Dumbo finally gets a library, Brooklyn’s first new branch in 40 years

Library honchos and local pols cut the ribbon at the new Adams Street Library.
Photo by Ben Brachfeld

It’s one for the history books!

The Brooklyn Public Library opened a new branch for the first time in nearly 40 years on Tuesday, when honchos and local pols cut the ribbon at the new Adams Street Library in Dumbo.

The new library is BPL’s 60th branch, and the first new one in the borough since the Cortelyou Library opened in 1983. It also marks a momentous occasion for Dumbo, which has never had a library of its own until now.

The exterior of the new Adams Street Library in Dumbo.Photo by Ben Brachfeld

Situated right on Dumbo’s waterfront, with impeccable views of the Manhattan Bridge, the East River, and the Lower East Side across the water, the 6,500 square-foot library occupies the first floor of an old manufacturing building at 9 Adams St., with the rest of the building featuring residential apartments. It is primarily though not exclusively a space for children’s learning and enrichment.

“I couldn’t be happier. These projects take a lot of work during the best of conditions, and obviously during a pandemic it was particularly challenging,” Linda Johnson, BPL’s CEO, told Brooklyn Paper. “We really wanted to get this open for the neighborhood as soon as we could. There’s a need here, I think it’ll be fully used before we even know what happens, I think it’ll become part of people’s routine to go to this branch.”

Johnson categorized the view from the new location’s 15-foot windows as the “best views in all of the city’s over 200 libraries.”

For decades, BPL hadn’t considered Dumbo as a location for a branch, because for most of its history it had been an industrial neighborhood with few residents. But the explosive residential growth of the neighborhood in recent decades forced library honchos to consider spaces for a new branch in the community.

A look inside the new branch.Photo by Ben Brachfeld

“For many years, this was an area with very, very few residents,” said Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon in remarks at the library’s opening ceremony. “But DUMBO and Vinegar Hill have grown like crazy, they are continuing to grow, and we need to provide access to libraries for all of the children in this area.”

Development and construction of the new library cost $7.2 million, funded by the city, state, and from the controversial 2014 sale of the Brooklyn Heights Library to property developer Hudson Companies, intent on building luxury condos at the site. Construction began early last year, and a temporary library annex steps away on John Street opened in 2019 to serve the neighborhood’s residents until the permanent library opened its doors. The permanent library was scheduled to open last year but construction was delayed due to the pandemic.

From left: Councilmember Steve Levin, Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, and state Sen. Brian Kavanagh at the Adams Street Library.Photo by Ben Brachfeld

Previously, the residents of Dumbo were made to schlep either to the Brooklyn Heights Library or to the Walt Whitman Library in Fort Greene. The Brooklyn Heights branch closed for redevelopment in 2016, and was razed the following year to make way for Hudson Companies’ One Clinton development, and a temporary library is currently open at the Center for Brooklyn History.

The new library in Brooklyn Heights, which will occupy the first three floors of One Clinton, will open in early 2022, according to BPL spokesperson Fritzi Bodenheimer.

Correction (6 pm): An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that the last Brooklyn library branch to open was in Kensington. The Cortelyou Library was the most recent to open its doors in 1983.