Community to Library Board: "Get Your Act Together"
A fiery debate broke out at last week's Elmont Library Board meeting not over any matters related to the Public Library and it's administration of the institution, but over development plans at Belmont Racetrack. From the start, the meeting which usually begins at 7:30pm was delayed until after 8pm. After the normal course of business, Trustee Tammie Williams put forth a resolution opposing Nassau OTB’s plan to house video lottery terminals at Belmont Park. The resolution was not available for public inspection nor was it on the agenda. The resolution became a lightning rod for controversy amongst the Trustees where the usually affable board openly fought with one another.
The battle over the resolution, and seemingly lack of passion towards library business, prompted founding member of the local NAACP and President of the Jamaica Square Improvement League Claudine Hall to express her concern to the Board over their actions. "Tonight I saw a board passionate over VLTs. My comments are not about the VLTs. It's about the fact that you need bookshelves and things for this library and all you did was fight over VLTs. It looks like you don't have the same passion over this library. You need to get your act together. I'm a forty nine year resident of Elmont, I went to this building when it was ATS, and it hurts my heart to see a board act like this."
The debate over the resolution began with Elmont Library Board Vice-President Patrick Nicolosi and Trustee Livingstone Young openly questioning whether the resolution put forward by Williams was appropriate. Nicolosi shot at Board members that, “You’re using this library as a political agenda, and I’m tired of it. You need to stick to the policies of the library.”
Library board attorney Tom Volz came under heavy fire by Trustee Nicolosi for not advising the Board on whether the resolution should be voted on as it was not, in Nicolosi's opinion, library business. After several attempts to get an answer from Volz, Nicolosi thundered at the attorney "come on Tom is it library business or not?" Volz never seemingly gave an answer, but allowed Trustees to debate and vote after several questions about how to propose a resolution under Roberts Rules of Order.
Trustee Williams disagreed with Nicolosi and cited resolutions passed by other community boards in Floral Park and the Sewanhaka Central High School District. Nicolosi countered that the Library is a product of the elementary school district. Elmont School Board President Michael Jaime was in the audience and has noted that the elementary school board has not taken a position on the matter nor will it.
Elmont Library Board President Monique Hardial voted in favor of the resolution and noted her personal concerns related to VLTs coming to Belmont and attempted to link social ills to gambling and alcohol. She stated that the library is close to the racetrack. "What happens is the homeless people, and the people who have nowhere to go, do you know what they do?” she asked Nicolosi. “They take refuge in the library, and that is what will happen.”
Hardial then cited the Hempstead Library as an example. Nicolosi flatly disputed Hardial and her analysis of the homeless coming to the library as a result of VLTs. Trustee Livingston Young openly lectured the Library Board and noted his dissatisfaction with the Board taking a position on the matter. He noted that he would not only vote against the resolution, but questioned why it was brought up at a library board and that there were more suitable places for the matter to be discussed.
“We were elected to take care of the library, not to bring community issues into the library,” Nicolosi said. “We’re here for policies for the library and finances for the library. There are people in the community who are for it and against it, and it should not be a discussion in the library.”
Trustee Mimi Pierre Johnson cited her community advocacy as reason for voting on the resolution. Voting in favor of the resolution were Trustees Monique Hardial, Tammie Williams, Gina Burnett and Mimi Pierre Johnson. Voting against the resolution were Trustees Patrick Nicolosi and Livinstone Young. Abstaining from the vote was Trustee Elise Bekier.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the Bulletin asked for a copy of the resolution. The library clerk directed the Publisher to a handout on the table. When it was revealed that the resolution on the table was not the resolution voted on, Trustee Williams and Hardial noted that the resolution was not available to the public as there were typographical errors and needed to be "edited." Trustee Bekier shared her copy of the resolution with the Bulletin which had numerous typographical errors. Trustee Livingstone Young was very concerned about the meeting and what had transpired saying, "I feel terrible about what has happened tonight. This isn't what we are elected to do."