From Paul Pontieri, Patchogue Village Mayor:
Patchogue Village is like any other community where, after family, there are three places that we learn from; our house of worship, our schools and our libraries. For me it has been , the Patchogue-Medford School District and the old . Each of these institutions taught me the values that I hold dear today; from religion it’s the moral, ethical and humanitarian qualities we all need; from schools, it’s the academic knowledge to go forward in life, the exposure to a large complex community that we are challenged to become a part of, and from Patchogue High School athletics I learned about what working as a team means. It’s about trust and loyalty; we give to each other nothing greater. The library is for any community the last critical link. It’s more than just being about books and computers, it’s the confirmation by a community that education and lifelong learning are important.
Growing up in Patchogue was all that kid like me could ask for; parks, swimming pool, fishing, movies, walking up-town and the old Patchogue Library on Lake Street. Constructed in 1907 with a grant from industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, the library building has stood for more than one hundred years as a symbol of the importance of learning. It was one of over 2500 that were built in the U.S. and around the world. I can remember as a child getting my first library card there. It was my first real piece of identification and I was so proud to own it. It said that I, Paul V. Pontieri, Jr. could be trusted to borrow books from the library and that I wanted to learn. For many of us, the library on Lake Street is more than just an aging building, it is a beloved memory from our youth and it served as a vital part of our personal growth.
Today, the Patchogue-Medford Library is a modern, comprehensive center of learning on Main Street. In 2010 it received the National Medal for Museum and Library Service. This past year Gilda Ramos was awarded 2011 Paralibrarian of the Year by the Library Journal, a national magazine. In many ways our library has always been the heart and soul of the Patchogue-Medford Community, whether on Lake Street or Main Street. In fact, it was the first place that I went to after the tragic death of Marcello Lucero. I knew the library staff had built a special relationship with the Latino community while giving them citizenship and language lessons. Sixty years after I first walked into a library in Patchogue, I was still learning from them. They were the critical resource for me at that time.
Now, as we anticipate construction to begin on New Village at the Four Corners on a blighted property that has been empty for over 12 years, a decision must be made about the future of the old library building on Lake Street, vacant for 10 years. Our plan has always been to move it to a new location. Tritec, the property owner and , has committed to pay for that move and turn it over to the Village. But without a tenant or purchaser for the building, I have serious concerns about the renovation costs and future carrying costs and their affect on Village taxes. New York State’s newly enacted “2% Tax Cap” limits our ability to take on new projects and obligations, like the old library building without cuts to other programs and services; reduction of recreation programs, public works projects and the list could go on. We can talk about history and the preservation of “historic” buildings, but we must evaluate the project not only as to its historical value, but as importantly, its effect on the resident and commercial taxpayer of the Village of Patchogue. Currently we don’t have a projected use or purchaser we only have dreams. In the times we live in dreams don’t pay the bills they only, in this case, add to our already overly burdensome tax bill. Tough decisions in difficult times.