Park Slope

Landmarks Preservation Commission approves ‘reading circle’ for Park Slope library’s lawn

January 5, 2016 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Here's a drawing of the “reading circle” planned for the lawn of the Brooklyn Public Library's Park Slope Branch. Drawing by the city Department of Design and Construction via the Landmarks Preservation Commission
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Storytime’s going to be especially awesome at the Park Slope Branch.

The city Department of Design and Construction (DDC) has drawn up plans to construct a “reading circle” on the lawn of this Brooklyn Public Library branch for al fresco children’s story hours. And the city Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) says Go for it.

At a public hearing at its Lower Manhattan headquarters on Tuesday, the preservation agency unanimously approved the design agency’s plan for the reading circle, which will be an amphitheater with bluestone seating and a stage.

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“Story hours indoors are overflowing, with a line of strollers waiting to get in that’s several hundred feet long at times,” Friends of Park Slope Library Co-President Christopher Franceschelli told the Brooklyn Eagle after the commissioners’ vote.

The seating in the amphitheater — which Franceschelli also calls a “story theater” — will consist of low-rise walls arranged in semi-circles bisected by a path. Lights built into the walls will illuminate the path. And there will be an outdoor “stroller parking zone,” one of the DDC’s design drawings indicates.

Franceschelli said $250,000 in funding for the reading circle plus a community garden was allocated by neighborhood City Councilmember Brad Lander.  

The kid-friendly amenities will be located in the landmarked library’s side and rear yards along 9th Street. The branch, which is located at 431 Sixth Ave., also has frontage on 8th Street.

The construction of the reading circle should begin in several months, after construction drawings are done, the DDC’s Jeremy Woodoff told the Eagle after the LPC vote.

The design for the branch’s community garden calls for the use of cedar planters, which drew criticism from several preservationists and Landmarks commissioners.

The cedar planters look like merchandise that could be found “among gnomes and flamingos in garden catalogs,” Christabel Gough of the Society for the Architecture of the City said in testimony at the hearing.

The LPC’s approval of the library lawn makeover includes the proviso that DDC staffers must work with LPC staffers to find a suitable shade of paint for the cedar planters.

The planters will be used for a multi-generational edible garden program, Franceschelli told the Eagle. He said the Friends of Park Slope Library hope kids as young as 3 or 4 years old and seniors will be included in the program.

The DDC’s design also calls for the planting of honey locust trees to create a natural shade canopy, the creation of a seating area for seniors and the replacement of tall shrubs along the 9th Street side of the library with close-to-the-ground greenery that will make the building’s façade more visible to passersby.

The Park Slope Branch, which was constructed in 1905-1906, was closed for a three-year renovation project and reopened in September 2012.

The Classical Revival-style library has been an individual city landmark since 1998, which gives the LPC the authority to say Yea or Nay to structures built on its lawn.

The Park Slope Branch was one of the first of the so-called Carnegie libraries to be built in Brooklyn. In the early years of the 20th Century, philanthropist Andrew Carnegie donated $5.2 million for the construction of public library branches throughout the five boroughs. The Brooklyn Public Library got $1.6 million of that money.

The Park Slope Branch, originally called the Prospect Branch, is red brick with limestone trim like all the B’KLYN Carnegie libraries. The front entrance is flanked by Doric columns, and a torch is carved in stone above the door to symbolize “the light of learning,” according to the LPC’s designation report for the property.

Raymond Almirall designed this branch as well as three other Brooklyn Carnegie libraries. He was the secretary of the Brooklyn Carnegie Committee’s Architects’ Advisory Commission.  


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