By Bill Parry
The East Elmhurst branch of Queens Library has been a special place for City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland (D-East Elmhurst). It is where her social activism began at the age of 14 at a meeting of the NAACP, so Ferreras-Copeland was smiling broadly at a ground-breaking ceremony Monday for the long-awaited $8.9 million renovation and extension project that will nearly double its size.
“Queens Library is a crucial source for seniors, students, immigrants and families in my district,” she said. “We not only use the space for its collections but also as a place to bond with our children, learn new languages and immerse in cultural programming.”
The project, expected to be completed by the end of 2018, includes the construction of a 4,500-square-foot addition that will nearly double the size of the existing 5,200-square-foot library, a single-story brick structure that was completed in 1972. The new space will house a multipurpose, state-of-the-art community room that can accommodate 120 people, a cyber center, an interior court for a quiet reading area and more space for teens and adults.
“East Elmhurst is a rapidly-growing community of families that relies on the East Elmhurst Community Library as a center of learning, literacy, and culture for residents of all ages,” Borough President Melinda Katz said. “The expansion of the East Elmhurst Community Library will create a magnificent, state-of-the-art addition to this treasured community facility. Today’s groundbreaking on this expansion project is a key milestone and one we should all take pride in as we eagerly await the project’s completion.”
The branch is currently closed to the public for the first phase of construction and will reopen in four months. In the interim, mobile library service will be provided every Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with full service available nearby at Queens Library’s Langston Hughes, Corona and Jackson Heights community libraries.
“Everyone who uses East Elmhurst Community Library — whether it’s to exercise, read, learn, go online or work — has made it clear they need more space, and we are thrilled we’re going to deliver it for them,” Queens Library President and CEO Dennis M. Walcott said.
He said the branch currently serves 83,000 people.
Meanwhile, Ferreras-Copeland expressed disappointment with Community Board 4 for a delay in the implementation of the long-awaited Department of Transportation plan to redesign 111th Street. The board’s transportation committee heard a DOT presentation last week but decided it wanted more information before sending it to a full board vote.
“We look forward to providing CB4 with the data they requested at the meeting soon,” a DOT spokesman said.
Plans were first presented to the board in 2015 for the project that was fully funded by Ferreras-Copeland in 2013. Frustrated with delays, she bused Corona residents to City Hall for a rally in October.
Weeks later a compromise was reached that would provide an improved roadway and two-way protected bike lane.
“The community spoke when we stood over 100 strong on the steps of City Hall demanding 111th Street be made safer,” Ferreras-Copeland said. “DOT has done extensive studies and outreach and Mayor de Blasio should move forward with the plan immediately.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr