Thiele brings money to pay for library renovations

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO | Gathered in the library’s new community room Tuesday afternoon to celebrate receiving $91,000 from New York State to complete payments on its $875,000 renovation project are (from left) Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr., library director Denise DiPaolo, Town Supervisor James Dougherty, library board president Jo-Ann Robotti, and board members Brenda Bergman and Phyllis Gates.

Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr.(I-Sag Harbor) visited the Shelter Island Free Library Tuesday afternoon to drop off a $91,000 check.

The money was secured from the New York State Legislature to help fund renovations completed last summer.

This was the third state check received for the project, according to library director Denise DiPaolo. Most of the $875,000 the renovations cost came from contributions, she said.

Mr. Thiele secured the money from a $14 million Public Library Construction Grant Program. That’s separate from the $81 million the legislature allocated for library operating budgets throughout the state, he said. He noted that since the economic downturn in 2008, there have been increased activities in libraries that now function as community centers. Several East End libraries have undergone expansions in recent years to accommodate the greater usage, Mr. Thiele said.

“We need to retool for the electronic age,” the legislator said about fighting for money to help libraries achieve that goal.

Mr. Thiele was also able to secure money for library construction in Sag Harbor, East Hampton, Mastic, Shirley and the Moriches totalling $724,655.

“New York’s public libraries are in urgent need of renovation and upgrading,” Mr. Thiele said, pointing to a recent survey documenting the need for public library construction and renovation projects totaling more than $2.2 billion.  More than 48 percent of the more than 1,000 public library buildings in communities across New York are at least 60 years old and others are more than three decades old. They need to be able to accommodate users with disabilities, be more energy efficient and provide Internet and computer and other electronic technologies to users, Mr. Thiele said.

“We’re very grateful for Fred as always,” Town Supervisor Jim Dougherty said. “As always, he has done a great job for Shelter Island.”
Mr. Thiele previously represented Shelter Island when he was a Suffolk County legislator and he has been a friend to Islanders for years, Mr. Dougherty said.

Besides bringing money for the library expansion, Mr. Thiele was instrumental not only in fighting to win back $84,000 that was slated in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget to be cut from aid to the district, but he also secured an additional $50,000 for the Shelter Island School District.

The library, built in 1964, underwent the first major renovation last year, including expansion of downstairs meeting and book space; an easy access entrance to the downstairs space; new furniture and moveable bookshelves; and, thanks to a gift from Howard and Judy Brandenstein, an elevator connecting the downstairs space with the main floor.

The old space had been very cramped, Ms. DiPaolo said. With the renovations the area is light and airy and provides comfortable seating for special programs. It also opens up onto an outdoor patio for warm weather programs under a tent on the library grounds.

Among contributions that made the renovations possible were two state grants secured by Senator Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), one for $5,000 to remove asbestos from the building. Other gifts included:

• Contributions from Leadership Circle donors — more than 120 people whose gifts ranged from $500 to $200,000 and whose names are inscribed on the wall leading down to the new space — and fund raising efforts of library trustee and development committee chair Linda Kofmehl.
• Funds from activities of the nonprofit Friends of the Library that added $54,000 to the pot.
• The Board of Trustees and its president, Jo-Ann Robotti, and the volunteer members of the renovation committee, particularly Mr. Brandenstein, Paul Mobius, Don Dunning, Mary Faith Westervelt, Marianne Jackson, Sue Hine and Ms. Kofmehl, who worked for many months on the architectural and engineering plans and with the general contractor for the project.

Ms. DiPaolo and her staff were able to keep the library functioning throughout the renovations on all but five days. Island organizations did their part by accommodating library activities. Among them were the Shelter Island Historical Society, Shelter Island Presbyterian Church and the Shelter Island Fire Department.