By Evan Triantafilidis
Damage sustained to the basement-level Lefrak City branch of the Queens Public Library (QPL) will force it to remain closed at least through the rest of the year.
As a result of Hurricane Ida dumping record amounts of rain in New York City, over ten inches of stormwater entered and flooded the sewage system, resulting in backflows into the library.
“The Lefrak City branch looked like an aquarium with books, DVDs, and furniture floating in the stormwater behind the glass storefront,” said APL director of Maintenance Michael Clancy.
Countless books and library computers were among the destroyed property. Wood furniture became water-logged and mold started to develop on the walls and other surfaces. QPL maintenance has also removed walls, partitions and floor panels in the building.
Sharon Diamond-Velox, branch manager of the Lefrak City Library, said the children’s section of the library sustained major damage, as well as the bottom two rows of bookshelves in other areas of the library.
“It’s such a beautiful library, it’s so sad,” said Diamond-Velox, saying it was frequented by school children.
Custodians and maintenance crews worked for days to push the water out with brooms and pumps, said Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska, QPL’s deputy director of Communications. The repair and revitalization will now take significantly longer than originally hoped.
Up until September, the library offered programming and services to members of the nearby Corona and Elmhust communities, as well as the 4,605-apartment development it is housed in.
With the doors locked for at least the remainder of the year, QPL will offer mobile library service just outside the closed branch on Fridays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The mobile library will also have a limited number of internet hot spots available for loan, made possible by a grant from Sterling National Bank. The devices can be checked out for two months and renewed up to five times.
In its first hour of operation outside the Lefrak City branch, the bookmobile saw 11 patrons checking out and returning materials
Last month, QPL eliminated its late fine system in an effort to increase the usage of the library. Corona and Elmhurst were among the communities in Queens with the highest number of blocked library cards, according to QPL.