A couple of weeks back the Friends of the Carnegie Library held a Community Summit on efforts to save, preserve and utilize the Historic Carnegie Library Building. Last week I published the first part of a summary of our Summit that I will continue here.
In part 1 I focused on efforts, actions and issues regarding saving and moving the Carnegie Library building to the corner of Main Street and West Avenue. In the following I will discuss possible future uses for the building once it is moved.
Before I address specific presentations regarding uses for the building, it should be understood that, as it stands now, only a public use is possible for the building once it is moved. In other words, turning the building into a restaurant, professional office space or other commercial use is not a consideration at this time. While we have heard some wonderful private-use ideas for the Carnegie, there are reasons why they are not workable currently.
As stated in my previous report, thanks to Suffolk Legislator Rob Calarco, the County has given initial approval to transfer county property near the Court Building at West Avenue & Main Street to the Village for use as the new location for the Carnegie building. While not final, all efforts for a new home are focused on this location as the most viable site.
Once the Carnegie building is moved to this location, as long as this site remains public property, a private commercial use is prohibited. The County or Village could at some point decide to sell the property to a private developer, but that is not part of the current agreement of intent between the two municipalities and would only be considered if all public-use options fall through. In particular, Legislator Calarco has said a sale of this type is a remote possibility at best, since it would entail complicated and time consuming legal procedures that would make this impractical and unattractive to most potential private developers. It would also most likely erode the near unanimous political support this site currently enjoys as a new home for the Carnegie.
It is also important to consider what Andrew Carnegie’s philanthropic intent was when establishing the Library in 1908. He obviously envisioned the building would be used for the public welfare for as long as it stood. While no particular covenant appears to exist that strictly prohibits a future private use, maintaining the Carnegie as a public endeavor certainly retains the spirit and historical intent of this structure.
With all this being said, I am very excited to report there does exist some excellent public proposals that were presented to us at our summit.
The first presentation made at our Summit was by Dina Chrills, Director of the Patchogue-Medford Public Library. Now before going further about the details of this, let’s consider how fantastic it would be to restore the Carnegie to what it was initially created to be…a Library. Ironically, the motivating factor for this is the same reason that caused our Library to leave the original building to begin with…a need for more space.
The Patchogue-Medford Library administration proposes to utilize the Carnegie building as an annex to the current library, specifically as a Young Adult Center. This new Library Center would move the current young adult section at the Main Street Library to the Carnegie building. This will also allow for new and expanded young adult programs as well as updated and improved resources for school projects and reports. The proposal calls for the Center to only be open during after school hours, keeping the cost to run it at a minimum and balancing well the parking at the site, since the hours of operation would be when the adjacent Court is closed.
As anyone who frequently visits our current Library is aware of, it is a popular spot for teenagers who are attracted to free computer access, a place to do there school work and an ability to browse the available cd’s, dvd’s and video games that can be borrowed with their library cards. While most library patrons, are happy to see these young people enjoying this important educational facility, they also do create disruptions to the peaceful environment most adults look for at a library. Considering that the Library is also bursting at the seems, their proposal provides a tremendous community value.
Library Director Chrills made clear there is support for this idea on the Library Board of Trustees and they are all committed to avoid an impact on the Library tax rate to make this happen. This proposal also has support from Mayor Pontieri and members of the Village Board. Still, no vote by either governing board has yet to occurr, so all support is tentative. Also, no formal report has been made detailing expenditures or costs, so while a commitment not to impact taxes exists, the details to make that happen remains unclear. Certainly, the Library District does have a larger tax base then the Village, making it more feasible for them to restore the Carnegie without a tax increase.
The next presentation made was by Campbell Dalglish of Plaza Cinema and Media Arts (Plaza MAC). Plaza MAC has been dedicated to creating a Media Arts Center in our community for the past few years. Initially hoping to use the now-demolished Plaza Cinema in East Patchogue, they have more recently focused their attention to Patchogue Village, working closely with the Patchogue Arts Council. This past October, Plaza MAC opened a small “art House” Cinema at Art Space on Terry Street, showing critically acclaimed independent and foreign films that cannot be viewed anywhere else this side of New York City.
Plaza Mac sees the Carnegie Library building as a perfect location for their ultimate goal of a full service Media Arts Center. This Center would incorporate the existing cinema with media arts classes, studio and production space, and equipment needs for budding filmmakers. Their plans also include afterschool programs and activities, introducing students to enrichment through the arts. The Media Center idea is, in part, modeled after a very successful Media Arts Center in upstate Pleasantville, NY that has provide a major economic and cultural impact to that community.
Plaza MAC is a non-profit 501(c)-3, therefore would rely on donations and grant funding to achieve this center. Mr. Daglish stated he has already organized many prominent and capable supporters, including actress Isabella Rossellini. He has also applied for a Village endorsed NY State Grant. He expressed confidence in raising the necessary funds needed to create and sustain the center. He also stressed the unique nature of this proposal that has the potential to attract thousands of people outside our community to Patchogue annually.
Local historian Steve Lucas of the Greater Patchogue Historical Society made the last presentation at the Summit. In my effort towards full disclosure, I want everyone to know Mr. Lucas is also a founder and current treasurer for the Friends of the Carnegie Library. In fact, when we first formed the Friends it was, naturally, members of the Historical Society who first joined our cause.
While the Historical Society has been active for many years, one thing they have lacked is a permanent location to display some of the wonderful Patchogue artifacts and historic pictures they currently store in the attics, garages and basements of members. They have long dreamed of a museum dedicated to Patchogue’s rich history. In fact, since the Carnegie became vacant 10+ years ago, members of the Historical Society have targeted the Carnegie as an ideal location for a museum.
While the Historical Society realizes they currently lack the fully developed plan and financial backing presented by the previous proposals, they are hopeful that whoever does finally utilize the building will be able to provide some display space for the historical society. Further, the Historical Society is committed to continue formulating a plan for a museum so there is a viable option if the other proposals for the Carnegie fall through. In particular, they are reaching out to other historical societies in neighboring communities to consider a joint-effort Historical Museum and widen the potential support base for there vision.
An exciting aspect very important to the Friends of the Carnegie Library is that each of these proposals agree to make renovations to the Carnegie building that will maintain and respect the historical architectural features. We are also thankful that the representatives of these proposals have all been working and communicating well with each other as well as with our elected officials, acting less like competitors and more like partners in a great and worthy cause.
From these ideas and this spirit of cooperation comes a possibility that aspects of each proposal could be part of the final result. With a shared emphasis on education and activities for our youth, there maybe room for a Media Arts and Young Adult Center that provides the needs for both Plaza Mac and the Patchogue-Medford Library. Having a common interest in history and providing useful information, maybe it is possible the artifacts of the Historical Society and the research tools of the Library could combine for a Museum and local Historical Research Center. Or maybe we have yet to hear what the best, most feasible proposal is.
While great strides have been made to Save the Carnegie Library and some wonderful uses for the building have been made, we still have a way to go before the ole Carnegie is brought back as a vibrant asset to the Community. The Friends of the Carnegie Library will remain vigilant in seeing this through and we will continue to be a source of the most up-to date information on all things pertaining to the Carnegie Library.
As I stated in Part 1 of my Carnegie Summit Synopsis, stay tuned for the day of the big move, it will be coming soon. Anyone interested to be on our contact list can contact me at email@example.com. Please become a Friend of the Carnegie Library.