By Alex Robinson
Plans for long-delayed upgrades to the Poppenhusen Institute are on their way to becoming a reality.
The historic College Point property has received more than $5 million from the city over 10 years to build an elevator and to restore the exterior of the building.
“We were so blessed to receive those capital funds,” Executive Director Susan Brustmann said. “We’ll get more interest and become more accessible. We need the support from the city, state and the public regarding the funding of this building.”
The institute, which was never mandated to have an elevator, decided to install one to make the facility accessible to all. But engineers and planners ran into problems when they were trying to figure out where the elevator should be built in the landmarked building, which was built in 1868.
“It’s a whole lot easier putting an elevator in a building you’re constructing than an old historic building,” Brustmann said.
The institute took some time to figure out exactly where the elevator could be built, but finally settled on a part of the building which is reachable from the main lobby. The elevator will go from the ground floor to the first, second and third floors and will empty out into the main hallway of each level.
Those who are not able to climb stairs will now be able to visit the building’s ballroom on the second floor.
The extensive work on the outside of the building includes everything from restoring the windows and dormers to masonry on the brownstone exterior.
The work is scheduled to start on the elevator in February 2015 and is expected to take a year to complete. The exterior renovation work is due to start in summer 2015.
Although the institute has received considerable city funds for the restoration of the building, it is still struggling to fund its operating expenses as state funds have dried up, Brustmann said.
“We’re very grateful for the capital money, but we need more expense money, too,” she said.
The building of the institute was funded by Conrad Poppenhusen, a German philanthropist and founder of College Point. Once the site of the first free kindergarten in the United States, the institute now serves as a community center and hosts many programs and events.
Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.