Today’s news:

City agencies get new digs at Borough Hall

With the fourth phase of an $18 million renovation of Borough Hall completed, several city agencies, including the departments of Buildings and Transportation, will be moving into new offices below the borough president's office next week.

"We believe it is a much improved space," said Ilyse Fink, a spokeswoman for the DOB. "The layout is much better. In the current building, we're spread out across several floors. The new office is more condensed."

Fink said the DOB will officially close its old Queens office space in a green building on Queens Boulevard, across the street from the State Supreme courthouse Thursday. The new office in Borough Hall, at 120-55 Queens Blvd. in Kew Gardens, will be open on July 28.

Transportation, Housing Preservation and Development and Environmental Protection also will move from their current offices in privately leased space in Queens to new offices in Borough Hall.

The first phase of renovations of the 62-year-old Borough Hall building began in 1998, after many court facilities that were housed in Borough Hall moved into the neighboring State Supreme courthouse, which had been expanded, said Ken Bainton, a co-founder of the Kouzmanoff Bainton architectural firm that designed the renovations. During this phase, an office for the Queens district attorney's fiscal division was constructed, along with a small DEP office and small police facility.

In the second and third phases of the renovation, an office for the Department of City Planning was built, and mechanical and electrical upgrades to the building were made.

In the fourth phase, which was recently finished, more city agency offices were completed. In the final fifth phase, renovations will be made to the building's public spaces, including the bathrooms and the first floor lobby, which will be outfitted with air conditioning when work begins this summer.

"The challenge was really to design something where you felt you were in a government facility that wasn't threatening and was comfortable to be in," Bainton said.

In the renovations, the designers tried to use materials that would be both attractive and durable, Bainton said. For example, many of the building's renovated walls are made out of stone or oak wood paneling, and the renovated lobby floor will be made out of terrazzo - a material that consists of marble chips mixed with epoxy cement that is traditional in government buildings.      

"The renovation of Queens Borough Hall consists of three separate but interrelated tasks," explained Jan Kouzmanoff, Bainton's partner. "The primary task is the provision of new office space for the various agencies. The second task provides the mechanical and electrical systems upgrades necessary for the reoccupation of the building. The third task, and a main focus of the final construction phase, is the renovation of existing public spaces."

The 190,000-square-foot, five-story Borough Hall building is a long, narrow structure that originally was designed to maximize natural ventilation, Bainton said. To increase the amount of lighting in the long first-floor hallway, designers put in transom windows - two-foot-high windows above doors along the hallway. In addition, three large alcoves that serve as waiting rooms in the DOB area were put in to make the hallway more interesting.

To make it easier for people to obtain necessary permits, permitting offices for various agencies are located close to each other in the renovated area of the building, Bainton said.

Renovations of Borough Hall have proceeded relatively slowly because the project is complicated and work must be done around the agencies that are already in the building, Bainton said. The work was contracted out to five different companies.

"Everybody's still got to stay in business while this is going on," Bainton said. "The goal of the design was to create spaces that were orderly and practical while remaining comfortable for employees and the public."

Reach reporter Tien-Shun Lee by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com, or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

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