GREENPOINT – The new Greenpoint Library, originally scheduled to be completed in December 2018, won’t be ready for readers until sometime next summer due to the discovery of subsurface asbestos during construction.
Not only did workers find asbestos at the site, but construction was also slowed due to the unexpected discovery of remnants of the original Carnegie Library, which was built in 1906, said a Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) spokesperson.
The construction site, located at Norman Avenue and Leonard Street, is just a block away from P.S. 34. According to the BPL “the [asbestos removal] work was performed in very safe and secure locations where nobody was permitted, and in strict accordance with Department of Labor requirements. Constant air monitoring was conducted outside the enclosed abatement work areas ensuring that friable asbestos containing material (ACM) was not released.”
Library officials believe all the asbestos work is complete, said the spokesperson.
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The branch is undergoing a complete reconstruction to replace the “undersized and outdated” original, which was torn down last year. A groundbreaking was held in October of last year, celebrating the reconstruction of the site into a modern library focused on environmental stewardship.
But one year later, there doesn’t appear to be too much progress behind the green construction walls. On Wednesday, October 31, the site was quiet when Bklyner visited:
Signs outside the site still list a completion date of December 2018, but it seems clear that the work won’t be done in time. On the library’s website, the completion date was recently updated to reflect the revised timetable.
Along with the asbestos and the remnants of the original structure, construction of the new building’s foundation was delayed by rain. The BPL spokesperson said soil at the site doesn’t drain well and the wet soil has hindered construction.
The building being replaced was one of Brooklyn’s busiest library locations, said Brooklyn Public Library President Linda E. Johnson at the groundbreaking last year. There have been libraries in Greenpoint for the last 111 years, she added, referencing the Carnegie library, which was torn down in the 1970s.
The new library is being built in part with a $5 million grant from the Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund (GCEF), the facility will provide a location for community education on environmental issues and advocacy along with its traditional library functions. The library will offer 300 hours of environmental programming each year.
Designed by Marble Fairbanks, the new building will receive a LEED Gold Building Certification, reducing energy consumption by 80% and saving 50,000 gallons of water per year. It will feature accessible green space and rain gardens on the roof, along with solar panels and rainwater cisterns.
Greenpoint’s troubled environmental history was the impetus for a new library space that focused on environmental education. The Exxon Mobil oil spill in Greenpoint was the largest terrestrial spill in the USA, and a recent study revealed high levels of lead contamination in backyard soil throughout the neighborhood.
While construction continues, a number of alternatives—like a nearby bookmobile and a pop-up library—will be available to Greenpoint residents.