After being closed for two years, the Queens Public Library (QPL) branch in Flushing will reopen its doors in mid-to-late April, city Department of Design and Construction (DDC) officials announced during a tour of the facility on Friday, March 4.
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, Congresswoman Grace Meng and Councilwomen Sandra Ung and Linda Lee joined QPL President and CEO Dennis Walcott, DDC officials and community members for an update on the renovation project at the library, located at 41-17 Main St.
QPL’s Flushing branch, which is the busiest in the United States, closed in March 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. It reopened as a fulfillment center for requests in July 2020 and began providing to-go service in November 2020.
In March 2021, the library served as a vaccination site. However, in May 2021, QPL announced that the heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) system had become inoperable. Despite multiple attempts and approaches, the library and city determined it could not be repaired. The city was forced to relocate its vaccine operation to large buses parked outside the building.
A temporary HVAC system will be installed for the summer weather, with the construction taking place mostly at night, according to QPL.
Currently, the contractors are working on a second additional elevator in the building, starting with the lower level and working their way up through the third floor, according to Carlos Rodriguez, the DDC’s senior project manager.
“It’s a very complex project because we’re cutting into a building that’s already established,” Rodriguez said.
Though there isn’t a set opening date yet, DDC officials say the library may be open after Easter. Part of the challenge, Rodriguez said, is the construction of the area along with books and shelving, which is a time-consuming process.
Partitions have been placed on each floor to separate ongoing construction work while patrons access the library upon its reopening, Rodriguez said.
Meanwhile, the existing elevator will be in service while the contractors install the second elevator, according to Walcott.
“When the new elevator is ready and signed off, we will put it into service and take out the other elevator for a new facelift so it can work in conjunction with the new elevator,” Walcott said. “There is space on the staircase for people to transfer through all floors.”
Nick Burton, QPL’s chief librarian, said the elevator project should take over a year to complete.
“By the time we have everything done both elevators will be brand new for the public,” Burton said.
With a second elevator, Ung said, it would be much easier for many seniors and kids to get up to the third floor.
In regards to the project, Ung noted that her constituents didn’t know what was going on at the hub that serves about 5,000 to 6,000 visitors a day.
“When I was elected I was really pushing them to say what was going on there. I am happy that they gave us a tour and let us know what is going on because it’s important to be transparent about it,” Ung said.
The Flushing library has been a pillar of the community and a gem of the Queens library system, Meng said.
“It has been such an exceptional resource for area residents, and I am excited that it will be opening its doors again soon. I cannot wait, and look forward to the many who use this facility being able to again take advantage of all that it has to offer,” Meng said.
Richards said he is thrilled about the library’s reopening in April thanks to the efforts of QPL, DDC, Meng and Ung.
“The Flushing Library is one of America’s busiest, and getting this branch open again couldn’t be more critical for all those who rely on it,” Richards said.
In fiscal year 2019, Flushing Library drew 1.7 million visitors, circulated 1 million items and brought in 184,000 program attendees, according to QPL.
People from all five boroughs routinely visit to pick up materials in dozens of languages and dialects, read, study, gather with one another, or attend one of the hundreds of topnotch English classes, GED prep courses, technology workshops, job readiness classes and other programs offered there each year.
The building includes a 227-seat auditorium, a multipurpose room for 150, conference rooms, exhibition areas, an Adult Learning Center and an International Resource Center.