The new Greenpoint Library and Environmental Education Center is open for business, Brooklyn Public Library leadership announced today at a socially-distant celebration outside the branch.
Designed by Marble Fairbanks, with landscaping by SCAPE, the library is twice the size of the previous branch, encompassing more than 15,000 S/F with significantly enlarged indoor and outdoor spaces for both everyday library services and expanded activities for the exploration of the environment.
Although the Coronavirus has initially limited the library to grab-and-go service, the opening of the branch to patrons nonetheless represents a major milestone in BPL’s effort to redevelop or revitalize a third of its branches, as part of the largest slate of rebuilding Brooklyn’s libraries since the Carnegie era.
“The new Greenpoint Library models the enormous potential of public libraries in the 21st century,” said Linda E. Johnson, President and CEO of Brooklyn Public Library.
“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.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio added, “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.”
The new building – which is targeting LEED Platinum certification – represents the most modern thinking about the way that libraries are used by patrons today with flexible spaces that can be used for solo study, small group work or larger meetings; enough electrical outlets and laptop space for tech-enabled work; and even a dedicated space for teens, whose needs were under-met in previous decades with the traditional library layout of children’s reading rooms and adult spaces.
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 more.
Funded with $5 million provided by the Office of the New York State Attorney General and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation through the Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund, as well as $18 million in other sources including the City of New York, the New York City Council, Borough President Adams, Assemblymember Joe Lentol and the New York State Department of Education, the library will in part be dedicated to environmental education, activism and awareness serving all who share a passion not just for protecting the environment but for building a safe and sustainable world.
The physical space itself–which is replete with details that bring the natural world to patrons’ fingertips – will serve as a teaching tool:
- 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 NW to SE 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 the 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;
- The 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 a critical habitat for birds and insects, who in turn, distribute the seeds throughout the neighborhood;
- A second-floor cistern can capture and store up to 1,500 gallons of rainwater, which the library will use for lab experiments and to water the plants on both the second and third floor — helping divert rain water 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 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 will 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.
Other environmental elements of the building include energy-efficient lighting, including LED lights and light sensors on the lower level; use of energy-efficient glazing, solar shading devices, well-insulated enclosure panels and materials; use of sustainable, durable interior finishes with low VOC emissions and high non-toxic recycled content; and reduction of indoor and outdoor water consumption by using only WaterSense label low-flow plumbing fixtures.
Developed as a unique community partnership, the Greenpoint Library and Environmental Education Center is also a key example of how libraries are using creative funding mechanisms to deliver libraries whose resources are catered to local communities:
In Brooklyn Heights, the library partnered with Hudson Companies to deliver a dramatically-expanded, more modern library for the local community anchoring a mixed-use building, helping close its capital needs gap systemwide and bring online a brand new neighborhood branch in DUMBO/Farragut;
In Sunset Park, BPL is working with the Fifth Avenue Committee to deliver a modern branch nearly twice the size of the previous one, with enough family space and multilingual materials for one of the busiest branches in the system, as well as affordable housing for local residents and survivors of domestic violence;
In Crown Heights, the library is partnering with the Brooklyn Children’s Museum to move its Brower Park branch, to the Museum – helping to supplement BCM’s existing educational efforts for Brooklyn’s children.