Library In Washingtonville Still Rebuilding From Tropical Storm Irene

Carol McCrossen had just been named director of Washingtonville's Moffatt Library when Tropical Storm Irene hit.

"There were so many times when I just cried," McCrossen said. "It was just so devastating."

The flooding left much of the town underwater. The storm flooded the basement of the library, where all the electrical panels, heating unit and water heater were located.

“Water. Dark water. We didn't even make it down the stairs because the water was coming up to about 5 feet, and it stayed there," she recalled.

It stayed for about a month.

"They finally got it out, but it had destroyed everything down here," McCrossen said.

The main floor, she noted, wasn't affected much. But the roof was another story. The area of the library that had once been the children's section saw most of the damage.

"The whole ceiling had caved in," McCrossen said.

And then mold set in. After more than a hundred years standing, the building, owned by the town at the time, had finally met its match. Soon it became clear the library would not be safe to go back into, but they would not be homeless for long.

A local businessman had a building available. He saw McCrossen in town, in her car, and knocked on her window: "He said you are welcome to it for free," McCrossen said.

She and her staff, along with help from the community, got right to work -- in the dark, one shelf at a time.

"We moved that entire library, books, materials, all the desks, all the computers with volunteers over a week. He thought we were just going to store some books there so they wouldn't get moldy, and we are still there," McCrossen said.

But McCrossen says there's a bright side. The new library will be designed for needs the old library didn't have.

Pat Lyons is the project manager.

"This will be all a new addition for the children's area," Lyons said, pointing to a construction area.

He and McCrossen say the new space was designed with community input in mind.

"The main area will be a new village meeting hall," Lyons said.

And the critical infrastructure will no longer be located in the basement.

"God forbid they do have another 100-year storm incident, anything of importance will be up on this [first] level," Lyons said.

There will also be a drive-through book pickup and new green space. McCrossen says it'll be a place the community can be proud of.

"It's a clean slate," she said. "It just wiped everything so we could start over and really think what we are doing.”

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