Almost two years to the date after it was announced, Sunset Park’s Brooklyn Public Library branch opened its interim space at the landmarked courthouse, 4201 Fourth Avenue, where Community Board 7 is located.
The opening, held on Tuesday, May 15, featured elected officials, BPL representatives, CB 7 members, Sunset residents and more as they celebrated the unique and updated temporary space that locals will enjoy while the original branch is closed for expansion and the construction of affordable housing at the site.
“This space really is an example of the things we talk about when we think about how our library should look,” President and CEO of BPL Linda Johnson said. “You see the features of the old building but the shelves with books and spaces for meetings and story times are something new.”
One of the innovative components of the library is a vending machine that allows card holders to rent laptops for up to two hours while on site.
“It’s terrific because it allows us to use this space in a much more flexible way because desktop computers are no longer dictating where the tables need to be,” Johnson said. “We are really piloting this. It’s something that’s not being used anywhere else in the country and we’re very excited to see how it works.”
The Sunset branch is one of the most used in the borough, Johnson stressed.
“The patrons of Sunset Park depend on our collections and services, and we are thrilled to be able to provide this space on an interim basis while we’re building a brand new library which will be 21,000 square feet, nearly twice the size of the existing library,” she added.
The new library will be flexible like the interim space. “It will have up-to-date technological infrastructure including a new HVAC system,” Johnson added. “It will also bring 49 units of permanent affordable housing including nine apartments which are for survivors of domestic abuse.”
Cesar Zuniga, chairperson of CB 7, told this paper that the interim space provides a great opportunity for locals to explore the building.
“The Brooklyn Public Library did an amazing job on the transformation of the space,” he said. “This is a good example of how we can take spaces in the community and really make them into something wonderful so I’m thrilled they did this. I’m hoping after they move out and go to their permanent space, the administration will work with us to make sure they keep this space a community space. This is exactly the kind of community amenity that we need in Sunset Park. I’m beyond thrilled.”
He is also thrilled that the library provides more than books.
“The combination of all the wrap-around services and the offerings they have beyond traditional book lending is pretty amazing,” he added. “The community board is looking forward to working with these guys any time we can. I think they maximized the natural beauty of the space and did some amazing stuff.”
“They’re using this space in a public way which hadn’t happened for 25 years so we’re very happy about that,” agreed CB 7 district manager Jeremy Laufer. “This is a place for the community. We love the fact that they now have access to it. It will take some getting used to for the community board because we have some limitations on what we can do but we are more than happy to accommodate. Our board room is also going to be used as a programming space.”
Congressmember Nydia Velázquez was also in attendance and took a jab at President Donald Trump.
“I want to connect this with the debate going on in Washington where some, including our president, want to cut the budget on education or want to say that immigrants are unskilled,” she asserted. “You see these children and the parents send them here. Information is power, which is what we must be about, empowering our children and parents and community. This community has been empowered throughout the entire process because there was an inclusive discussion on how to address the fact that the library was too small and didn’t provide the technology we need.”
“Some of you have been living here forever and have not been able to step into this building,” added Councilmember Carlos Menchaca. “The power we are demonstrating today, bringing the community vision to life, shows how important it is for us to work together. That’s the story we all need to tell.”
Early attendees were already thrilled with the space.
“It’s beautiful and I’m glad that it is here,” said Sunset resident Silvia Agosto. “I’m hoping the other library is what we’re looking for, too. The kids are going to love this. It’s all so pretty.”