2007-05-30 / Features

New Elmhurst Library Plans Leave Neighbors Cold

BY LIZ GOFF

Rendering of proposed Elmhurst Library, subject to change before building. Rendering of proposed Elmhurst Library, subject to change before building. Queens Library officials unveiled plans to replace the century-old Elmhurst Library with a new, expanded, state-ofthe art facility surrounded by green space at the meeting of the Newtown Civic Association on May 21. Starting from scratch to build the proposed $22 million facility is the only way to proceed with the project, said library officials Peter Magnani and Jimmy Van Bramer.

Association members and neighbors agreed that the existing building is in dire need of repair and that it is too small to serve the growing, multilingual community. City planners said Elmhurst is one of the fastest growing, most diversely populated communities in Queens.

The Elmhurst Library Branch, located on Broadway in the "historic center" of the community, was one of 1,689 free libraries built nationwide between 1883 and 1929 with funds donated by Andrew Carnegie. The Elmhurst branch was opened to the public in 1906 as one of the first Carnegie libraries. The Georgia Revival-style building carried a $46,000 price tag and boasted turn-of-the-century architectural features such as eye windows, balustrades and cornices, most of which have been removed over the years, Magnani said.

Plans for the new library call for a three-story glass and terra cotta tile building surrounded on three sides by green space and gardens. Plans include a two-story, glass encased center lounge, a meeting room with a separate entrance, a third-floor adult area and a glass-enclosed children's room overlooking Broadway.

The new library facility would offer computer and Internet access to the community, while housing more books and providing significant space for new and current multilingual programs for adults and children.

"Take a look at the new Flushing Library," Van Bramer said. "It is a shining example of the progress and advantages we are attempting to create in this community."

Complainants said that the new building would be cold, and featureless compared with the history and design of the existing structure. "Libraries should represent the history of great literature and the people they have served," said Daniel Arias, 28, who said his family has lived in Elmhurst for more than 25 years. "When I was growing up, I always thought of the library as a friend. My parents taught me to respect the building and the privileges it offered me. We need a bigger, more modern library, but it's too bad they can't keep some of the warmth of the existing building in the new design," Arias said.

The plans presented at the meeting are preliminary said a library spokesperson. "The plans could, and probably will be changed before they are finalized." Queens Library officials welcome comments from the community online at www.queenslibrary.org or at 718-990-0700.

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