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Aug 17, 2010 3:00 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Voters overwhelmingly support East Hampton Library expansion plans

Aug 17, 2010 3:00 PM

More than 800 voters cast ballots on Saturday in an overwhelming show of support for the East Hampton Library’s expansion plans, a proposal that was denied by the East Hampton Village Zoning Board of Appeals last month, seven years after the library first applied for the addition.

When the results were tallied, 657 people had voted in support of the proposal and 135 against it, giving the project an 83-percent approval rating among voters.

Saturday’s vote is not binding. It was held by the library board in response to the ZBA’s decision in the hope that if public support was strongly in favor of the expansion, village officials would reconsider the project. Conversely, library officials said that if the public did not support the expansion plans, it would drop the idea.

“We hope the village will abide by what the public wants,” library director Dennis Fabiszak said on Sunday. “We hope the ZBA will look really closely at the public sentiment expressed here.”

The vote was conducted by the League of Women Voters, whose volunteers cross-checked voters’ names against the Suffolk County Board of Elections list of registered voters in East Hampton, Springs and Wainscott, the three school districts served by the library.

Prior to the vote, library board members said that if the public approved the proposal, the board would file a lawsuit against the village in State Supreme Court seeking to overturn the ZBA’s denial. Based on the outcome of the vote, library officials have made one more plea to the ZBA to reverse its decision or face litigation.

On Monday, the library delivered the results of the vote and a letter written by its attorney, William Esseks, to Village Hall. In the letter, Mr. Esseks said that though the library board had the right to proceed with legal 
action against the ZBA on its own, it values the public’s opinion, and now feels obliged to abide by it. Though Mr. 
Esseks called the library’s next step “obvious, and perhaps inevitable,” he wrote in the letter that the ZBA has the power to hold a “rehearing” on any decision it has made, according to 
New York State Village Law, and that the library board hoped 
the ZBA would take that route.

“It is the library’s sincere hope that, upon reflection of the desires of the residents of the community, the Zoning Board will reconsider its position,” he said in the letter.

Mr. Esseks added that the focus of the ZBA’s denial was the proposed addition’s impact on open space, parking and traffic, and the public’s show of support should prove that those issues paled in comparison with the support for the level of increased services the expansion would provide.

“The local community is intimately familiar with those issues and possesses a unique collective knowledge and ability to weigh the benefits of the project against any claimed impacts,” Mr. Esseks said.

Even more important than the broad overall support, according to Mr. Fabiszak, was the fact that some 94 percent of voters in the Springs School District, one of three districts that are served by the library, supported the expansion proposal. In its denial of the 6,802-square-foot addition proposal, the ZBA had said the library should consider building a satellite branch in Springs to serve the residential community’s substantial needs.

Library officials have said that building a new branch in Springs would be far more costly than expanding the existing library in the village.

“A Springs branch would cost more and we think we can provide better service to the residents of that community where we are now,” Mr. Fabiszak said. “This [vote] should mean something to village officials.”

In response to the library’s claim that the ZBA’s decision was “exclusionary,” Jeffrey Bragman, the attorney for Village Preservation Society, which opposed the expansion, said it was the library that was being exclusionary.

“If anything is exclusionary in this project, it’s this Taj Mahal in the center of the village,” he said. “The parents of children in Springs are not going to drive all the way to the village after a full workday to bring their 
kid to write his term paper in 
the library. It’s not going to happen.”

He said the library’s campaign, which included print advertisements in all the local newspapers, and color, districtwide mailings, instilled “fear and divisiveness” in the voters. He said the vote holds no legal weight and that the library’s campaign was a “smoke screen” to skirt the true issues with its application.

“To undermine the rule of law the way they did is the most frightening part of this campaign,” he said. “They have run a repugnant, racist campaign that incited the community. Their claims were shameless and false and have seriously damaged the community.”

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I am a strong supporter of the library and use it often. However, I think it is important that this vote be put into context. The library, in my view stacked the deck in their favor by hosting the vote within their own building and during a weekend when they are having their biggest events. Events, I might add that are mostly attended by weekend or summer residents. I wonder, what would the outcome have been if a) the vote were held in a neutral place, b) after Labor Day and c) during the week? ...more
By Laszlo Lowenstein (37), East Hampton on Aug 15, 10 2:52 PM
4 members liked this comment
Only REGISTERED VOTERS in the proper districts were able vote in the library election. Second homeowners and summer visitors would not make any difference in the voting, unless they were registered! Does not matter when or where the elction were to be held. All voters were screened and signed in from voter registration files, just as in any regular election. Please understand the system before you comment. the overwhelming support was from registered voters in the Town.
By Waincott Resident (42), Wainscott on Aug 17, 10 10:32 AM
1 member liked this comment
PS: I think it is the press' (and the Press') responsibility to clarify some of the many biases surrounding this vote, including how the library identified a "voter." Did library officials have access to local voter registration rolls or just library member rolls? Were any people not employed or not supporters of the library expansion overseeing any aspects of the voting? Sorry, but this vote was a bit like having a local official hold an election in his/her house while their spouse handed out ...more
By Laszlo Lowenstein (37), East Hampton on Aug 15, 10 3:05 PM
1 member liked this comment
Just to let you know,
Summer and Weekend residents are not registered voters in East Hampton Springs or Wainscott. In other words if you were able to vote for the national election in springs, east hampton or wainscott you could vote on the referendum. The library would have TONS more support if the summer and weekend residents were able to vote but unfortunately they were not able to, not like it makes a difference as you can tell.
The people that ran the voting were the League of Women ...more
By chelsealizw (15), SPRINGS on Aug 15, 10 4:41 PM
2 members liked this comment
Excuse my mistake in the prior post,
"Summer and Weekend residents are not registered voters in East Hampton Springs or Wainscott. THEREFORE THEY COULD NOT VOTE IN THIS ELECTION"
sorry for the confusion in my posts
By chelsealizw (15), SPRINGS on Aug 15, 10 4:45 PM
1 member liked this comment
from the EH Star: The voting was conducted by the League of Women Voters with would-be voters checked against lists from the Suffolk Board of Elections.
By nsea93 (39), Southampton on Aug 15, 10 4:48 PM
1 member liked this comment
Thank you for squashing the sour grapes!
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Aug 15, 10 6:45 PM
Thank you both for squashing the sour grapes!
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Aug 15, 10 6:45 PM
Why do you assume that my post reflects "sour grapes?" I was merely asking for details re: the set up and structure of the vote. I am in favor of the library expansion, although not all the specific details put forward (e.g., I think it could have been scaled down). Clearly this vote was a political move on the part of the library to use in its court case and should be put within that context. I was merely questioning the validity of the numbers since it was clearly not a vote that followed strict ...more
By Laszlo Lowenstein (37), East Hampton on Aug 16, 10 11:16 AM
1 member liked this comment
I really think you should go outside behind the library in the next few days once they clean up from the festivities and take a look at how big the expansion is really going to be. The markers are all out there on the side of the library so you can see how much space will actually be taken up. The expansion is not big at all, actually its really quite small.
By chelsealizw (15), SPRINGS on Aug 16, 10 11:51 AM
They weekend vote, coinciding with one one their biggest events is a way to maximize voter turnout. It was stated that they would hold the referendum and if it passed they would pursue litigation. So, yes it not only will likely be used in the lawsuit, but was the impetus for it. As for a "Political Move" touché' to the ZBA for their similar action.
The original expansion proposal submitted in 2003 was 3,500 sqft. lager than the scaled back 6,800 sqft. they have already compromised substantially. ...more
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Aug 16, 10 11:23 PM
Good show, East Hampton.
By peoplefirst (787), Southampton on Aug 15, 10 3:30 PM
the proposed addition did not fit ZBA guidelines so what happens now. The vote is mearly a referendum. it does not reverse the ruling or change the law.
By razza5350 (1906), East Hampton on Aug 15, 10 9:37 PM
1 member liked this comment
A lot could happen now. Its up to the library what they want to do from here. All we can do is wait and see..
By chelsealizw (15), SPRINGS on Aug 16, 10 11:52 AM
1 member liked this comment
Ditto to razza5350 and chelsealizw,

Now we see if the library board respects the Rule of Law (ZBA determination), or the Ruling of Ego on its team.

There is also the question of the depth of the library's pockets to fund an Article 78 proceeding and all ensuing appeals, a process which might take years, and still result in the necessity of filing a new application for a more moderate expansion.

Alternatively, the library could take the high road, follow the Rule of Law, ...more
By PBR (4879), Southampton on Aug 16, 10 1:54 PM
2 members liked this comment
"A quick and timely application in this regard might take a few months to resolve"

This application was filed in 2003! They could have gone Article 78 and appealed already. They have made 2 compromises and offered the conservation easement,
the ZBA can't meet them half way on the exterior walls issue? Of course not by changing the formula, which would set a precedent for future cases, but by a simple calculation. Give them 5,000 sqft. with the walls included.... done and fair.
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Aug 16, 10 11:32 PM
Libraries provide a public good. In fact, they only exist for the benefit of the community.
By dagdavid (646), southampton on Aug 17, 10 11:17 AM
Well said PBR. I think most people are in favor of the addition and in favor of expansion but I for one would like it done within the scope of what the ZBA guidelines are. I believe it should be scaled back to meet the ZBA guidelines. If they can circumvent the law why cant others do it as well. The fact that the so called public library board was even able to put together this monkey show was embarrasing
By razza5350 (1906), East Hampton on Aug 16, 10 2:24 PM
1 member liked this comment
Article has been updated.

In time we will hopefully learn more about what big money egos are behind the library's myopia here.

One only hopes that the library board has really deep pockets for the litigation to come, or maybe a ego-infused deep pocket has guaranteed the litigation expenses?

Perhaps, as razza5350 suggested, "this monkey show was embarrassing."

By PBR (4879), Southampton on Aug 17, 10 3:43 PM
Isn't this vote essentially meaningless.. First, the ZBA already denied the application and secondly, had the ZBA approved it would the library need a vote of any kind to move forward with the proposed project? It seems to me this "vote" was an attempt to get the local press to run misleading headlines like with the goal of making people believe that the ZBA ruling had been changed and/or overturned.
By Rich Morey (331), Brooklyn on Aug 18, 10 3:18 PM
Did you read the article? The vote was to gauge support for the project hoping the village officials would reconsider the decision. The ZBA can hold a "rehearing" on any decision it has made.
It was also mentioned in a previous article that if the voters were in favor of the project, then this issue could be taking to court, I would imagine through an Article 78 proceeding.
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Aug 18, 10 5:13 PM
just curious if they take it to court who pays the legal fees
By razza5350 (1906), East Hampton on Aug 19, 10 11:51 AM
Good question about who pays the legal fees.

Perhaps FactChecker or someone else from the library's team could answer this question?

On must assume that all legal fees have been, and will continue to be, taken from the library's budget. Are these budgets a matter of public record?

Editor and Ms. Geisner, please take note. What percentage of the library's budget has been spent on legal fees, and what is projected for this year and next? Are litigation fees set forth as ...more
By PBR (4879), Southampton on Aug 19, 10 3:20 PM
The point of the vote was to see how the public felt about the expansion and if they wanted the expansion, the library would be taking the issue to court.

And as with everything else involved in the library, everything is paid by private donations.

Also, 84% of the green behind the library will be preserved with the expansion the way it is, how much more would you like the library to tone it down? The whole point is to fit more books.

What I don't get is that this is ...more
By itsuhshorething (1), East Hampton on Aug 19, 10 3:12 PM
Nitpicking? Hardly.

"Something is rotten in the state of Denmark."

And everyone can smell it.

No sense in hiding it.
By PBR (4879), Southampton on Aug 19, 10 3:24 PM
PS about the library's budget.

According to this article:

http://www.27east.com/story_detail.cfm?id=272399&town=East%20Hampton&n=East%20Hampton%20Library%20budget%20passes%20by%20a%20wide%20margin

"The library’s $1.79 million 2011 budget reflects a 2.2-percent spending increase and a 6-percent tax increase, which is expected to cost taxpayers, on average, $4.51 more per year."

Does not this suggest that the library IS INDEED FUNDED by publicly collected tax revenues?

Do ...more
By PBR (4879), Southampton on Aug 19, 10 6:28 PM
PBR - What do you have against libraries? It receives a very small fraction of it's budget from taxes, unlike schools which receive the majority of theirs from property taxes. The rotten thing you smell is the ZBA and their bad call on this matter, which an administrative law judge is going to reverse, mmmm ego boost!!!
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Aug 19, 10 9:18 PM
I for one am FOR library expansion however I don't understand why they can't scale the project back and do it within ZBA guidelines. PBR makes a good point will the private donaters of the library be covering the legal expenses on both sides of the table or will OUR PUBLIC library being suing US taxpayers.
By razza5350 (1906), East Hampton on Aug 21, 10 8:04 AM
2 members liked this comment
I would bet the private donors are going to cover their side of the expenses, the Village of East Hampton will have to cover the ZBA's costs. This won't be a suit to seek monetary damages, it will seek to overturn the ZBA ruling and possibly legal fees. razza if you are outside of the Village you won't bare any of the costs from this action, should it occur.
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Aug 22, 10 6:46 PM
I am inside the village. So basically I will be paying for the public board to sue me the public because they disagree with the law. Perhaps they should have printed that fact in their marketing campaign of misinformation. Again I am for expansion as long as it is done within the scope of the law. If what you are saying is true its just further proof of how twisted and egocentric the so called public library board is.
By razza5350 (1906), East Hampton on Aug 22, 10 11:07 PM
1 member liked this comment
Twisted & egocentric??? Well, now, if the library sues and wins it could very well be interpreted as the ZBA decision was not within the "scope of the law". You can't just make things up and arbitrarily change or ignore the rules in a public process because you don't LIKE what is being proposed and expect it to stand just because you SAY it has to. That's what the court will sort out.
By East End 2 (134), Southampton on Aug 24, 10 8:47 AM
LOL spoken like a board member who thinks they know best. Well mr PUBLIC board member do you think the board should have notified the public that the library was planning on suing them? Do you think the vote should have been held on a neutral site. Do you think the fact the library was having a big event on the day of the vote was influential? Do you think that because the plans do NOT fit the ZBA guidelines that the law should be ignored or circumvented. I have children, and am FOR expansion BUT ...more
By razza5350 (1906), East Hampton on Aug 24, 10 8:08 PM
1 member liked this comment