Library Closing Takes Residents by Surprise
By HANNAN ADELY
The New York Public Library's (NYPL) Mosholu branch on East 205th Street in Norwood announced last week that, effective Sept. 20, it would close its doors for eight months while undergoing renovations. In the long run the building will be modernized and made accessible for the handicapped. But, in the meantime, the temporary closing will be a tremendous inconvenience, library patrons say.
According to Mary Elizabeth Wendt, associate director of Bronx libraries for the NYPL, water leakage problems rendered the library's auditorium/community room unusable. The room will get "all of the things that make it a good programming space," Wendt said, like new lighting and a film screen. It will also get a paint job and a new floor. In the auditorium, the library typically hosts a variety of programs for children and adults in film, music, books and arts and crafts. Programs also include sessions with authors and informational meetings with organizations and city agencies. The branch's programs will be discontinued during the closing.
Under federal law, any public building that undergoes renovation must be made handicapped-accessible. So, during the eight months of work, the city will expand bathrooms, build ramps and install an elevator.
Wendt said the city has been plotting out the library's renovations for several years. Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer and City Councilwoman June Eisland appropriated $460,000 between 1994 and 1999 to be used for the rehab work. Plans were then developed at the city's Department of Design and Construction. But according to Ann Alexander, the branch's head librarian, staff were notified about the closure just over a month ago, giving them little time to get the word out to the public. (Alexander and the rest of the library's staff will be reassigned to other libraries during the renovation period.)
Signs now hang in the library's corridor and notices have been sent to local schools, to Community Board 7 and to local elected officials. But Barbara Stronczer, a member of the board and president of the Bedford Mosholu Community Association, said the late announcement took the community by surprise. "We're very upset that it took them this long to let us know," she said. Stronczer also complained that initial fliers said nothing about alternative facilities or planned bus services.
To compensate for the closing, the NYPL is offering free shuttle-bus service between the Mosholu Library and the Fordham Library Center at 2556 Bainbridge Ave., near Fordham Road. Buses will run on Mondays from 1 to 6:30 p.m., on Wednesdays from 12 to 5:30 p.m., and on Saturdays from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Buses from Mosholu Library will leave on the hour and return on the half hour. Residents will need to present a library card to get on the bus.
A statement released by Eisland's office said that "at the very least shuttle bus services will be provided," and that the councilwoman "is working with library officials to explore additional options."
The library didn't shift to another facility in Norwood, Wendt said, "because we don't have enough funding to rent a temporary space."
But the shuttle is no solution, say some Norwood residents. "It's terrible. I come here once or twice a week," said Mary Hernandez. "I try to get here early because a lot of the good books go early."
Stronczer said she is worried about where the schoolchildren will study. "To say they're going to close for a whole academic year -- every time I go to the library after school it's filled," she said, adding that Community Board 7 plans to further investigate the situation.
Alexander said the library gets hundreds of visitors each day. "It's very busy," she said. "People are really going to miss the library."
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