By Sadef Ali Kully
Several years ago City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) got a phone call from Fausta Ippolito, a Long Island City mother of two children. She had been traveling to the Astoria Queens Library branch because her neighborhood lacked a library, and wanted to find out how to get a library built in Long Island City.
“I told her get signatures, she asked how many? I just said 1,000 and she said OK,” Van Bramer said at the groundbreaking ceremony held for the Hunters Point Library branch site Saturday. “She got the signatures and she didn’t stop there.”
Ippolito fought two battles: one, the 15-year-long battle to get funding for a Queens library branch at Hunters Point and the second, a battle with cancer. She won the first battle but not the second, dying at the age of 46 in 2011. Her husband, Dr. Angelo Ippolito; her daughter, Daria; and her son, Gaetano, joined last week’s groundbreaking in the spirit of their mother’s perserverance.
“She was determined and truly had a selfless spirit,” said Angelo, a chiropractor in Long Island City. “The most coincidental moment was when she was undergoing treatment at NYU Langone. From her window, she could see the site of the library. It was remarkable.”
The library site is right next to Gantry Plaza Park on Center Boulevard and 47th Road in Long Island City, overlooking the Manhattan skyline.
“Everyone agreed to a library, but there were no funds. It was more expensive than the usual library. It has to be part of the city’s assessment city needs and we needed advocacy on our side,” said former City Councilman Edward Sadowsky, who was behind the push for funding the library site when he was in the Council.
“Today is the result of so many people who worked so hard for many years,” said Bridget Quinn-Carey, interim president and CEO of Queens Library. “We thank the community for never giving up.”
The groundbreaking ceremony included community leaders, elected officials who have supported the cause for years and the architects of the library site.
“It is truly a monument to the community, truly a labor of love,” said Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria), who helped allocate more than $28,000 in state funds towards the construction. Maloney quoted The New York Times’ 2011 review of the architect Stephen Holl’s library design: “The building’s beguiling appearance — with giant free-form windows carved out of an 80-foot-tall rectangular facade of rough aluminum — should make it an instantly recognizable landmark.”
The total project will cost an estimated $39.5 million. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the city, Queens West Development Corporation, the state and other elected officials lobbied hard to collect funds to meet the cost.
The 22,000 square feet of construction for the Hunters Point Community Library branch will stand as a public building and park. The building section of the new library is open and flowing, allowing for the most energy-efficient design and the greatest amount of public green space on the site. On the east entrance side, the library faces a reading garden bordered by a low park office pavilion with a bosque of ginko trees. Ascending the stair inside, visitors can reach the rooftop reading garden with panoramic views of the city.
At night the glowing presence of the new library along the waterfront will join the Pepsi sign and the “Long Island” sign at the old Gantry to become a beacon for this new community place.
The already dubbed “iconic building in Queens” project is expected to be completed in 2017.
Reach Reporter Sadef Ali Kully by e-mail at skull