A petition demanding the “long promised” expansion of the Briarwood library has garnered more than 600 signatures, according to Rosalie Quinones, president of the Friends of Briarwood Library Board.
“The Briarwood community wants to know where the new library is,” Quinones told QNS.
The petition, which exists only in print, has a clear statement at the top of the signature list: “I, a resident of Briarwood, avail myself of the Briarwood branch library’s facilities and activities which enrich my life in inestimable ways. Together with my friends and neighbors, I am dismayed to learn that the sorely needed and long promised expansion of the library is in jeopardy of being abandoned. We demand that the plan to expand with a second story remain in force, and the necessary funding be expedited to realize the objective.”
Quinones and the Briarwood Community Association (BCA) have been asking that the city make the library’s expansion a priority for several years now. And in 2016, they believed they received their answer.
In September of 2016, the BCA announced that there was a proposal to expand the library by 2020 with a $32 million project, according to the Queens Chronicle. However, Queens Public Library spokesperson Elisabeth de Bourbon at the time said that although the facility’s upgrades are in their 10-year capital plan, the logistics were a “hypothetical.”
De Bourbon recently told QNS that as of now, the Briarwood library, located on 85-12 Main St., is slated to undergo a $13.9 million renovation. She emphasized that while the renovation is fully funded by the city, an expansion is not. Therefore, they would need more funds for an expansion.
“Right now we are in a holding pattern until there is consensus among all stakeholders on how to proceed,” de Bourbon said. “It is important to note that QPL is committed to the renovation and expansion.”
According to John Denegall, president of the BCA, the library has served the community for more than 30 years now, but is in desperate need of an expansion due to “rough leaks” and lack of meeting rooms and other resources that serve the surrounding schools.
“No one wants renovation, everybody wants a new library because it’ll last 30 more years,” Denegall said. “Kew Gardens got it, so why can’t we?”
Quinones, a retired public school educator, asked Mayor Bill de Blasio about the city’s plans for their library at a town hall meeting in 2017.
“We were promised that in 2020 the beginning of construction and information of our new library is going to begin. Now it is just the beginning stages. I want to know what commitment is the city going to give us? When are we going to have a brand-new library built, much bigger, to meet our needs?” Quinones said.
De Blasio told Quinones that while he had been updated about the issue, he still didn’t have a “nice, clean, easy answer.”
“We have been talking to the Queens Library System, there are some challenges, I think it is a priority, but there are challenges trying to figure out what it is going to take, the timeline, and one thing or another,” de Blasio said during the town hall. “What I can at least say to you is that it is on our radar screen, we are trying to come up with a real plan, a real timeline, and we certainly are going to work closely with Councilman [Rory Lancman] on it.”
Councilman Lancman has been outspoken about the library’s desperate need of a full makeover. He told QNS that it’s “bursting at the seams,” and that it is now up to the mayor to deliver the funds they need for an upgrade.
“The mayor acknowledged the need to expand the Briarwood Library at a town hall meeting at M.S. 217 two years ago, and we expect him to deliver a plan to do so,” Lancman said. “We have $14 million set aside, and an expansion is estimated at $24 million. Only the mayor has that kind of money, and he needs to deliver as promised for the people of Briarwood.”
A statement from the mayor’s office to QNS acknowledged that there are already funds set aside for the Briarwood library’s renovation, and that they are still in ongoing discussions with Councilman Lancman and the Queens Public Library.
“We are in constant contact with the Queens Public Library about their needs and will address capital funding issues through the budget process,” the mayor’s statement added.
But Quinones, who said she hasn’t received much information about the library’s expansion progress since 2017, wants to make sure that the community is as involved with the library’s expansion plans as possible.
The last thing they want, she said, is to have the same kind of issues that the $40 million dollar Hunters Point Library is currently facing.