Vets seek to open heroic library

The East Bronx is full of heroes, and some residents want to create a combination library/museum to give them the recognition they deserve.

Officials with the Samuel Young and Theodore Korony American Legion posts are hosting a brainstorming session to discuss what should be included in a library that would be dedicated to Bronxites who served in the armed forces or in the local police or fire engine companies.

The meeting will be held at 10 a.m. on Sunday, October 24, at the Samuel Young Post.

“I’m opening the door to anyone who has any ideas,” said Eileen Salimbene, who began looking into setting up the library several years ago with her husband, Tony. “You always hear about the veterans, cops, firemen, EMS and 9/11 heroes. I felt that all of them should get recognition, but we don’t have anything in our neighborhood.”

Salimbene’s idea for the library, which she hopes to call the Bronx Library of Heroes, is to be a part of the Westchester Square Library. For her, the ideal situation would be a regular lending library on the ground-floor with a research library on the top floor, focusing on local service members and public servants. The Library of Heroes would be largely virtual, Salimbene said.

The entire facility would be decorated with memorabilia donated by local veterans and families of veterans, Salimbene said. She hopes to include a memorial and possibly a monument for the service members outside the building.

“We figured, why can’t we have this in our neighborhood,” said Tony Salimbene, who is a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard and member of the Korony Post. “We’re not doing this for money. We just want to teach the people in the area about the history and the heroes.”

Along with the library facilities, the building could also include satellite offices for BronxNet, and space for a community room that could be used regularly for seniors, teens and health programs, Salimbene said.

But everything is still very much up in the air, and the organizers are looking for everyone in the area to put in their two cents.

“We want to see if anyone else has any ideas and we want to make sure that the public is interested,” Salimbene said. “I’m opening the doors to anybody who has any ideas.”

Salimbene said the New York Public Library system has asked the group to submit a formal proposal, and the project has already received support from many local elected officials.

“This is a very important project,” Assemblyman Michael Benedetto said. “I’m looking forward to attending the event and to honor our heroes and to help facilitate the creation of a monument to those whom we should never forget.”

While Salimbene said she hopes the library could be part of the Westchester Square Library, she said the only stipulation for the project is that it stay in the area.

“If we don’t get Westchester Square we’ll wait to be a part of another one,” she said. “We just want it to be a well-utilized facility. We understand that it could be another 10 years before we cut the ribbon, but we’re getting started now, and asking people for their input.”

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