Tag Archives: Elmhurst Library

Elmhurst, East Elmhurst libraries to become ‘destinations’

| brennison@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of the Queens Library

The Queens Library has turned the page on an era of basic brick buildings, beginning a new chapter of attractive edifices acting as neighborhood landmarks.

During the fiscal crisis of the 1970s many libraries were “cinder block and institutional and really not aesthetically pleasing or a welcoming community space to be in,” said Joanne King, associate director of communications at the Queens Library. The Elmhurst and East Elmhurst branches serve as two examples of the shift to transform the libraries into community destinations.

“We want the community to feel welcome, so a lot of the buildings as they’re renovated are being renovated with the exterior walls at least partly transparent so it integrates more with the community and the community can see what’s going on inside the library,” she said.

The Elmhurst Library, which is being rebuilt, was originally constructed in 1906 with funding from philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, though it underwent numerous expansions and renovations.

“It’s going to be integrated into the community and the colors are vibrant; it’s not some large beige building with no personality,” King said.

Hours before the foundation was completed on the Elmhurst branch on July 25, Garrison Architects was receiving an Excellence in Design award for the addition to the East Elmhurst Library.

The award is given to exceptional public projects that exemplify the highest standards of design.

Jim Garrison, the firm’s owner, said in the past, libraries “tended to want to shutter themselves as opposed to open themselves up.”

Saying the design award meant a lot, he added: “That’s a big part of the agenda, making libraries an accessible part of our public world.”

The 30,000-square-foot Elmhurst Library is scheduled to open in 2014. The addition to the East Elmhurst branch does not yet have a completion date.


Group wants to preserve ‘historic’ Elmhurst library

| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Elmhurst 2007w

Over 106 years, some structures become staples of their communities.

This is the sentiment one Elmhurst civic association has expressed regarding the neighborhood’s historic library, which is set to be torn down and replaced with a larger, more modern facility.

Members of the Newtown Civic Association are puzzled by Queens Library’s decision to destroy the community “landmark,” which opened in 1906 and is one of the last remaining libraries built with funding from philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.

“The existing design that they have shown us doesn’t work on many levels,” said Robert Valdes Clausell, treasurer of Newtown Civic and property manager of the Continental, a co-op building located next to the library. “Not only does it not do justice to the area of Elmhurst and the historical structure, but the actual design is a disaster. What we have advocated for is that the original library’s exterior, the part from 1906, be preserved. It deserves and warrants restoration because it will teach future generations about the history of Elmhurst, public libraries and contributions of men like Carnegie to the democratic process.”

According to a representative from the Department of Design and Construction, the Landmarks Commission deemed the library, which is set to be demolished this winter, did not warrant landmark status due to the numerous restorations it received over the century it stood in Elmhurst. The contractors are incorporating some of the bricks from the old library in the new structure, according to the spokesperson.

Queens Library officials say the new structure, which is scheduled to open in 2014, will adequately service the community, while also paying homage to the library’s legacy in Elmhurst. The preservation of the existing structure was also cost-prohibitive, according to a library spokesperson.

“Elmhurst is a thriving neighborhood that needs a state-of-the-art library to support education, job growth and intellectual development,” said the spokesperson.

While Clausell agrees with the need for more space for what is currently the second busiest branch in Queens, he does not feel that warrants a “lack of inspiration.”

Clausell, Nicholas Dovas and Thomas McKenzie, the organization’s president, recently met with officials from Queens Library to voice their concerns and offer their input.

Along with classifying the new design as a “failure of imagination,” the Newtown Civic trio has expressed apprehension regarding the new building’s potentially negative effects on traffic, parking and daily life in the community. The association has also taken umbrage at the lack of library access the community has had since the branch closed in November.

“[The new library] eliminates any parking for a facility that relies on massive deliveries and pickups of books,” said Clausell, who claims no transportation study was conducted before committing to a design. “They are also planning on opening up the back of the building to the public. This will disturb the peace and quiet of the rear of the building. They are looking for litigation and confrontation from their neighbors. It is opening up a Pandora’s box.”

According to the library spokesperson, officials are working with the Elmhurst community to address their concerns, and the new structure is expected to “be a beautiful community magnet that will add significantly to the quality of life in Elmhurst.”

Although many in the community will be saddened by the loss of their landmark, Queens historian Jack Eichenbaum believes the benefits of the modern facility will also be significant.

“Carnegie libraries are beautiful, but that library was built a century ago when the population of Elmhurst was very small,” said Eichenbaum. “That population has grown dramatically with many immigrants, and libraries are very important to immigrants. It is a shame to lose these kinds of buildings, but in this case it is counteracted by the need for a bigger, and hopefully better, library.”

Elmhurst Library set to double in size

| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Queens Library

After many chapters in its current construction, Elmhurst Library’s story will finally have a new setting.

The library, located at 86-01 Grand Avenue, will be closed effective November 7 and is moving to a temporary facility, located at 85-08 51st Avenue, while a new edifice is built on the existing site.

The original library has stood on Grand Avenue since 1906. Immediately following its initial construction, the building was deemed too small to adequately service the community. The edifice tripled in size during an expansion in 1930, and extensive renovations were also performed in 1965 and 1980.
The modern library, which will cost roughly $27.8 million, is expected to open in 2013. It will feature four levels and will be double the size of the current building.
“A library is one of the greatest resources for people of all ages in any community,” said Borough President Helen Marshall, who allocated approximately $23 million in capital funds for the new library. “Here at the Elmhurst Library, thousands of visitors comb its treasure trove of literary, musical, artistic and reference material. Now, it has become a victim of its own success and needs to expand in a new building double the size of the old one.”

Among the facility’s premier attractions will be a Cyber Center with 32 computers, a new Adult Learner Center, an interior reading atrium and front and rear community gardens. There will also be separate reading areas for adults, teens and children.

The modern structure will look towards the future while keeping a respectful eye towards the past by installing “memory features” throughout the building, which are designed to preserve the library’s legacy in the neighborhood. Original bricks will be used in the new façade, and the Children’s Room fireplace will be reinstalled during construction. There will also be a “1906 Memory Wall,” consisting of historical photos of the library and the Elmhurst community.

“Elmhurst is a thriving neighborhood that needs a state-of-the-art library to support education, job growth and intellectual development,” said Thomas Galante, president and CEO of Queens Library. “The current library lends a million books and DVDs a year, which is more than double the volume per square foot of Flushing Library, and Flushing is the busiest library in New York State. The new Queens Library at Elmhurst will be a community hub for generations to come, with its gardens and a wealth of resources.”