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Library officials let go of historic Jamaica building

The Queens Borough Public Library system will not reclaim the historic Central Library building that has served as the Queens Family Courthouse for the past 30 years because it wants to conserve capital funds for about 65 other projects across the borough, library officials said.

The building at 89-14 Parsons Blvd. was returned to the library last week after the new Family Court was opened on Jamaica Avenue, but the institution decided not to go forward with a capital project to renovate the building and establish specialized business and technology libraries, said library Director Gary Strong.

"Unfortunately, the fiscal situation in the wake of 9/11 has cut already-approved capital projects by 55 percent, and we have to turn our attentions to more urgent needs," Strong said in a statement. "We have reluctantly concluded that the timeline for restoring and reoccupying the Parsons Boulevard building is unrealistic in this budget climate and have withdrawn our hold on the property."

The library system and its cultural and educational programs received $67 million from the city in fiscal 2002 and more than $6 million from the state, making up the bulk of its $95 million budget, according to a financial report from the library. The institution was spared any major new cuts this year under Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposed budget.

The Queens Borough Public Library, which has the largest circulation in the United States, had planned to move the main branch facilities, now located at 89-11 Merrick Blvd. in Jamaica, into the restored Parsons Boulevard building. New reference resources focused on business and technology were also slated for the project, Strong said.

"It had been our hope to expand library services in Queens and give more support to the business, industry and technology sectors," he said. "The historic Central Library building on Parsons Boulevard in revitalized downtown Jamaica would have been the perfect site."

Instead, the library is hoping to conserve the funding that would have gone toward that renovation and apply it to more than 60 capital improvement projects that have been planned for the system's 63 branches. Some of the projects include the long-awaited rehabilitation of the Poppenhusen branch, expansion of the Cambria Heights facility, and the construction of a new branch in Long Island City.

The Family Court building, which was converted from its library mission in the mid-1970s, will return to city stewardship, under the Department of Administrative Services, said Warner Johnston, an agency spokesman.

The city is looking at options for the building, including placing another Queens-based agency there, he said. If no tenants are a good match for the building, it may ultimately be placed on the auction block, Johnston said.

"The city is exploring what the best use of that building would be," he said.

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com, or by phone at 1-718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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