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Coney Island Library’s revamped second floor is nearly complete following a $1.7 million renovation of the space, which transformed the once dilapidated floor into an open reading room with a modern feel.
“We moved all the furniture around, brought these taller shelves up front by the windows, and really opened up the space in the back,” said Brooklyn Public Library Project Manager Michael Gunther during an exclusive tour with Brooklyn Paper on Sept. 2.
The second floor of the Mermaid Avenue library now features a reading space for adults, a section for teenagers, and a large, multi-purpose conference room that the public can book for community events. The children’s section was moved to the first floor to accommodate parents with strollers, and to expand the space dedicated to youngsters, the local councilman said.
“This was an issue that we heard post-Superstorm Sandy, just the need to have a prioritized children’s space, and we responded to that and more,” said Councilman Mark Treyger. “I think for parents, it’s a needed accommodation.”
The revamped floor also includes state-of-the-art technology, such as a new computer and printer, a flat-screen digital display, and a self-checkout kiosk that allows members to check out books, return items, and pay late fees.
The most modern addition of all is the new laptop cage — available in only two other Brooklyn Public Library branches — that allows patrons to check new Hewlett-Packard laptops with their library card to use on site.
The new and improved Wifi, the expanded seating, and a newly installed HVAC system will allow bookworms to browse the collections comfortably during the summer months, library representatives said.
Teenagers, meanwhile, can flock to their own expanded section at the back of the second floor.
“Teens like to be a little bit away from everybody else, so it’s nice to have this sort of designation, and we’ll continue to improve on it,” Gunther said.
Workers also completely remodeled the conference room at the back of the second floor, knocking down a storage room and an office to expand the space to nearly twice its previous size.
The new room, which will also feature two new projection screens, allows for much larger community gatherings year-round — thanks to its improved ventilation and cooling system.
The renovations of the more than century-old library are set to wrap up in the next month — about a year and a half after the Brooklyn Public Library contractors broke ground on the space. The library closed for the first five months of construction beginning in April of 2019, and reopened its ground floor while workers continued renovating the second floor.
The makeover comes about seven years after the library’s last renovation following Superstorm Sandy in 2012 — which flooded the ground floor with five feet of water and forced the library to shell out $2 million to replace furniture, plumbing, computers, and thousands of books.
But the post-Sandy renovations hardly touched the library’s second floor — making the recent improvements long overdue, authorities said.
“Sandy took our the first floor so we redid that … [but] this space didn’t necessarily get an upgrade then,” Gunther said.
Treyger allocated $620,000 for the upgrades, and Borough President Eric Adams pitched in $500,000. The rest of the project was paid for by $600,000 in Brooklyn Public Library capital funding, and by contributions from the Estate of Ciro Gamboni.
Though the renovations are nearing completion, the library will have to remain closed for the foreseeable future to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, officials said. Patrons can still pick up books using the grab-and-go services, and the library hopes to allow members to use its computers soon — but there is no full reopening plan in place yet.
“We hope to get to a place where it’s safe to allow people to come use computers, but we just don’t know what that looks like safe,” said Michelle Bonan, the vice president of government and community relations at the Brooklyn Public Library. “But we look forward to a day when we can welcome everybody back.”
Once it opens, the new technology and upgraded lounging space will be an asset to locals, Treyer noted.
“The need here is greater than it’s ever been. In terms of education, in terms of adult education, the preparation for workforce,” he said, noting that the employment rate on Coney Island’s west end is around 30 percent. “I always told the library folks that whatever the libraries have in the other half in town I want in Coney Island … it’s a home run.”