Brooklyn Public Library announces plan to upgrade Central Library

Multiphase plan will overhaul outdated infrastructure

March 26, 2018 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Part of the library’s plan is to renovate the outdoor plaza. Renderings courtesy of Brooklyn Public Library

Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) is embarking on an ambitious, $135 million capital plan to upgrade the Central Library, its flagship branch and the city’s largest lending library, BPL leadership announced today. The plan serves as a capstone for the most significant era of rebuilding in its history, with one third of BPL branches slated for renovation or overhaul.

“New York City’s largest lending library is also one of its architectural gems,” said Linda E. Johnson, president and CEO of Brooklyn Public Library.  “A thoughtfully restored, inspiring, flexible space is richly deserved by the 1.3 million people who visit Central Library each year. We look forward to working with the community to bring this vision to life.” 

“Libraries are the beating heart of neighborhoods across the city,” said NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Now, the whole borough of Brooklyn will be better served by newly renovated, modern spaces in the Central Library. These upgrades will make the library more accessible and better able to serve the needs of the community for generations to come.”  

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For the past several years, Brooklyn Public Library has invested in closing its $300 Million capital needs gap and updating aging infrastructure system-wide.  The result of that work is that over a third of the libraries in the BPL system have recently been or will be replaced or overhauled.  Thirteen libraries with nearly $53 million in combined capital needs are slated to receive full-scale renovations during the next several years. Another three libraries, Brooklyn Heights Library, Greenpoint Library and Sunset Park Library, are going to be completely rebuilt, and two new satellite facilities in DUMBO and the BAM cultural district will bring the system’s total number of locations from 59 to 61.  

With 1.3 million users annually, three-quarters of whom travel from across the borough and city, to access its resources, and more than 4,000 events per year from senior writing workshops to classical music concerts, Brooklyn Public Library’s Central branch is an educational focal point of the borough, where all are welcome to access not only information but high-quality educational, cultural and social services, all for free. 

Nonetheless, the library’s physical space is not keeping up with the demands made on it by a growing borough. Its infrastructure is failing, with many components like elevators, escalators and electrical systems in need of repair or replacement.  Nearly 60 percent of the building is inaccessible to the public, with related services scattered through the building. Ad-hoc repair work inconveniences patrons and strains budgets.  An increase in city capital funding and creative project partnerships have begun to stem the tide throughout the system — but years of underfunding have meant that key infrastructure repairs in the Central Library have been put on hold. 

The plan, broken into four phases during eight years, will first address the library as it is today — helping to reorganize the branch to create a more common-sense layout, and address infrastructural needs like modernized elevators and renovating the outdoor plaza.

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The first phase of the project will also include a new Business Career Center on the second floor, funded in part by the New York State Regional Economic Development Council. 

The central plan’s later phases will look to the future of the library — opening new sections of the building that have not previously been accessible to the public, and working closely with the community to identify what they want from dramatically increased and improved flexible space.  

 

 


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