By Rich Bockmann
The Laurelton and Rosedale libraries took a step toward building second floors with more than $2.5 million in city funds allocated this year by City Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton).
“The idea is to give young adults a place where they can congregate with the latest technologies,” Richards said at the Laurelton branch last week.
Neither neighborhood has a community center and Richards’ predecessor, former Councilman James Sanders Jr., had allocated funds that would allow the libraries to expand to make room for teen centers. With funds from Sanders’ discretionary budget, the Laurelton library was able last year to purchase the building it leased from the city, paving the way to add a second floor.
“Along with a teen center in our libraries, we will build up these libraries so that our senior citizens will also have a place they can call their own inside the libraries. You will be able to read a book in peace now, without the kids stepping on your feet,” Richards said. “Now I want to be clear that this is a longterm project, and much more money needs to be distributed to develop the libraries. But rest assured that we have officially begun the process due to the allocation of these funds.”
Out of his $8 million discretionary capital budget — the second largest in Queens — Richards set aside his single largest allocation, $1.683 million, for the Laurelton branch. He allocated $1 million to Rosedale.
The Queens Library said it will take about $11 million to add a second floor at the Laurelton branch and $7 million in Rosedale.
Year after year the Council swoops in to restore funding to the libraries that Mayor Michael Bloomberg cuts out of his preliminary budget.
Jen Manley, Queens Library’s vice president of government and community affairs, said there were no cuts in this year’s final budget, enabling every branch to stay open five days a week with at least one location in each Council district open six days.
“We view that very much as a victory,” she said.
Darius Barnes, 11, said he started visiting the Laurelton Library when he was in the fifth-grade, when he would take Mandarin lessons with librarian David Wang.
“Ni hao, wo de ming zi shi Darius,” he said when asked to show off his language skills, which translates into, “Hello, my name is Darius.”
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.