New City Library Board Working Well and Making Progress

BY CHERYL SLAVIN

In marked contrast to the past few years, the current New City Library Board held a peaceful and productive monthly meeting last Thursday. Harry Bloomfeld, who had headed the New City Library Watch during the last three contentious years, noted that since the Board’s new trustees joined in January the tone of the meetings has significantly improved. Other members of the public also commented on the change, as did current Board president, Victor Berger.

“I just want to acknowledge the good communication we have had between board members,” he stated during his President’s Report, “and the good, productive committee meetings we’ve had.”

Director Mitch Freedman, in his report, proudly noted that the AV project is close to finished; the AV Department has been completely revamped, with all children’s material relocated to the children’s room and open stacks downstairs for browsing in the adult section. These changes will make the audio/visual materials much more accessible to all and bring the library into alignment with the approach used by its contemporaries. In-fighting and inaction had hampered the project for more than a year of the two year New York State DOE grant deadline and at one point supporters feared that the library would lose the money as a result. Now, however, Freedman anticipates that all purchase orders for the renovations will be completed by June 1 and invoices paid by July 31, in keeping with the grant deadlines.

Trustee George Jacobson reported that work is continuing on the roof, although the need has arisen for an assessment for possible asbestos abatement. There has also been some puddling on a flattened section of the roof and the board agreed to have an architect draw up plans in anticipation of soliciting bids for roof repairs. In addition, the air conditioning duct in the children’s room had been leaking, and tiles have fallen from the ceiling. Freedman stated that he would contact the AC vendor and address the problem on Friday.

In the weeks before this meeting the Policy and Planning Committee, headed by Trustee Ed Kallen, had distributed to all board members a set of completely rewritten library bylaws, intended to update and replace the often arcane and sometimes unclear previous rules. Kallen noted that even though it would not count as part of the vote, two absent trustees, Jeffery Sasson and David Zuckerberg, had previously expressed support for the new bylaws. The six board members present then voted unanimously to accept the new laws. The next step will be for the committee to overhaul the library’s policies.

The trustees also discussed the status of communications with property developer Bergstol, who is seeking an easement on library grounds in order to proceed with plans for an adjacent senior housing complex. The board had ceased contact with the developer after Bergstol failed to pay for the library’s engineer’s report in connection with the proposed easement, as the board claimed he promised. The engineering firm has been seeking payment, but to date Bergstol has not provided the library with adequate answers as to its intentions regarding the bill. Berger pointed out that regardless of the dispute’s outcome, there was no guarantee at all that the board would ultimately approve the easement.