|Vol. 12, No. 19
||October 7 - 20,
Community Fights Library Closing
Woodlawn Temporary Space Plan Has Locals Demanding Same
By JORDAN MOSS
Furious over the short notice given by New York
Public Library (NYPL) officials that the Mosholu branch would be closed for eight months
during its renovation, and resentful that alternative space is being found for the
Woodlawn branch while it undergoes similar work, community leaders are demanding that a
temporary Norwood site be acquired.
"We're not prepared to have our children give up an academic year with no library,
and we want some kind of alternative space, and that should have been discussed months and
months and months ago," said Don Bluestone, executive director of the Mosholu
Montefiore Community Center and a member of Community Board 7.
While shuttle bus service is being provided three days a week to the Fordham branch,
Bluestone said that was not good enough. "Busing children to the Fordham branch is
not acceptable to the children of this community."
Councilwoman June Eisland said she has identified "convenient and accessible
space," for a temporary location and was pressing the matter with top library
officials. "I've been pushing like crazy," Eisland said.
The Mosholu branch closed its doors on Sept. 23, with only about two weeks prior notice
given to patrons. However, Woodlawn residents have known for months that their branch was
slated for renovation beginning in November, according to Connie Reilly, president of the
Woodlawn Taxpayers Association, and the NYPL is in the process of identifying an
alternative location. Architectural drawings for the renovation, which is expected to take
one year, were even displayed at the branch, Reilly said.
Mary Elizabeth Wendt, an NYPL official in the Bronx, gave several reasons for the apparent
double standard. First of all, library officials originally thought the work at Mosholu
was going to be completed over a much shorter time period time until they got word from
the city's Department of Design and Construction, the agency overseeing the project, that
it would take several months. Wendt cited poor communication between DDC and the NYPL.
"There is a communication problem and I think the community has every right to be
upset," Wendt said, "but since the construction is coordinated through DDC, we
don't have control. And if they don't give us information, we don't know about it."
She added that the NYPL "hadn't made contingency plans because we didn't know it was
going to be that long a project."
In addition to the lack of information from DDC, Wendt conceded that because there are
currently a large number of library renovation projects underway in the Bronx, she may
have not monitored the situation closely enough. "I probably did not catch on exactly
what the scope of Mosholu was either."
Even if the lines of communication were flowing properly, Wendt said that an alternate
location for Mosholu may have not been in the cards. She cited other Bronx library
rehabilitation projects, some of which involved temporary locations and others that
didn't, usually depending upon the length of the work. Citing another reason more
comprehensive contingency plans were made in Woodlawn, which lies just to the north of
Woodlawn Cemetery, Wendt said Woodlawn is not as accessible to other locations by public
Wendt confirmed that her office is investigating alternative locations in response to the
community's protest and is consulting with Eisland on the matter.
Meanwhile, community residents are keeping up the pressure. At press time, Wendt was
scheduled to attend a meeting of the Bedford Mosholu Community Association on Wednesday,
Two Libraries at a Glance
The Woodlawn branch of the New York Public Library occupies a storefront on Katonah
Avenue, while Mosholu is a full-size branch on East 205th Street in Norwood. According to
Mary Elizabeth Wendt, an associate director in the NYPL's Bronx office, in Fiscal Year
1998 (which ran from July 1, 1997 to June 30, 1998) circulation (number of books taken
out) at Mosholu was 103,137; at Woodlawn it was 61,583. Mosholu staff answered
approximately 45,344 reference questions during that same period and Woodlawn librarians
responded to 41,054 patron queries. At Mosholu, 169,444 people came through the doors
during FY 1998. In Woodlawn, 131,047 people visited the library.
Mosholu will be getting a book detection system, a new elevator, and a community room
upgrade. It will also undergo facade work and receive new windows and doors.
The Mosholu renovation will cost over $460,000. The Woodlawn work, which Wendt said would
involve a "renovation of the whole library space," will cost more than that,
though Wendt did not have the exact figure immediately available.
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