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A blog from CityRealty (Links below will take you to the 6sqft site)
 
 

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Libraries are not what they used to be. At a luncheon hosted by the New York Building Congress, the Presidents and CEOs of the Brooklyn, Queens, and New York Public Library agreed that they have become a place for communities rather than the solitude and quiet isolation stereotypically associated with them.

As locals of all ages use the library to attend story hours, do homework, study for citizenship tests, learn to code, attend workshops, watch the World Cup, and work together in addition to checking out books, the design must be rethought to reflect the changes. Throughout the city, libraries are moving or renovating into more modern, more appropriate spaces through partnerships with the city, the public library system, and residential developers.

Some of the projects seek to provide affordable housing and community spaces, others are luxury residential projects that provide new spaces in the building for local libraries. Whether or not these projects create more affordable housing, the building of new libraries benefits all communities.
“Libraries are the last truly open democratic institution.” - Dennis Wolcott, President and CEO, Queens Public Library

Partnerships to provide affordable housing

The nyc.gov site explains that as New York City’s population grows at record rates, available and affordable housing have not kept pace. Rents have risen all across the city are have priced too many New Yorkers out of their homes and neighborhoods.

The city is exploring creative opportunities to build more affordable housing in all of the NYC boroughs. In neighborhoods where there is very little city-owned property, like the Inwood neighborhood, the city had to be more creative in identifying opportunities. Out of this came their partnership with NYPL to develop new affordable housing for the community.

The city conducted community workshops, in both English and Spanish, and created a formal report, the Community Visioning Report, to guide their Request for Proposals (RFP) to construct the project and operate the housing. At that point, they opened a competitive process. There was also a formal Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) public review process to approve the project. Developers submit project proposals through a competitive Request for Proposals (RFP) process. Their proposals are scored based on criteria such as the mix of affordability; the quality and sustainability of the design; the financial feasibility of the project to ensure the building’s long-term viability; and the track record and experience of the development team.
Below, CityRealty reviews the modernized spaces in New York City's newly-built and future libraries.

The Inwood Library

Expected Completion: N/A
Renderings by Fogarty Finger Architecture / Andrew Berman Architect
Fogarty Finger Architecture and Andrew Berman Architect just revealed their design for the new Inwood Library, 175 affordable apartments, Universal Pre-K (UPK) and the Activities, Culture, Training (ACTS) Center in Inwood. The project is a joint development venture between the New York Public Library, HPD, the anti-poverty nonprofit The Robin Hood Foundation, the Community League of the Heights (CLOTH), Ranger Properties, Alembic, and the Children’s Village. The Inwood project will temporarily displace the current library at 4790 Broadway as a new 14-story tower is built.
The apartments will come in studio through three-bedrooms and will be available to families earning a range of incomes, including those earning less than $26,000 and formerly homeless families. At least 40% of the homes will be permanently affordable and the City will ensure future public control of the affordable housing developed on the site.

The Inwood Library was built in 1952. The new space will be approximately the same size as the current library, 17,300 square feet, but it will have a more efficient layout, new spaces for youth and adult education and upgraded technology without losing any books from the collection. It will be owned and operated by The New York Public Library. And during construction, which is expected to begin in 2019, a temporary library space will be opened nearby.

Sunset Park Library

Expected Completion: 2020
Rendering by Magnusson Architecture and Planning (MAP Architects)
At 5108 Fourth Avenue, the Sunset Park Library is one of Brooklyn’s busiest libraries, out of Brooklyn’s 60 branches total. At 12,200 square feet, the current branch is too small and too outdated to meet the needs of the patrons who depend on its collection and services. The current space and condition of the library does not work for the community.

A rendering has been revealed of the proposed eight-story, 49-unit mixed-use project. The new branch will be almost 21,000 square feet - twice the size of the current space! - and, according to Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) site, “the new library will be everything that the current one is not: bright and comfortable, with an open, flexible design and up-to-date technological infrastructure... The public will contribute to the design of the new branch at workshops, at the current location, and online.”

The residential portion of the building above the library will have 49 units, from studios to three-bedrooms, of permanently affordable housing, which include nine apartments reserved for survivors of domestic violence.

BPL is partnering with the Fifth Avenue Committee, who will pay for the core and shell of the new, expanded branch along with Community Investment Funds from New York State Homes and Community Renewal. Occupancy expected by 2020.

Brooklyn Heights Library

Expected Completion: 2019-2020
Rendering via Hudson Companies
The developer, Hudson Companies, is transforming 280 Cadman Plaza West from the current Brooklyn Heights Library (another branch of the Brooklyn Public Library) into a 36-story condo building with a new high-tech 26,620 square foot public library on the first three floors. The Marvel Architects-designed building will also include 9,000-square-foot STEM lab operated by the city’s Department of Education and two retail spaces on Clinton Street. Brooklyn Roasting Company has leased one space and the other will be a pop-up food space curated by Smorgasburg.

For this project, Hudson Companies purchased the site from the BPL for $52 million. Brooklyn Public Library President & CEO Linda Johnson cited this as a prime example of the library using its assets to take care of its assets

With construction beginning soon, an interim library service is being provided at 109 Remsen Street. All current branch programs are being offered in the interim location, along with a collection of 17,000 books.

The overall project will additionally include the construction of a 114-unit affordable housing project at Fulton Street and Atlantic Avenue. This will also be designed by Marvel Architects, and units will be open to those making between 60 percent to 125 percent of the area median income.

Elmhurst Public Library

Built Year: 2016
Photo via NYC Department of Design and Construction
Commissioned in 2004 by New York’s Department of Design and Construction (DDC), the Elmhurst Community Library was another library that was plagued with delays. When it finally opened in 2016, it quickly became a successful library. Designed by Marpillero Pollak, there are many bright and cozy community and social areas, a back courtyard and landscaped front garden.

Elmhurst is one of the most diverse residential neighborhoods in the world and home to mostly poor immigrants from 80 countries. The original neighborhood library, the Carnegie library built in 1904, housed only 3,000 volumes. After many major renovations and additions, these changes led to an interior space that no longer worked. The new library was well-needed and well-received.
(Marpillero Pollak Architects)
(Marpillero Pollak Architects)

Greenpoint Library

Expected Completion: 2019
All renderings courtesy of Marble Fairbanks
Greenpoint Library closed on July 1, 2017 for the rebuild. The new modern, sustainable Greenpoint Library & Environmental Education Center, designed by Marble Fairbanks, is expected to open at the end of 2019. The project was funded by a $5 million grant from the Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund and a $14 million contribution from the Brooklyn Public Library.
The original library was constructed in 1906 and rebuilt in the 1970s. The new library will have much more indoor and outdoor space in addition to being sustainable by reduced annual water and air pollution and energy use. The goals are to reduce heating and cooling by 80 percent, reduce water use by 50,000 gallons, eliminate 33,600 pounds of air pollutants, and treat 70,000 gallons of stormwater. Additionally, the new environmental education center aims to boost awareness and environmental conservation by offering local residents environmental education programs and special collections as well as a meeting space for local environmental groups and public programs.
Aerial view
According to the GCEF website, new features and functions will include: Native plant landscaping and permeable pavement to replace concrete; High-efficiency HVAC and lighting systems; Water-efficient plumbing; Rainwater harvesting and stormwater runoff control systems; and alternative energy systems. The new space will have all of the traditional library features and will also have multiple green roof spaces, an ecolab/lounge, a large meeting and events space, and a landscaped plaza.
Ecolab/lounge
Plaza

53rd Street Library

Built Year: 2016
All photos courtesy of TEN Arquitectos
The 53rd Street Library, previously the Donnell Library which closed eight years ago, was designed by principal architect Enrique Norten at TEN Arquitectos. The three-level library is built in the basement of the luxury Baccarat Hotel, a 50-story high rise. Located across from the Museum of Modern Art, the $23 million project is beautiful but, initially, the library patrons were not thrilled to have two of the library’s three floors underground.
In 2007, Orient-Express Hotels bought the Donnell Library property for $59 million, giving the NYPL plenty of money to go toward other branches’ building needs. Orient-Express planned to build a hotel and space for the library. In 2011, Tribeca Associates and Starwood Capital bought the building and built the Baccarat hotel and condominium complex. It is now owned by a Chinese company.

When the library opened in 2016, protesters shouted “Books Not Billionaires” and “To the basement!?” Objections seem to have quieted over the past two years as patrons have gotten used to the more modern space which provides classes, public programs and access to ebooks. Also, with the branch across the street from MoMA, this has created many opportunities for collaborative programs, events, and educational opportunities between the two spaces.
The 53rd Street Library spans three levels in the Baccarat Hotel
Inside the $23 million project

The Queens Library at Hunters Point

Expected Completion: 2019
Photo credit: CityRealty
An incredibly distinctive architecture designed by Steven Holl Architects, the new Queens Library at Hunters Point will be worth a journey just to see the building. The library is located on East River and set against the backdrop of recently built high-rise condominiums. The 22,000 square foot Queens Library at Hunters Point will stand as a public building and public park and will bring community-devoted space to the increasingly privatized Long Island City waterfront.

The structure is concrete with sparkling aluminum paint. A section of the rectangular building is carved out to create a dramatic window back out to the river and Manhattan skyline. The library has a children's area, teen area, and adult area but the architect says the programmatic divisions are fluid.

Like the 53rd Street Library, this branch of the New York Public Library occupies a part of a larger luxury development, in this case, a 50-story condominium tower. The library is expected to open in 2019 after numerous delays.
Photos courtesy of Steven Holl Architects

Mid-Manhattan Branch Library

Expected Completion: N/A
All renderings courtesy of Beyer Blinder Belle
Anthony Marx, New York Public Library President and CEO, acknowledged that the Mid-Manhattan branch, located across the street from the landmarked Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, has never lived up to its iconic neighbor. However, a $317 million master plan, led by Mecanoo with Beyer Blinder Belle, is set to change that.

Public space will be dramatically increased by transforming and reopening rooms that were originally designed as public areas but have long been used for staff or storage. It will increase accessibility to the library as well as increase public space for research, exhibitions and educational programs by 20%.The team worked for over a year analyzing library usage data, interviewing staff, surveying the public, and meeting with community stakeholders to ensure that the new branch will best meet the needs of library patrons.
The renovated branch will have a dramatic, multi-story wall of bookshelves – the Long Room; an employment skills centre occupying a full floor as well as an adjacent floor providing job-search help and small-business support; a full-floor dedicated to a library for children and a separate library for teens; additional seating; and one of the only free public roof terraces in Midtown.

The renovations will take over two years to complete.
The public roof terrace will be free
Contributing Writer Michelle Sinclair Colman Michelle writes children's books and also writes articles about architecture, design and real estate. Those two passions came together in Michelle's first children's book, "Urban Babies Wear Black." Michelle has a Master's degree in Sociology from the University of Minnesota and a Master's degree in the Cities Program from the London School of Economics.
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