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New Brooklyn Heights Library opens

By Matthew Fischetti

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The second largest library in Brooklyn opened its doors to the general public this past Wednesday.

The new Brooklyn Heights library, located at 286 Cadman Plaza West—the same as its former facility—now features over 26,000 square feet of space, floor-to-ceiling windows, a teen’s library, a children’s area, a sunlit reading room, and plenty of books to put your nose into.

“Now, as the second-largest library after the Brooklyn Public Library’s central branch, the opening of the Brooklyn Heights Library will serve as a cultural hub for all of Brooklyn and an invaluable local resource to thousands of nearby residents,” Councilwoman Crystal Hudson said. “We must continue to expand the resources available to our libraries and cultural institutions and make access to a quality library the norm, not the exception. Libraries are true indicators of the health and safety of our communities and a critical component to the social fabric of our City.”

In 2015, the City Council approved the plan to replace the previous library with a new building, made by private developer Hudson Companies Inc. The library sits at the base of the new 38-story building that houses 134 condominiums.

The original library was built in 1962 and had $9 million worth of unfunded needs prior to the renovation, according to the Brooklyn Public Library’s website. The Brooklyn Public Library also states that the original building was poorly designed to the point that more than 50 percent of its space was unavailable for public use.

The redevelopment project was largely funded by selling off the city-owned property for $52 million. Of the funding, $40 million was spent on repairs and improvements at branches across the system, while $12 million was allocated toward the interior of the Brooklyn Heights Library.

The developer also paid for the core and shell of the new library, a 9,000 square-foot STEAM lab to be operated by the NYC Department of Education, and rent for an interim library throughout the construction period. In addition, the development included 114 affordable apartments located at 909 Atlantic Avenue and 1043 Fulton Street.

“I’m so thrilled to celebrate the reopening of the new Brooklyn Heights Library! This was my childhood library and the stunning, state-of-the-art facility is going to be an essential community hub for the Brooklyn Heights community for generations to come,” Councilman Lincoln Restler said.

“Libraries are one of our greatest democratic institutions, and so I’m thrilled to celebrate the opening of the new Brooklyn Heights Library. This 21st century library will be a welcome asset and inspiration to the community for generations to come,” Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon said. “Here, children, teens, and adults can explore free programs, build community, read and learn. The Brooklyn Public Library has long been a critical cultural and educational anchor for the borough’s residents.”

The new branch will feature bas-reliefs, a kind of carving where the illustration is raised from the base, by Clemente Spampino – whose artwork originally adorned the exterior of the 1962 building. Starting this summer, the branch will also have a new installation “Something Borrowed, Something New,” by Brooklyn-based artist Jean Shin, to mark the 125th anniversary of Brooklyn Public Library. The installation honors the library’s roots with an upside-down tree to represent the shared history with the library and generations of Brooklynites.

Flushing Library officially reopens

Having been closed for more than two years, the Queens Public Library Flushing Branch officially reopened its doors to the general public on April 25.

The library, which averages approximately 6,000 visitors per day, is one of the largest and busiest public libraries in the entire country.

Local elected officials including City Councilwoman Sandra Ung, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, and Queens Public Library President/CEO Dennis Walcott were in attendance on Monday morning, as the facility officially reopened its doors for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is a great day for the Flushing community,” Ung said. “This library is so much more than a place to check out books, it hosts community events for families, provides a safe place for teens to gather after school, and keeps our seniors connected. For the many local residents who have limited English proficiency, the Flushing Library is often where they learn what is going on in their community.”

Ung said that in fact, all of the shelves on the third floor of the library contain materials in languages other than English.

So this branch doesn’t just serve Flushing residents, it’s a resource for the diverse immigrant communities across the borough,” Ung said. “I’m so pleased that it is finally open to the public again.”

The Flushing Library is open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.

The Adult Learning Center also reopened on Monday with classes for the public. The Center will be open Monday, Tuesday, and Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The library originally closed at the start of the pandemic along with all other QPL branches. The branch temporarily offered to-go service from November 2020 until March 2021, when the city began using the library as a free COVID-19 vaccination site. It quickly became one of the city’s most visited locations.

However, the city was forced to close it in mid-June when the building’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system failed. The system failure came at approximately the same time as a planned closure of the branch to construct a second elevator. Work on that project started in December.

The second elevator is scheduled for completion in April of 2023, at which point the current elevator will be closed and refurbished. Both elevators should be operational by December of 2023.

In order to reopen the library to the public, QPL officials agreed to complete the bulk of the work on the elevators at night, so the building can be open during the day. The current HVAC system will still heat the building, while a temporary chiller sitting on a trailer along Kissena Avenue will cool the library. A new permanent HVAC system will be installed within the next two years.

The Flushing branch is the busiest library in the nation. Back in 2019, the facility drew 1.7 million visitors, circulated 1 million items, and brought in 184,000 program attendees, who participated in English classes, GED prep courses, job readiness workshops, and a variety of other programs.

Ung previously toured the library last month with Congresswoman Grace Meng, Richards, and Walcott, who assured her the library would be open in April.

I want to thank QPL President and CEO Dennis Walcott and his team for keeping their promise and reopening the library before the end of the month,” Ung added. “I’m sure in no time this will again be the busiest library in the country.”

Flushing Library to reopen on April 25

The Queens Public Library Flushing Branch will officially reopen to the public on Monday, April 25, at 10 a.m.

The facility closed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, along with other QPL branches and it remained closed while other branches began offering partial in-person and pick-up services.

For a brief period in 2021, it was reopened as a vaccination site, offering more than 200 appointments a day, before problems with the HVAC system caused the facility to shut down entirely.

While a temporary HVAC system was put in place, the branch still remained closed for the construction of a second elevator. The work is still ongoing for now, however, a safety plan has been put in place so the work can proceed while the public resumes visiting the library.

With an average of approximately 6,000 visitors per day, the Flushing branch is one of the largest and busiest public libraries in the entire country.

NYC Councilwoman Sandra Ung said that reopening the library has been a priority for her, even before taking office.

I’m so pleased that we finally have a definite date for the reopening of the Flushing Library,” Ung said. “The library is truly the heart of this community, especially for our large immigrant population. More than just a place to check out books, it is essential to our seniors and families, as well as a place for students to gather after school. Not having this facility in our community for over three years was a real hardship.”

Last month, Ung toured the facility alongside U.S. Rep. Grace Meng, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, and QPL President and CEO Dennis Walcott.

The Flushing Library is one of America’s busiest, and getting this branch open again couldn’t be more critical for all those who rely on it,” Richards said on Twitter back in March when the announcement was first made.

Beginning April 25, the Flushing library will be open from Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., while Sunday service will be restored at a later date.

Flushing’s Adult Learning Center will also reopen on April 25. The hours will be Monday, Tuesday, and Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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