Neck Library board of trustees President Andrew Greene said that about 20 to 30 employees work in the main library. Bloom said the library has 54 parking spaces that are 10 by 20 feet and 38 spots that are 9 by 18 feet. Bloom said the library would prepare alternative plans to create more nine by 18 feet spots for library visitors and would address where employees are allowed to park.

“We believe in our plan, certify it, and will not come back for more variances,” Bloom said. “We will come back with a modified parking plan to pick up more spaces for library visitors.”

Another variance the library was seeking related to a requirement for the library to have a fence between any adjoining property. Bloom said because the library is surrounded by Udall’s Pond, a state law prohibits the library from putting up a fence within land of the Department of Environmental Conservation.

“Out of all the variances we are seeking, this one is incapable of being achieved,” Bloom said.

Village of Saddle Rock Mayor Leonard Samansky said the village and the library came to an agreement last January and February allowing for parking to take place on Bayview Avenue and to not build a fence on the property.

“I am not endorsing the project, but I am endorsing the library’s request for variances in parking and no construction of a fence on the south side of the property,” Samansky said. “I don’t want to see any changes to the plan that could have any increased type of negative impact on the village.”

The fourth variance that the library was seeking related to floor area, which says only 31 percent of the area is allowed to be used while the library currently occupies 41 percent of the space. Bloom said the library has been non-conforming with this regulation since 1970.

The final variance sought relates to the requirement that the property have sufficient rainwater drainage. All of the library’s rainwater currently flows into Udall’s Pond. Town code requires the library to collect 2.5 inches of rainfall and Bloom said 91 percent of the property will follow the code with the proposed project. Bloom said the remaining 9 percent of the runoff comes from the library roof and the library has plans to install sedimentation tanks to collect rainwater from the roof and filter it before discharging the sediments into the pond.

“The water will be clean as it can get before it goes into the pond,” said Gregg Schiavone, vice president at RMS Engineering.

Village of Great Neck resident Elizabeth Allen said she disagrees with the library’s plans for expansion, but is happy the library is fixing its rainfall retention problem.

“It is not necessary for the library to expand because it will only create further burdens we will have to embrace,” Allen said. “By eliminating spaces, there is an increased chance I would not be able to use the library because I don’t want to walk two-thirds of a mile on Bayview Avenue. Having on-street parking is an insincere offer by the library. I don’t understand why the entire project has to happen with an expansion to the library.”

Stanley Romaine was the only person who supported the library’s request for the five variances.

“The library is falling down and needs to be updated,” Romaine said. “I visit the library often and it is very antique with the roofing and elevator having significant problems. The street parking being offered by the library is adequate because the facility is never that crowded or busy. Let us build a better library for Great Neck.”

Zoning board attorney Gerard Terry said a decision usually takes 60 days, but this case could take longer because the library plans to supply the zoning board with new plans regarding parking availability.

 

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Evan Nemeroff

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