Toxic waste of time: Stop-work order further delays construction of new Greenpoint library

Toxic waste of time: Stop-work order further delays construction of new Greenpoint library
Marble Fairbanks

This library renovation is now even more overdue.

Work on the long-awaited new Greenpoint Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library stalled last week, after city inspectors slapped book lenders with a full stop-work order for failing to adequately safeguard the construction site.

But the order issued on Dec. 31 is just a small hiccup in the already delayed project funded in part by Big Oil, which was originally set to wrap last spring, and will be back on track soon, according to a library rep.

“We expect it to be completely resolved within a matter of days and look forward to getting back to work,” said Fritzi Bodenheimer.

Inspectors with the Department of Buildings issued the stop-work order following a routine inspection at the Norman Avenue site, when they discovered that workers didn’t have a so-called construction superintendent on the premises, failed to provide site-safety plans, and didn’t install window protections, according to a rep for the agency.

Days later, Buildings Department bigwigs partially lifted the order on Jan. 3 so that workers could install the necessary window protections, and agency inspectors will return for another site inspection once the other violations are addressed, the rep said.

Library leaders in October 2017 demolished the former 1970s-built branch at the corner of Leonard Street — which replaced Greenpoint’s original library built in 1906 with cash from steel magnate Andrew Carnegie — to build a new $11-million reading room from the ground up, which will feature such climate friendly facilities as a green roof and center where locals can host environmental workshops and meetings.

Some $5 million in funding for those facilities came from a $19.5-million fine that oil-and-gas firm Exxon-Mobil paid the community in 2014, seven years after federal officials discovered that the company spilled 30-million gallons of oil into the Newtown Creek since the 1950s. And library honchos will use a mix of city and state cash to foot what remains of the project’s bill.

The recent stop-work order came months after work on the branch temporarily stopped in October, when workers uncovered asbestos from the original Carnegie library left behind at the site, which they then hoped to reopen by the end of 2018.

But that discovery forced library leaders to again push the branch’s opening to this summer, according to Bodenheimer, who said bookworms plan to open the Greenpoint Branch “later this year” when asked how the latest stop-work order will affect the timeline.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@schnepsmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.