Sale completed, now push for DOE approval
Security cameras were being installed outside the recently purchased Bayport-Blue Point Library site, the former St. Ursula Center on Middle Road, on Tuesday morning, but the big push now was for New York State Department of Education construction plan approval, said BBP Library director Michael Firestone.
“We won’t start actual construction for a year,” he said. “And that will take 10 to 15 months. We’re anticipating a grand opening in the spring of 2021.”
The real estate deal closed with the BBP Library purchasing the property from the Ursuline Sisters of Tildonk U.S. Province on Feb. 11 for $3,650,000.
But in the meantime, besides the $13,197,800 in renovation plans winding their way through the state DOE, other efforts are afoot.
Firestone said eventually there would be walking paths for the public. “The paths we have would be about four acres,” he said. The cemetery there will remain.
“We’ll continue to expand our community garden,” he added. “We have that in our other location.” A nature explorium, an educational playground in a contained area for kids, is also planned. Middle Country Library was the first in the nation to offer one.
About two acres are being considered for county preservation. Legis. William Lindsay, who met with Firestone at the new library grounds, said a letter of intent to purchase part of the property had already been forwarded to him by Firestone; it was sent to the county’s land management department.
“We’re looking at three of the parcels,” Lindsay said of the back right corner. “We’re hoping it can be subdivided for county open space. The parcels are environmentally sensitive — it’s a wetland area — and we’re hoping to preserve it in perpetuity.” Lindsay pointed out the preservation move would be beneficial to the library to defray costs once funds were approved for purchase as well as to the community. “We’re hoping to make it a passive park,” he said.
A committee will score it for preservation appropriateness. “If it scores well, then they appraise it,” he said.
The present garage is slated for removal. The small cottage on Blue Point Avenue will remain. Firestone said the library is hoping to partner with a not-for-profit there to help cover costs.
Lindsay and Brookhaven councilman Neil Foley met with Firestone, Bayport-Blue Point School superintendent Dr. Timothy Hearney, as well as Blue Point Fire Department chief Doug Miller, and discussed the current library building and potential uses after.
“The school district owns the property,” Firestone said, confirming the meeting. “They would be the ones putting it up for sale and they haven’t made that determination yet. The fire department had an agreement to use parking spaces on the north side of the library and wanted to continue that agreement. It was, ‘hey, can you make sure the new potential buyers can let us use the parking spots?’ Technically, schools and libraries don’t have zoning, so the town would have to make the decision on the building if we sell it.”
Foley pointed out there were several commercial properties in the nearby area including the Salvation Army. “It’s just a matter of finding the best fit for the community,” he said.
Firestone said the cooking classes would be offered at the new building. “We do them now, but can expand on them and utilize the kitchen that currently exists,” he said. As for the entire first floor, it will house adult, children’s and young adult collections with a reading room in the former chapel. Most of the stained glass will be retained.
Firestone brought the Advance upstairs to the future Gene Horton Local History room, housing Horton’s expansive collection as well as a sitting area. The light-filled space overlooks the beautiful grounds.
Sister Joanne Callahan, spokesperson for the Ursuline Sisters of Tildonk, was asked to comment. The nuns, who relocated to the 8.27-acre site in 1935, made the decision to move based on rising maintenance costs, the small number of nuns left earning a salary or significant Social Security, and those sisters who required skilled nursing care. Their retirement fund had been reduced significantly after the economy tanked in 2008. Even after multiple annual fundraisers, they had to make the hard decision to move.
“We were offered more from Seafield Center [$5.2 million], but we’re happy our former space is going to the library,” Callahan said. “Many of the sisters here were educators and we think it will be great for the community.”
Will she be one of the first to go through the door when it officially opens?
“For sure,” she answered. “Just to view how they’ve accomplished their renditions; the ones I’ve seen are beautiful.
“People always said it was a sacred space and I believe it will continue to be.”
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