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New Rochelle Residents Worry Public Library May Be Target For Redevelopment

NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) - New Rochelle residents are circulating a petition to save the library there.

The library - built in 1979 - sits in the heart of New Rochelle's downtown, where there has been a lot of development in recent years, CBS2's Tony Aiello reported.

"I feel people are strongly attached to the library, it's basically a landmark for most people in New Rochelle," said resident Beth Acocella.

She's concerned about the library's future. Several hundred people have signed the petition.

Several years ago, the site of the library was identified by the city as being particularly attractive to developers for future high-rises.

Now New Rochelle residents are concerned that there's going to be a process that leads to the building being torn down, relocated or put into a high-rise building that the library board only leases, but doesn't own.

"It'a all motivated by our residents' love of the library, we understand that," said library director Tom Geoffino.

Geofino says the library board is far from agreeing to any kind of redevelopment deal.

"Absolutely no conversation about that topic," Geoffino said. "The board is not thinking about a new library building, not thinking about relocating."

The library board of trustees, responding to growing concern, posted a message on their website.

"The Board feels strongly that the Library is the cultural center of New Rochelle and a vital resource for our community. The Board is committed to the Library continuing to maintain its place in the community and to being located at the center of our City," the message says. "There are no plans at present to make any changes to the Library as it exists today."

The board explained however that it "feels strongly that it is our responsibility to explore potential opportunities to improve and enhance the Library for its patrons in New Rochelle and for the broader Westchester area.

Consequently, they are in talks with a developer who is offering money to pay for an evaluation of the value of the library property.

"If the Library and [developer] RXR were to move to a second step following the valuation, discussion would likely commence regarding a detailed needs assessment for an enhanced facility and potential redevelopment opportunities. Any next step would involve an additional agreement that would be discussed and voted on by the Board."

Geoffino says that even if the board takes the money, "There are no strings attached."

For now, the library board says people should not assume how this book will end when the first chapter hasn't even been written, Aiello reported.

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