The Astoria public library is slated for a multimillion-dollar renovation, Councilman Costa Constantinides announced during a community forum on Monday, Jan. 25.
Constantinides was joined by Queens Public Library President and CEO Dennis M. Walcott, New York City Department of Design and Construction (DDC) Program Director and Architect Anthony Romeo, as well as some community leaders, during the virtual presentation.
The preliminary plans for the library, located at 14-01 Astoria Blvd., called for several new features that include a new elevator, a new entry vestibule with a ramp, new ADA-compliant restrooms, new lighting, new floors, new windows, new furniture, new air-conditioning and heating, a new adult reading area as well as a new teen and cyber center.
A professional art conservator will manage the removal, conservation and re-installation of the two murals, “Grand Finale of an Opera Scene” and “Acrobats” by artist Max Spivak, that are currently hanging at the library.
The renovation is meant to bring the Astoria library into compliance with the American with Disabilities Act. The public library, which was originally constructed in 1904, is one of four Carnegie libraries that remain in Queens.
“These renderings reflect the progress that has been made to date in transforming Astoria library into a more inspiring and inviting space that is accessible to all,” Walcott said.
The project will be in the design phase through the beginning of next year, with construction expected to begin before the end of 2022, according to a DDC spokesperson.
“It takes patience,” Constantinides said. “It’s going to take time, but this new design for the Astoria branch is one that is overdue for our neighborhood.”
Constantinides, in partnership with Speaker Corey Johnson, allocated $3.25 million to the Astoria library in the fiscal year 2019 budget. Since taking office in 2014, Constantinides has secured nearly $9 million for renovations at the library.
This project is part of a major $25 million investment in the community west of 21st Street, a historically neglected and redlined area that saw generations of underinvestment.
“Bringing equity to our neighbors west of 21st Street has been one of my top priorities since Day One,” Constantinides said. “I’m happy that today, we can come together with our friends and neighbors and see the progress that has been made on bringing a refreshed library space that everyone can enjoy more fully.”
Claudia Coger, president of Astoria Houses Tenants Association, said the community “had to fight” to keep the Astoria library on many occasions in the past, but that it’s a necessary part of the growing north western Queens community.
“All of this is going to change the whole effect of the library,” Coger said. “I’m just excited.”
Old Astoria Neighborhood Association President Richard Khuzami said the project fits into Constantinides’ efforts to not only preserve the neighborhood’s historic qualities, but also enhance them.
“Libraries are the heart of a community, a resource essential for growth and understanding for all ages, from tots to seniors. With these upgrades, especially accessibility, all of our community will now be able to share in this great enhanced space,” Khuzami said. “This library has been particularly important in Old Astoria, providing a destination for our young people, especially after school, when access to both physical books and the internet can make a difference for academic success and for their future, in general.”