After serving the community for three decades, the Court Square Library will be closing its doors for the final time next month. Queens Public Library operated the tiny branch on the ground floor at One Court Square but the tower’s new owner declined to renew its lease.
“Our lease ends March 31, so public service will end sometime in February,” Queens Public Library Director of Communications Elisabeth De Bourbon said. “We need sufficient time to pack and move our materials, equipment, shelving and furniture out of the building, and restore the space as necessary to comply with the terms and conditions of the lease.”
QPL has subleased the 3,200-square-foot space for $1 a month from Citigroup, which had been the anchor tenant at the 53-story tower since it opened. But Savanna purchased the building in 2014 and is seeking market rent for the space. Savanna was burned by Amazon’s decision to scuttle it’s HQ2 campus plan in Long Island City as the e-commerce giant was set to lease more than 1.5 million square feet of office space in the tower to use as a temporary headquarters during the build-out of its complex.
Citigroup decided to relocate its workers from One Court Square to new locations to make way for the Amazon employees. Savanna has been able to sign several corporate clients to make up for some of the loss.
“The library has occupied its space under a sublease, which ends by its own terms when the direct tenant vacates the building this year,” Savanna said in a statement. “Our improvement plan for the Annex at One Court Square will deliver a central Long Island City dining and retail destination for residents, office tenants and visitors, making the most of the property’s excellent location and transportation.”
The number of people who visit the branch and circulation have skyrocketed since the branch opened in 1989. It attracts nearly 100,000 people a year, and offers hundreds of programs for the growing community of residents and employees of local businesses and government and nonprofit organizations.
‘The potential closure of the Court Square Library is completely unacceptable,” Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said. “The Queens Public Library must find a suitable location so that this growing community can continue to have a library. I have communicated to the QPL president and CEO that library service must continue. We will continue to advocate forcefully to the library, which tells us they are actively pursuing new locations for Court Square. We will not give up and will never accept the Court Square community being without a library.”
Meanwhile, Queens Public Library President and CEO Dennis M. Walcott has personally scouted new locations in the neighborhood and had discussions with neighborhood business leaders in an attempt to find an alternative location.
“We are committed to having a presence in a neighborhood we have served for 30 years, and continue to look for new space there,” de Bourbon said. “Affordability and suitability are factors, however.”
Community Board 2 thought it came up with a solution in October when developer Jerry Wolkoff came before them with an application for modification that would allow him to build more units at his 5Pointz Towers project where the graffiti mecca once stood. CB2 was against the application but voted in favor of the proposal if it included space for a 5,000-square-library.
“I am contemplating the idea,” Wolkoff said. “I am thinking about it and I’ll get back to them.”
But Wolkoff then pointed out that CB2’s vote was advisory and a decision is pending from the City Planning Commission.
“And I might add that they just opened the Hunters Point Library for more than $40 million in September,” Wolkoff said. “That library on Center boulevard is just six-tenths of a mile from my 5Pointz Towers.”