After a year of closure for roof replacement, the much-anticipated reopening of the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) Flatlands branch located at 2065 Flatbush Avenue at Avenue P took place on Monday morning, February 7th.
New construction smell from the finished roof wafted in the air as visitors were greeted with a bright, clean and modern-looking interior when the library doors reopened at 10 a.m. for browsing, borrowing and computer use. Patrons could check out books using the self-service kiosks or by downloading the BPL app and scanning the barcode from any book cover for contactless borrowing.
While indoor events are still on hold, the Flatlands branch offered a virtual magic show titled “Myron the Magnificent,” as well as an in-person, grab-and-go event at 3 p.m.
Local residents were taken by surprise when the Flatlands branch announced on February 10, 2021 on its website and social media that it would be closed in only two days with plans to reopen in the winter of 2022.
“We often do not know in advance precisely when the NYC Department of Design and Construction (DDC) projects are going to begin, but we try to give patrons as much notice as we can,” BPL spokesperson Fritzi Bodenheimer said. “The construction schedule was further complicated by pandemic-related stoppages over the last year or so; a number of projects have launched or relaunched this year.”
During the temporary library shutdown, area residents could visit nearby open branches at Mill Basin, Clarendon and Paerdegat and were advised to take advantage of in-person or online resources, programs and events at any of the 61 BPL branches.
When asked why the Flatlands branch didn’t receive a solar panel roof, Bodenheimer explained that of their 61 branches, only four have solar panels. (The four branches to receive solar panels are located in Coney Island, Gerritsen Beach, Kings Highway and Mill Basin. See Canarsie Courier reporting dated February 23, 2021: canarsiecourier.com/budget-talks-and-solar-projects-discussed-at-community-board-meeting-p7130-199.htm
“Those were part of a special project funded through the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery (GOSR); the project was aimed at buildings, including libraries, impacted by Sandy and located in areas especially prone to flooding,” Bodenheimer said. “The GOSR and its partners selected the branches.”
The current location of the Flatlands Library was built in 1955 and is normally open six days a week. The most recent and separate renovations prior to this one was in 2019 with $500,000 funding secured by Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein for the renovation and expansion of the meeting room and a smaller room with activity space designed for inclusive learning. A dedicated HVAC system was also installed at that time.
According to Bodenheimer, the roof was leaking and in need of replacement due to age and normal wear and tear. The project, managed by DDC, was scheduled for October 2020 to February 2022 with an estimated cost of $4.1 million according to the BPL capital projects tracker, but due to COVID-19, a disclaimer on the website stated that “the timelines and other information may not be up to date.” Bodenheimer later confirmed the cost with a more accurate figure of approximately $1.77 million to replace the roof.
More work is needed and is likely to take place in future projects through funding streams for capital projects at libraries, which may include funds from the Office of the Mayor, New York City Council, Office of the Brooklyn Borough President and the New York State Legislature.