Locals were surprised on Friday to hear that the Flatlands library branch was unexpectedly beginning a yearlong closure to undergo a roof replacement — with many civic gurus claiming they were given no notice of the closure.
“Wow that is shocking, that is just shocking,” said Gerard Brewster, a former board member of the Flatlands-Flatbush Civic Group. “But the reality is if they do have a roof problem… then I understand why they are closing it.”
City Councilmember Farah Louis sent an email blast on Friday afternoon alerting community members to the closure, which is also listed on the Brooklyn Public Library’s web page for the branch on Flatbush Avenue.
“The Brooklyn Public Library has announced that the Flatlands Library will close today, February 12, 2021 for a scheduled roof replacement and will reopen Winter 2022,” Louis wrote.
But an employee of the local community board claims that they’d been led to believe the book lender would close for repairs beginning on March 15 — and that Feb. 12 was just the last day for pick-ups.
“We were told about it last week, but we were told it would begin construction in March,” said Dorothy Paul, an assistant at Community Board 18, “but today we just got notification from Councilwoman Farah Louis’ office that they are actually closed. [BPL] didn’t give us any update today, only Farah Louis.”
However, a spokesperson from the library said the $2-million work to replace the leaky roof was scheduled to start prior to the pandemic, and was just given the approvals to move forward after being put on the back burner. They did not address the March 15 date shared with the community board.
“The Flatlands Library is closing for a roof replacement. The project, which is being managed by the Department of Design and Construction, was placed on hold during the pandemic and just released by the Office of Management and Budget for work to begin,” BPL spokesperson Fritzi Bodenheimer. “The current roof leaks and has long outlived its lifecycle.”
The Flatbush Library was previously closed for three months in 2019 to construct a new conference room and activity space for kids.
Meanwhile, the branch had been suffering from an $8 million shortfall for much-needed repairs and upgrades — as of the library system’s list of unfunded capital needs from October of 2019 included $2.8 million for interior renovations and $1.9 million for exterior work and windows.
It is unclear at the time of publication whether the exterior work listed includes the roof replacement, but it seems doubtful as other library branches separately categorize roof work.
Any materials on hold at the Flatlands Library can be picked up at the Mill Basin Library, which Paul said will also see repairs to its roof soon. Patrons can visit any other BPL locations nearby across the borough, or use services available in their “virtual library,” according to Bodenheimer.