SEA BRIGHT: LIBRARY PLAN CRITICIZED

Borough architect Adler discussing the beach pavilion plan at Tuesday’s Sea Bright council meeting. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

A preliminary concept for a new beach pavilion in Sea Bright drew fire at its introduction during Tuesday night’s council meeting.

The plan calls for a two-story beach structure located on the former Peninsula House property, according to borough Architect Robert Adler, although the exact location within that property is still to be determined.

Adler said that the pavilion would incorporate new restroom facilities, outdoor showers, an accessible boardwalk area, lifeguard and beach-badge offices.

It would also house an upstairs, multipurpose community room that would double as the new permanent site of the borough public library.

And that’s where the controversy came in.

Elizabeth von Ziegesar, resident and chairperson of the Sea Bright Library Advisory Committee, had made available before the meeting copies of  a formal, two-page letter – written by her on-behalf of the committee – asking for the council’s assistance in replacing or restoring what she called “the town’s beloved library.”

She reiterated the appeal during the public remarks portion of the meeting,  prior to Adler laying out his plan before the council.

Adler said it makes sense to incorporate the library – now located in a small, free-standing building in the municipal parking lot – into the beach pavilion to consolidate structures and  qualify for Federal Emergency Management Administration funding, without requiring any extra money from local taxpayers.

“FEMA is going to evaluate rebuilding and replacement costs,” Adler said. “By using the funds created for several properties, we feel like we can make a great, economic move by consolidating the funds and creating a superior building that can house everything we need without needing taxpayers funds.”

Adler also said that the plan is still preliminary, and it is still possible that FEMA will provide enough funds to reconstruct the library in its current location. But f the council does in fact put the new library in the pavilion, he will do everything possible to make sure it becomes a good environment, he said.

“The second-story library will have an amazing view of the ocean and beach, as much shelf-room as they need, and we will even try to implement more private alcoves and things like that to accommodate everything librarygoers will need,” he said. “I think it can turn out to be a very positive, modern and beautiful environment for the library to reside in.”

Adler said the exterior of the building will be in the classic shore style, mimicking the historical look of the town while implementing the modern flood and safety measures needed.

During the closing public remarks portion, a clearly emotional von Ziegesar ripped the notion of incorporating the library into the pavilion building, calling the council “traitors.”

“You can’t just put a bunch of shelves in a room and call it a library,” van Ziegesar said. “You’re going to be putting a library inside of a bathroom, basically. The library is the heart of the community, not some tourist destination.”

“A library is a place where kids can come in to read and relax, not a ‘meeting room’,” von Ziegesar told redbankgreen afterward. “I feel very betrayed, this is the first time I’ve heard about this. I feel like I shouldn’t have been kept in the dark.”

Van Ziegesar also said that except damage to the conference room, there were no major problems with the existing building in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which otherwise decimated the town..

“Not a book was off the shelves,” she said.

Two council members, however, expressed open-mindedness to the proposal.

“A library doesn’t have to be defined by the building it’s in, it’s where you make it,” said Councilman Marc Leckstein after the meeting. “We’re definitely going to be very open and make sure we listen to everyone’s input on this before we make any type of decision, though. This is just the very first mention of the new plan. It’s the first time anyone has heard it, really.”

“I don’t think the design is horrible, though, and I think it can turn out to be a great project,” he added. “But this is a very early conceptual plan, and all aspects are subject to be change.”

“My granddaughter tells me everyday that the thing she misses the most about Sea Bright is the going to the library, and it breaks my heart,” Councilwoman Peggy Bills told redbankgreen after the meeting. “I love the library, but we have to wait and see the evaluation of the property before we decide to make a decision on it’s future.”

“The library doesn’t have to be the standard ‘Shhh” type place, it can be a meeting center and a community gathering place,” she said “This new plan may work, or it may be better – if possible – to keep it where it is now. This is the kind of issue that people need to speak up and voice their opinions about. We need to know what people think.”