Monday, November 20, 2006

REPORT: E HARTSDALE AVE SATELLITE LIBRARY ON HOLD

There is a report in today's Journal News (www.lohud.com) that the satellite library that was going to be placed at the E Hartsdale Ave parking site is on hold so the Library Board can study legal issues. The Parking Authority is expected to make a decision by late December. The parking authority had offered to absorb some of the costs associated with placing the satellite library at this location. Critics had expressed concern that the permit holders were subsidizing the library.
I think that an E Hartsdale Ave satellite branch library is very important and thought that this proposed location would have been one of the most successful temporary sites while construction of the library is taking place. It's my hope that this can be worked out. One possible compromise suggestion: If it is determined that the Parking Authority does not have the legal authority to absorb some of the costs - why can't the Library pay rent for the satellite location?
When the Library closes down for construction of the new & expanded library - there will be only a few very small satellite library locations. Current possible locations include small rooms at the Town Hall, Multipurpose Room - Veteran Town Park, Theodore Young Community Center. Over 70% of the library books will be placed in storage.
We need to find additional temporary locations so that library services can be provided for our residents. East Hartsdale Ave is a very important location!

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I hope that the Parking Authority and Library Board will figure out a way to make this satellite location happen.

Anonymous said...

How many parking spaces would be lost as a result of having a satellite location there?

Anonymous said...

from the JN article ...

"The idea was to create a small library in a prefabricated building on the lower level of the "Site A" garage, at 234 E. Hartsdale Ave. The small building would take up a few parking spaces and get a free electrical connection, courtesy of the parking district."

The idea is nice from a community cooperation standpoint, but the loss of even a few parking spaces just isn't tolerable.

Also, maybe off-topic, but why the heck is there a special legal entity/bureaucratic layer for the parking there?

Paul Feiner said...

The HPPD is still working on the legalities of the E Hartsdale Ave satellite location. The parking district advised me that they never indicated that electricity would be absorbed by the HPPD. Tehy advised that the physical hook up to a power source would not be a cost factor for the library as the power source has already been installed for the existing temporary construction trailer. Actual electricity usage costs estimated to be about $100 per month based on usage by the existing trailer would be reimbursed to the HPPD by the town/library.

hal samis said...

Let me assure readers that I am first in line to want to have a Library Branch in "downtown" Hartsdale Center. I am a weekly visitor to the cybermobile and I do not have a car.

That said, on other blog topics some readers may have noticed that the Town is going through a difficult period in which several areas of fiscal reporting and fiscal expenditure are being challenged. This issue is no different. How I came to be involved is due to an email sent out by the Supervisor to the Town (which I have fowarded back to him) and reporting what he heard from the Hartsdale Parking District: that it was offering to provide space for the Library to maintain a trailer on their Parking Garage site.

His information also stated that the Parking District would provide space for a trailer, provide an electrical service connection and would pay for the cost of the HVAC. The cost of this would be about $100 a month, a small amount.
In fact, an amount way too small for a trailer with a door that would be continuously opening and closing with the comings and goings of the public -- 7 days a week. In any case, it would be a relatively small amount, small enough for the Library to afford.

The Hartsdale Parking District is an independent entity whose sole revenue comes from parking fees and meter collections. It does not benefit from fines. Its mission, as they often remind us, is to provide parking for commuters and downtown merchants. Its charter does not obligate them to provide badly needed parking for the Apartment residents on East Hartsdale AVenue. Later this year, the Parking District will be requesting an increase in parking fees. However, despite this narrowness of vision, the Parking District under Executive Director Stephanie Kavourias does interpret their mission as though it is supposed to provide freebies for the Library. And there is good reason for this largesse. but it is not because they are thinking of the nearby Seniors without cars.

The Parking District Chair is Ruth Jacobs. The Library Board of Trustees Chair is Howard Jacobs. They are related in that they are husband and wife. Neither of them are the "owners" of their respective affiliations. Another connection is former Town Council member, Timmy Weinberg, good friend of Stephanie and good neighbor of the Jacobs. In fact, Timmy got Stephanie her job.

When the Parking District does major construction on their facilities (parking garages) they finance this work by selling revenue bonds. These bonds offer as their ability to meet the debt service obligation (interest and amortization) their pledge (to make these payments) of the revenue stream of the District. The Town is the assumed deep pockets and guarantor but the debt service is expected to be met by revenues. When the Parking District voluntarily reduces their free cash flow, say by closing off parking spaces for the cybermobile, or by covering Library branch operating expenses, they are violating their bonding obligations and could be considered in technical default. That is what I brought to their attention and that is why they are now backing away from their offer.

They are going gracelessly, having incurred additonal expenses to seek a legal opinion, sill looking for a reason to help the Library and to save face.

This is not a proper expenditure of Parking District funds. There is an old vaudevdille joke which ends "Pay the $2". Whatever the cost of the HVAC, whatever the loss in parking meter revenue, bill the Library and be doen with it. The Library has over $300,000 in their Library Fund, money which came from the unspent balances from the inflated budgets they annually present to the Town Board. Unlike other Town departments, this money does not return to the Town but remains with the Library. Thus, the Library can well afford to spend the little that a satellite would cost.

And the only reason that they need these satellites is because the Library Board had no Plan B of their own in place if using the old Town Hall didn't work out. The Referednum was May 2005 in case you have forgotten. The Library knew that the old town hall was "out" in July 2005. That they have nowhere adequate to move today is their own fault. But it is not the mission of the Parking District (Ruth Jacobs) to take the heat off the Library Board (Howard Jacobs).

And by taking out of service the parking slots for the cybermobile, not only is there a loss of revenue but also fewer parking spaces, especially on Saturdays. This is not something the merchants are especially keen about. The Parking District will try and tell you all day how there are spaces actually available in their garages but the reality is that no one wants to use them; they want to park out front on Hartsdale Avenue. And, effectively, these valuable spaces are closed off for hours in advance of the cybermobile occupany to insure that the spaces will be available.

Given that there is a perceived lack of suitable spaces, providing the Library with a presence is not a marketing scheme to increase parking use; what is the sense of giving up prime location revenue to attract Library users? Or even Library users who have no place to park.

As the finances of the Town come under greater scrutiny, a lot of long held assumptions are going to fall by the wayside. In my mind, the cavalier use of bonding proceeds for anything is going to face increased criticism. I don't mind sharing that it was I who pointed out that the bonding proceeds for the Library expansion could not be used to pay rent for Frank's. Bonds are sold for capital expenses not for housekeeping. This was news to the Town Attorney, Tim Lewis, who rendered one of his famous opinions saying that it was ok to use them to pay rent. Bond Counsel quickly set him straight.

And that is what I believe the Parking District has also learned. Their mandate and revenues are not the personal piggy bank or Agency of the Jacobs family and that if they want to help the Library, they should take out their own checkbooks.

Remember each dollar diverted to the Library must be replaced by a new dollar gained from parking fees. When they are before the Public to request setting higher fees, the Town Board should have some gumption and explain the facts of life to the District.

All of this controversy masks the real issue of how to solve the Library dilemma. However, apparently the Library isn't interested in cleaning up after themselves. They did not seriously pursue some vacant retail locations nearby nor has any news been released that they are going to obtain additional, perhaps old-fashioned, bookmobiles for the duration.

The Supervisor offered to present these expenses to a more than willing Town Council but so far, nothing. It seems that the Library Board would be happier to keep the Supervisor in the frying pan and their own patrons in the fire rather than take him up on his offer. After all, if they continue to criticize him and hold him reponsible for all their failings, it would look like they were biting the hand that fed them.

And to weigh in with one more problem of the relocation scam. The Library will not be accepting reserves for the assets of the Westchester Library System anywhere other than delivery at the cybermobile (see their schedule). With most of Greenburgh's resources going into storage, this is beyond a bummer, ranking instead as clear planning imcompetence.

Another too long blog perhaps, but knowing rather than bloviating has a special place in my brain. I'd also like my fellow bloggers to know too as it may assist them in writing their own comments. Nothing wrong with working a few facts in from time to time.

Anonymous said...

Hal: Your comments make sense.