West New York bonds millions for new library

Funding concerns raised

A glimpse inside the current West New York Public Library
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A glimpse inside the current West New York Public Library

The West New York Board of Commissioners has adopted an ordinance for the construction of a new library. The board voted unanimously in favor of the measure at its Sept. 15 meeting.

The ordinance appropriates $17,000,000 for its construction. The town will bond $4,500,000 toward the cost. Another $12,500,000 will be covered by the New Jersey State Library via the state’s Library Construction Bond Act.

The total estimated cost of the project is $25,000,000. It’s not clear where the rest of the funding will come from.

Still in early stages

According to Library Director Weiliang Lai, the project is in its early stages. The town is issuing the bond after being approved to receive the state grant some months ago. Lai said the town is working on securing more grant funding.

The new library will be constructed at the former home of the Board of Education’s special services department, at 5602 Kennedy Blvd. The site is currently home to a smaller older structure, purchased from the board by the town in 2017. There is no time frame yet for when construction will begin.

West New York’s existing library is at 425 60th Street, across the street from Town Hall. It is not clear yet what will become of the old library.

Concerns over funding

Mark Bloomberg, a West New York resident, voiced his concerns about the funding for the project at the public hearing.

“I absolutely agree that our library system is in need of an upgrade,” Bloomberg said. “I just want to make sure that we are being wise about how we’re investing our money and that we understand how it’s going to get fully paid for.”

Bloomberg took issue with the lack of funding secured for the new library.

“The entire project is $25 million, which is within a shortfall at the moment that hasn’t been secured,” he said. “The Town Administrator has indicated that the expectation is that the taxpayer costs at the end of the day would be no more than $6.5 million.”

Bloomberg asked the board if taxpayers will be on the hook for the millions in funding that hasn’t been secured yet and if the town was going to see more matching grants in the future.

‘Most bang for your buck’

Mayor Gabriel Rodriguez defended the spending.

“One of the most important jobs within representing the community is making sure they can get the most bang for their tax dollars,” Rodriguez said. “I completely understand your concern. We all can agree that having an upgraded and new library in this community, or media center as they’re called now, is absolutely necessary. And that is the goal now.”

Read the ordinance at www.westnewyorknj.org/_Content/pdf/ordinances/Ord1721.pdf.

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