Book worms! Slope library branch to remain closed for at least one more year

Book worms! Slope library branch to remain closed for at least one more year
Photo by Tom Callan

A $2-million, two-year renovation of a branch library in Park Slope begun in 2009 will end up taking at least another year — and its cost is no longer even being projected.

City officials blamed the delay on “unforeseen factors” such as greater deterioration at the Brooklyn Public Library branch at Sixth Avenue and Ninth Street, which will now be shuttered until at least the fall of 2012 — three years after the project was announced in August, 2009.

Initially, the city said it simply wanted to make the 1906 library more handicapped-accessible with a new elevator, an outdoor ramp and restrooms. But two months later, the budget soared to $2.7 million, and the timeline lengthened to at least two years to include a new air conditioning system and new lighting.

Now, the city won’t even predict what the final cost will be.

Worse, hundreds of readers miss their literary haunt.

“It’s a huge loss,” said Heidi Igoe, a mother of three. “By the time it opens back up, my daughter will have outgrown the benefits of having a library close by.”

The city now says that its initial inspection of the library revealed that “the main floor and its support structure were more deteriorated than expected,” but some neighbors think that’s merely an excuse for poor planning and deadline missing. “Three years is too long,” said parent Matt Longabucco. “This is a public space — it should really be a priority.”

The majestic building was part of Andrew Carnegie’s library philanthropy and includes classic period features such as Doric columns, fireplaces and stained-glass windows.

For years, it was a nexus for storytelling, education and fun, especially for students at PS 39 next door. For many Park Slope parents, it was much more convenient than trekking to the library branch on Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights.

But since the construction began, the branch has become an eyesore, with a crumbling facade, boarded-up windows and unkempt grounds. In August, thieves even broke into the site and stole $10,000 worth of window grilles — an indication the city is not properly securing the building.

On a recent Brooklyn Paper visit to the site, construction crews had left the rear gate to the building wide open — across from a youth program at Park Slope United Methodist Church, where some parents said they’re sick of waiting.

“Another year?” said Kim McCreight, a mother and writer. “That’s a big loss; in the winter it’s a real refuge for neighborhood kids.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Design and Construction agreed that the project has been “frustrating,” but added, “When you’re doing construction, you have to deal with the unforeseen.”

Tell that to the kids. On Friday, while walking outside building, Igoe’s young daughter paused and pointed towards the fenced-off book barn.

“Mommy, remember when we used to go there?” she said. “When’s the library going to be open again?”

“Ha.” Igoe said. “Maybe never.”