After a long wait the Greenpoint Library finally reopened in green (not the color) rebuilt glory as a library and environmental education center on October 20th. Before noon, a ribbon cutting ceremony hosted by Linda Johnson, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL), and attended by neighbors, supporters, and elected officials made the reopening of the 114-year-old institution official. The long wait began at the end of June 2017 when the branch closed for demolition. The November 2017 groundbreaking revealed the estimated reopening would be before the end of 2018. Due to a variety of unforeseen obstacles the reopening was postponed. COVID-19 was the last such obstacle, construction projects were shut down for a time at the beginning of the outbreak, but the project steadily moved forward until its completion.
This brings North Brooklyn its third library with lobby service (the other two being the Bushwick and Williamsburgh Libraries). Limited lobby service gives patrons access to pick up items on hold and return bins. For more information as to the hows and whats involved in the hold process go here. The hours of the Greenpoint Library are: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on M, W, F, & Sat and 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays & Thursdays. Sundays they are closed.
“The Greenpoint Library is designed to honor the history of this land and to educate those future generations to care for it. In nearby Newtown Creek one of the largest spills in American history led to a library and environmental education center covered in solar panels and pollinator plants. We know that times of great difficulty can lead to crucial change,” said Linda Johnson at the ribbon cutting.
Funding from the Exxon settlement over the Newton Creek oil spill created the Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund (GCEF), which provides grants for projects that involve: open space; the greening of buildings, infrastructure, and neighborhoods; restoring the waterfront; and promoting environmental education and stewardship. The Greenpoint Library rebuild received a $5M grant from this fund.
Council Member Stephen Levin acknowledged the fund at the ceremony and another determined supporter, “One of many projects that came out of that fund. This is really the jewel of that process. This is the largest terrestrial oil spill in United States. This community deserves to be compensated for that. Joe [Assembly Member Lentol] has advocated year in and year out for this for a long time.” He stated this would be his family’s library, and that he can’t wait for his infant son (who was in a baby carrier on his chest) to be old enough to use it.
Senator Brian Kavanagh also acknowledged Joe Lentol’s efforts on this project. In addition, Kavanagh revealed the first thing he did once he was nominated for the senate seat he now holds was to participate in the Greenpoint Library’s groundbreaking ceremony. He said, “I love libraries and I love really every library, but especially when a community like this comes together to think through exactly what we need in this community.”
Before Mayor de Blasio cut the ribbon with Linda Johnson, he thanked Council Member Levin and Senator Kavanagh and offered Joe Lentol his warm appreciation and personal thanks for his long career fighting for the community. Then he shared how this library reopening brings hope, “We would be celebrating this as a green library. We would be celebrating this as an example of fighting climate change, protecting our communities, protecting our children and future generations — proving we could overcome some of the mistakes of previous generations and build things the right way to protect future generations. If there were no pandemic, we would celebrate all those things, and we should still celebrate all those things. I am feeling a spirit of rebirth. I am feeling that this is an example that no matter what is thrown at Greenpoint or Brooklyn or New York City we keep coming back.”
After the ribbon was cut Linda Johnson took the microphone to salute Joe Lentol, “Assemblyman Lentol, thank you for your steadfast generosity and loyalty to public libraries. Thank you for dedicating the past four decades to creating and maintaining public spaces and public services for your community. You have left an indelible mark on the City and undoubtedly on the public library system.” Then she presented him with the symbolic Key to the Library.
The assemblyman offered his thanks for all those who worked at and supported the library, and encouraged others to become Friends of their library. He also said, “I used to come here as a kid. It was really a godsend to have a library right here in the neighborhood I grew up in.”
The original Greenpoint Library opened in 1906, and was Brooklyn’s 8th Carnegie library. The original was built in the classic brick and limestone architectural archetype, but in this branch’s case the foundation was found to be failing and too costly to repair. In the 1970’s it was demolished and rebuilt as the one-story iteration that served the community up through June 2017. Here’s to a new beginning that lasts long into the future.
The Greenpoint Library and Environmental Education Center is located at 107 Norman Ave. at Leonard St. It is currently only offering lobby service. The hours of the Greenpoint Library are: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on M, W, F, & Sat and 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays & Thursdays. Sundays they are closed.