After City Approval, Park Slope Library Gets Back To The Garden

After City Approval, Park Slope Library Gets Back To The Garden
Park Slope Library gardens
Photo via Google Maps

The Park Slope Library is getting a major upgrade and a furry, funny friend in the near future.

The individual landmark located at 431 6th Avenue will be getting a reading circle, complete with new benches, a garden, and eventually a statue of beloved children’s book character Knuffle Bunny, who’s author, Mo Willems is a former Park Slope resident. Plans were approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission at a public hearing in its Lower Manhattan headquarters on Tuesday, January 5.

“The inclusion of a Knuffle Bunny bronze statue as a part of the StoryGarden’s plans does require a separate track of approvals. However I’m absolutely confident that those plans will evolve parallel to the construction of the garden and story theater and that we’ll be able to celebrate both the completion of the Garden and the installation of the Knuffle Bunny at the same time,” said Christopher Franceschelli, co-president of Friends of the Park Slope Library. “It’s great to see a project which has such full support from both the community as well as the library.”

Franceschelli also noted that Knuffle Bunny’s creator Mo Willems “is also firmly behind our efforts and has already furnished us with an initial sketch for the statue’s design.“

According to blueprints drawn up by the City Department of Design and Construction (DDC), the reading circle will be on the branch’s lawn for story hours with the Knuffle Bunny looking over guests.

Construction on the garden is scheduled to begin this spring. However, a timeline for the statue’s construction has not yet been given.

“Now that one week ago we’ve received Landmarks Commission approval, we are hoping that construction may begin early as late spring and be completed by the end of summer,” Franceschelli said. “That would be a remarkable achievement for a process that usually takes three or more years from inception to completion — and reflects the real cooperation between the City’s Department of Design and Construction and Brooklyn Public Library — as well as the fact that this is the first project which is being designed entirely in-house by DDC staff.”

The amphitheater will have bluestone stating and a circular gravel stage. Not only will there be lights built into the bisecting semi-circle low-rise walls illuminating the walkway to the seats, but there will also be an outdoor section for stroller parking installed as well. The reading circle will be located in the side and rear yards along 9th Street.

The new planters will be used for a multi-generational edible garden program.

The DDC’s design also includes honey locust trees for natural shade, a seating area for seniors, and the replacement of tall shrubs with smaller greenery to make for a more appealing scenery to passerby.

Councilmember Brad Lander allocated $250,000 in funding for the reading circle and community garden.

One of the first “Carnegie libraries” built in Brooklyn, the construction of the library came from a generous donation of $5.2 million by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie for public library branches to be built throughout the five boroughs during the early 20th century. $1.6 million went to that branch.

The Park Slope branch was originally called the Prospect Branch and designed by Raymond Almirall, who designed three other Carnegie libraries as well and was also the secretary of the Brooklyn Carnegie Committee’s Architects’ Advisory Commission.

“There’s something wonderful about a project that makes the wide resources of the library even more available to the the community and fills our needs — and allows the branch’s effective reach to extend beyond those stately doors,” said Franceschelli. “I know that our children’s librarians are already working on all sorts of creative and multiple uses for the space, not only story hours and gardening programs but activities which will broaden kids’ experience of their neighborhood.”

Franceschelli continued to explain that the outdoor areas will not be limited to children’s activities. “The garden will welcome elder and other members of the community so that we can make this an attractive, safe, and truly multi-generational outdoor space which doesn’t really exist anywhere else in Brownstone Brooklyn.”

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