After winning a grant to revamp the one-story facility in December 2014, Ames O’Neill, a project manager with Brooklyn Public Library, said the new building will be much more accommodating to the needs of the community.
“We are going to be tearing it down and building an entirely new eco-friendly building,” O’Neill said. “It’s going to have green roofs and environmentally-friendly features.”
The current 7,000-square-foot building is more than four decades old, O’Neill said. Though it has undergone some technology improvements and some paint jobs, the structure of the facility has never changed.
“It’s not set up for the way modern libraries function,” O’Neill said. “It’s outdated and we’ve been wanting to revamp it.”
When the opportunity for a grant from the Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund (GCEF) came along, library officials applied. The new two-story facility will have much more “flexible” programming space for environmental and education groups to use for meetings, classes and events.
“It’ll be a library and an environmental education center,” O’Neill said.
The library on Norman Avenue is expected to close in early January. Officials anticipate an 18-month construction period, with the goal of reopening the new building in mid-2018.
In the meantime, O’Neill said many programs will be hosted at off-site partner locations. A book mobile will come twice a week, and other users can also go to the nearby branch on Leonard Street in Williamsburg, O’Neill said.
That may be difficult for the large Polish population that relies on programs at the Greenpoint branch. The library also holds children’s programs six days a week, which are usually full because of their popularity.
“We have to sometimes turn people away,” O'Neill said. “It’s just too many people to fit into the space, too many strollers.”
The total cost of the renovation will be nearly $15 million. GCEF gave a $5 million grant to the library, while Brooklyn Public Library is expected to chip in another $10 million for the project.
GCEF received money through a settlement with ExxonMobil over an oil spill decades ago in Greenpoint. The program has given funds to projects like an environmental education shed at Newtown Creek, a new green roof and community space at 520 Kingsland Avenue, and a community stewardship program for Greenpoint parks.
Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, who came to an open house tour of the GCEF-funded projects on Saturday, said he was happy to see the funds put to good use.
“I remember when Andrew Cuomo came to Greenpoint and announced this grant, I thought it was a godsend to this neighborhood that suffered for so long from environmental degradation,” Lentol said. “This is an opportunity for all of us today to really see a microcosm of what green space and what green can look like, in none other than a place called Greenpoint.”
Another project that has received grant money is the restoration of a dog run at McGolrick Park by the Horticultural Society of New York. Renovation of the area includes building a raised bed system around trees to protect roots, adding benches for people to sit, and adding gravel that will be easier to clean and drain.
“It’s going to be a much more accessible area. People won’t have to bring in lawn chairs like they have in the past,” said Nick Guntli of the Horticultural Society. “Overall, the experience is going to be better and cleaner for this area.”
Part of the grant will also go toward renovating the lawns and garden areas in McGolrick Park. Many patches of grass have been reduced to just dirt and soil. The Horticultural Society is also fixing up gardens in the park to make them more attractive for native birds and plants.
“It’s a sprucing up of this area,” Guntli said.