HARRISON, N.Y. – Ross Halperin, executive director of the Harrison Public Library Foundation. will be meeting with Mayor Ron Belmont on Monday morning to discuss progress on the downtown library revitalization.
“This transformation is critical,” Halperin said in an email to The Harrison Daily Voice. “Many residents rely on the library and its ability to continue to service our community is at risk should it not soon be upgraded. It’s also important for every homeowner in town, even if you don’t use the library. Real estate values in Harrison have declined substantially and I believe that they will continue to be at risk until we make the appropriate investments in our public infrastructure.”
In the years since his father, Richard’s death in 2008, Halperin has made it his mission to raise funds for the library renovations, including working out the architecture and design of the future building with the library board. His father loved the library, which many, including those who work there, say is outdated.
The town, which owns the building, is being asked to take care of electrical, HVAC, fire protection and plumbing for an estimated total of $1,096,998. Those must be addressed before major renovations can take place to the interior and exterior of the library, Halperin said. Renovations would include an expanded children’s area and teen center, plus 29 more computers for what Halperin said was “a truly once in a generation project.” The exterior, considered to be “ugly and uninviting,” Halperin said, would feature better use of windows to bring sunlight into the building. The total cost would be about $3.6 million as of mid-November last year . The Halperin Foundation was set to cover $1.1 million of the library renovation, but after months of no progress between Halperin and the Town Board, the offer will be withdrawn on Feb. 14. Halperin had set the deadline during the Nov. 14 town board meeting. “In consideration of our duty to our many donors, some of whom have been waiting for years, on Feb. 14, 2013, the Halperin Foundation will withdraw its plan to donate approximately $1.1 million towards the renovation of the Library and pursue a completely different project,” said Halperin in an email to Town Board members. “We are considering two projects, neither of which are in Harrison or would be accessible to Harrison residents.” During the most recent Town Board meeting on Jan. 17, Halperin said he hoped to have a “constructive conversation about transforming our Town’s library through a Public-Private Partnership,” but added that he had to defend himself “against accusations of an unreasonable and artificial deadline." Many of the board members were irked by Halperin’s deadline and expressed that they were all working towards a better library, but that there were other pressing issues as well. “We’ve been working at this a long time,” said Halperin of his fellow donors. “We’ve put our heart and soul into it.” Support has grown for the library renovations throughout Harrison as a petition to the Town Board to sign a public/private partnership agreement has garnered at least 700 signatures. Halperin would like to see construction start on the library in 2014 at the latest, which he said would be an important part of the discussion with the town.