Residents to help re-design New Utrecht Library

Bensonhurst and Bath Beach residents will get a chance to play the role of architect and come up with fresh ideas for a re-design of the New Utrecht Library when they attend a special “hands-on” community workshop on March 4.

“It’s one of our more popular libraries, so we’re expecting a big crowd for the workshop,” Brooklyn Public Library spokesperson told this newspaper on Wednesday.

The event, which library officials are calling a Community Design Workshop, will take place on Monday, March 4, at the New Utrecht Library, 1743 96th St., from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Starting in 2021, the two-story, 27,000-square-foot New Utrecht Library will undergo a complete renovation to its interior and exterior. The scope of the project will include a replacement of the building’s outdated cooling and heating systems, as well as a re-configuration of the interior spaces. Environmentally friendly landscaping will be added to the building’s exterior. 

The New York City Department of Design and Construction (DDC) is managing the project for the Brooklyn Public Library. The city hired Rice + Lipka Architects for the project.

The idea behind the community design workshop is for the Brooklyn Public Library to gather ideas for the building’s re-design from the very people who use the library branch.

“We want their ideas on what they think the building should look like as well as what they want to see going on inside the building; what programs they would like to see. And we want everyone to come to the workshop, children and adults alike,” Bodenheimer said.

Architects and designers will be on hand to help residents craft their ideas. Bodenheimer said the experts will not be using architectural jargon but will instead be employing plain, everyday phrases to allow everyone to understand them easily. Translators will be available for those who do not speak English.

There will be a fun, playful aspect to the evening. Residents attending the workshop will be given everyday items, like Popsicle sticks, buttons and cotton balls, that they can use to build models to demonstrate their design ideas.

The Brooklyn Public Library is also using a Community Design Workshop concept to plan for an upcoming renovation of the Brownsville Library.

The design phase of the New Utrecht renovation project will last until 2020. The reconstruction work will begins in 2021. The work is expected to take three years to complete, during which time the library will be closed.

But Brooklyn Public Library insisted that the public will not be completely shut out. “We will have our Bookmobile parked outside. And, of course we have other library branches,” Bodenheimer said.

The New Utrecht Library opened at its current location on 86th Street in 1956. But the library’s history dates to back to 1894, when the Free Library of the Town of New Utrecht opened its doors. The library became part of the Brooklyn Public Library system in 1901, according to information on the library’s website.

The branch offers a diverse array of programs, including Kids Create, Chinese brush painting, Story Play, computer courses and English lessons. The library also contains an auditorium and meeting rooms.

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