Bookworms, hold on, just a couple more months before the opens its doors again.
Across the street from the still-closed historically landmarked library, about 50 parents and elementary school students filled a classroom at to hear updates about the branch’s construction, which started in October 2009, and what to expect once the library is back in action by Labor Day.
Councilmember Brad Lander and Brooklyn Public Library president Linda Johnson told Slopers, who used to use the Sixth Avenue branch between 8th and 9th streets, that the city’s Department of Design and Construction, who is in charge of the renovations, will soon complete renovations and the finished product will be once again be an important neighborhood resource.
“It’s been a frustration for the past two years I have been in office,” Lander said, explaining that he used to take his kids to the branch before it closed in 2009. “Libraries may be the last civic square and this was a place where kids, parents and the community used to come together.”
Johnson explained that the delays have been due to historical landmark issues, budget cuts and the fact that the library is not on the city’s priority list.
“This construction lasted longer than it should have,” Johnson said. “Why can we build a skyscraper in Shanghai in less time than we can renovate a library?”
But, she said once the $6 million project is complete, it will be open six days a week (closed on Sundays) and she is hoping to have it operating for 46 hours a week, compared to the library’s average of 43.
Johnson said that so far the construction has addressed the issues the building had with the Americans with Disabilities Act. DDC installed a ramp and elevators so the library is wheelchair-accessible. They have also completed the bathrooms.
But that leaves the rest of the work to be done by September. The new and improved Park Slope Library will have:
- A brand new inside with new lights, new book shelves with a new collection and brand new floors
- Wheelchair accessible bathrooms
- New computers and space for “tablet technology”
- Free wireless
- New information and database commons
- New programs and partnerships with the community, P.S. 39, artists and creative types
- The downstairs theatre is also being redone and will have space for 75 people to sit.
One parent, who is the co-president of the P.S. 39 PTA, asked Johnson what the hold up was, considering the project was supposed to take one year, but by the time they open it will have been three.
“It is becoming urban legend at this point,” Melissa Williams said.
Johnson, who went into detail about problems with the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission and explained how tricky it is to refurbish a city-owned property which is run by a private organization, the Brooklyn Public Library, summed up the hold up with the "B" word.
“It is essentially bureaucracy,” Johnson said. “Also, as long as we are ripping it up we are going to put it together right and it takes time to do that with a building that is over 100 years old.”
Most of the work will be completed by the time the library opens, with a brand new head librarian, Stephanie Brueckel who lives in Windsor Terrace and works at the Fort Hamilton branch, but they will have to finish the brownstone renovation and figure out the air conditioning after it opens.
According to the community members present, and the fact that P.S. 39 does not have it’s own library, the prolonged closure has done its damage to Park Slope.
A mother of two who lives across the street said that she read a book to her daughter the other day about a library and she had to explain to her what exactly a library is:
“My four-year-old daughter doesn’t even know what a library is because, since she has been old enough to go, this branch has been closed,” Alison Yager said.