By Naeisha Rose
Ground was broken Monday on the construction site for the new Far Rockaway Library, according to Queens Library spokeswoman Elisabeth de Bourbon.
The library, located at 1637 Central Ave., was closed down Sept. 28 to make room for a bigger state-of-the-art green-certified building designed by a renowned Norwegian architectural firm in Oslo called Snøhetta, which worked on several high-profile projects, including the Alexandria Library in Egypt and the National September 11 Memorial Museum & Pavilion at the World Trade Center, according to the library.
“When we were hired as the designers of the new Far Rockaway Library, Queens Public Library asked us for a building that would become a beacon for the neighborhood,” architect Craig Dykers, the founding partner of Snøhetta, said at the Nov. 19 groundbreaking. “Yet in certain ways, we saw that the original library, well-used and well-loved, was already a kind of beacon. Our design draws inspiration from this energy, and we are excited to see the library embark on the next chapter of its life in its new home, with the ability to better provide for the dynamic needs of its people and community.”
The new building will be twice the size of the original at 18,000 square-feet, and the structure will feature a glass curtain wall, a pyramidal entrance, a central atrium and a blue roof designed to detain water, according to Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska, another spokeswoman for the library.
Once completed, the LEED-certified building will be two stories, have an ADA-compliant entrance and restrooms, a meeting room, and a quiet room.
The facility will also feature self-check-in/out equipment, an elevator, additional computer stations for children, and teen and adult spaces, according to Kern-Jedrychowska.
“We’re pleased to break ground on this long-envisioned, world-class branch of the Queens Library system,” Borough President Melinda Katz said at the groundbreaking. “Within the next three years, we will finally see through the fruition of substantial public investments issued as early as FY 2007 by my predecessor, the esteemed Helen M. Marshall. The new library building will serve as a much-upgraded anchor for the Far Rockaway community and its growing families.”
EW Howell Construction Group in Manhattan was selected in October to be the general contractor for the $33.6 million renovation project estimated to be completed in mid-2021, according to Queens Library.
The library, which was used to provide disaster relief, has an elevation exceeding the new FEMA flood zone guidelines, according to EW Howell. It is less than one mile from the Rockaway Beach Boardwalk and the construction firm hopes it that with the facility’s new size it will be a provider of even more services for the local neighborhood.
“This library has had a special place in the hearts and minds of our staff and the community over the years, but never more so than in the aftermath of Super Storm Sandy in 2012,” said Queens Library President Dennis Walcott. “It was a lifeline for many residents, becoming a meeting point, a food and supply distribution center and more. Its stunning new replacement will amplify the role of the library in the community even further, serving as a major learning and technology hub.
The project is being funded through capital investments from the Office of the Queens Borough President ($21.25 million); Mayor Bill de Blasio and the NYC Economic Development Corporation, ($19.4 million), Councilman Donovan Richards ($3.24 million) and Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato ($250,000), according to de Bourbon.
“Libraries are one of those quintessential community resources. I spent a lot of time at the Far Rockaway Library growing up. That’s where we learn, where we delve into new ideas, and increasingly, where we go online,” said Amato. “The new Far Rockaway Community Library will be an invaluable resource for everyone! It was my honor to play a role in this redevelopment, and I know that I, my kids and everyone else can’t wait to get inside and check out the new space!”
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose