Thursday, July 31, 2008

Ground finally broken on new Kingsbridge library

by Candice M. Giove
07/31/2008, Riverdale Review

When the new Kingsbridge Library opens across the street from its current graying white brick building on West 231st Street, it'll be twice the size, with up-to-date technology and a green roof, library and elected officials said at a ceremonial groundbreaking this week.

Though shovels aren't expected to actually touch the ground for another two months, the day signified the start of a project discussed for over a decade.

"It's been a long wait. There've been many disappointments and now it's really happening," said Steve Barker, Kingsbridge Branch librarian.

Councilman G. Oliver Koppell, who secured money piecemeal for the $14 million project, was pleased to be at the groundbreaking. "When I first became a member of the City Council in 2002 this project was already on the drawing board and a large amount of money had been allocated by the City Council through the efforts of my predecessor, June Eisland, and by the office of the mayor and by the office of the borough president," he said.

"As we all know, 2001 intervened and the capital budget for the city was smashed and the mayor's office actually cut out almost all of the funding for the new Kingsbridge library, so we had to start all over again in 2002 and each year over the past five years or six years I allocated part of the discretionary capital funding that we had available to this project," he recalled. "It was my number-one priority with capital projects that we funded. Unfortunately as the years went by not only did we have to allocate more and more funding, but each year the project got more expensive. We've had round after round where the library had to come to me and ask for additional funding."

Former Councilwoman June Eisland was elated that the project finally began. She said that she and her staff worked hard to help acquire the property—and that she and former Borough President Fernando Ferrer were even able to get then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani to commit to it. She was glad that other elected officials continued their work.

Earl Brown, Deputy Borough President, praised the "inspirational" design on the challenging parcel of landa site below street level. The design of the partially glass two-story structure, which will allows natural light to saturate the inside, won a New York City Art Commission Award for Excellence.

Brown also said that a new library was great for residents in Kingsbridge and Riverdale, and for democracy.

"As you know the hallmark of any successful democracy is the ability for people to think clearly and freely, to speak freely and to be educated. And one of the things that the library does is it provides an opportunity for all members of the community, from young kids to senior citizens, to really have access to information, and that access to information and the ability to use that information appropriately is what makes our democracy so successful," he said.

Once the new building opens it will have 32 public computers and WiFi, and lots of spaceeven an outdoor patio for summer reading. "If you go into the current library there aren't enough seats, there aren't enough computers," said NYPL director and local resident Ann Coriston. "So it's nice to have something fresh and bright in this community."