The Green New & Improved Greenpoint Library & Environmental Education Center Is Open

Greenpoint Library. (Photo via Brooklyn Public Library)

GREENPOINT – The new Greenpoint Library, which is also the Environmental Education Center, opened its doors today after the original library was demolished three years ago.

The library, located at 107 Norman Ave, was closed in 2017 to make way for a $15 million revamp to transform it into a green building with gardens and an education center. It was funded with $5 million from the NYS Attorney General’s office and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation through the Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund, and $18 million came from the City of NY, the NYC Council, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Assembly Member Joe Lentol and the NYC Department of Education.

The new structure includes the following:

  • Outside, on the plaza, a bioswale – a channel designed to convey and store rainwater runoff – will help reduce flooding and avert pollutants from our waterways into the ground below, and help teach about physical preparedness for climate change;
  • Glacial outcroppings in front of the library will help interpret the geological history of the area, telling the story of glacial erratics, tracing the northwest to southeast of the Laurentide Ice Sheet during its expansion across Brooklyn approximately 18,000 years ago;
  • The large, open spaces inside the library utilize displacement ventilation, a highly-efficient heating and cooling system that introduces a large amount of air into space at a low velocity; our bodies attract the air, creating individualized “thermal plumes” around each person, delivering fresh air efficiently through all seasons;
  • Four windows on the first floor provide a way to learn about the sun and the seasons. At exactly 12 p.m., during the solstices and the equinoxes, light shines perfectly into these rectangular windows and onto the floor;
  • The library’s three meeting rooms bring the outdoors inside: each room features a wood wall containing the different species of trees native to the Greenpoint neighborhood- ash, walnut, and red oak. All of the wood used in the library is Forest Stewardship Council-certified;
  • A second-floor reading garden is a place for talks and performances or to enjoy a book in the sunshine. A large sculpted planting bed surrounds the area with native and fruit-bearing shrubs, offering both food and critical habitat for birds and insects, which in turn, distribute the seeds throughout the neighborhood;
  • A second-floor cistern can capture and store up to 1,500 gallons of rainwater. The library will use for lab experiments and water the plants on both the second and third floor — helping divert rainwater from the sewer system and reduce tap water usage. Rainwater not held here will flow from the roofs down to the plaza below and filter through the bioswale or drain into a detention tank;
  • An interactive, educational energy use tracking screen on the second floor will showcase the building’s energy usage in real-time and the energy generated by the solar panels;
  • Installed on a canopy structure above mechanical equipment, the library’s solar panel modules can collect over 15 kilowatts of energy at once, just from the sunlight. Over the course of one year, they can produce over 19,000 kilowatts, which help power the library. The modules are bifacial, meaning they can collect energy from both sides of the panel: sunlight from above and from light reflected off the roof;
  • A ‘demonstration garden’ on the roof can be used by students and community groups in the area, who will choose, alongside library staff, what and when to plant, and help take care of the plants throughout the year, watching the plant life cycle in real-time. Surrounding the demonstration area, a pollinator garden is planted with sedum beds that evoke the neighborhood’s agricultural history.
The new kids’ space at the library. (Photo via Brooklyn Public Library)

“Libraries are a great equalizer in New York City, and we’re proud to support dynamic, beautiful, and environmentally sound spaces for the next generation of Brooklynites to learn,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “The Greenpoint Library and Environmental Education Center will be more than an essential free, high-quality resource for families – it will be a bulwark in our fight against climate change and an anchor for this iconic neighborhood for years to come.”

Because of COVID-19, all NYC public libraries are currently limited to the grab-&-go services, but once it is safe enough to do so, the library will be fully open for use. The new 15,000 square feet of space (twice the previous library) will also be used for education purposes. It will highlight the Greenpoint Environmental History Project, which is dedicated to documenting and preserving Greenpoint’s environmental history through oral histories and community scanning. It was designed by Marble Fairbanks, with landscaping by SCAPE.

The second-floor outdoor space. (Photo via Brooklyn Public Library)

“The new Greenpoint Library models the enormous potential of public libraries in the 21st century,” Linda E. Johnson, President, and CEO of Brooklyn Public Library, said.  “With the help of our partners, from the Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund to Marble Fairbanks, we created a space for everyone in the community that is as inspiring as it is versatile. In 2020, in Brooklyn and beyond, we need more libraries like this one: that make vital knowledge and beautiful design accessible to all, that empower people from all walks of life to come together and build a more sustainable, more just world.”

The library also includes lab spaces for interactive projects, a large community event space, lounge seating, small meeting rooms, and outdoor spaces–including reading and demonstration gardens and a first-floor plaza–for programs, and LED lights and light sensors. It is truly a greenspace.

“Congratulations to the Brooklyn Public Library on the opening of their new Greenpoint branch. The center’s commitment to environmental education, showcased by their sustainable design features and interactive spaces, is especially significant as our city faces a future of increasingly frequent storms, coastal flooding, extreme heatwaves, and other effects of climate change,” Adams said. “As someone who believes in the value of hands-on educational opportunities for children, as well as neighborhood spaces that help to educate and engage us as empowered communities, I am excited to see all that this library will bring to the families of Greenpoint.”

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Zainab Iqbal

Zainab is a staff reporter at Bklyner who sometimes writes poetry in her free time || zainab@bklyner.com

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