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"When I was a kid, we used to put on plays here," said the Community Board 5 chairman, standing in its basement auditorium. "If we weren't in the playground, we were in the library."
Arcuri wants future generations to enjoy the 67-year-old library too, so he's raising cash to restore the Renaissance-style building, which decades of under-funding and stringent building codes have left weathered and partially shuttered. Arcuri, vice president of the Queens Library Foundation, kicked off a fund-raiser in January to generate $1.3 million. But so far the cash has been trickling in. He has raised just $2,775 - not even enough for a new carpet on the first floor.
"We're still collecting nickels and dimes," Arcuri said. "We're looking for a great patron who might give us a million dollars."
The board chairman will lobby state and federal representatives for funds. But he said things are tight all over.
There is little support for preserving Ridgewood's historic edifices, he said. For example, the owners of the nearly century-old Annunciation Episcopal Church on Cooper Avenue filed a demolition notice last week with the board, he said. And it took years of bureaucratic arm-twisting to get the city's landmarks commission to designate Stockholm Street a historic district.
Just like those other sites, he said the Glendale Branch Library on Myrtle Avenue "really is a national treasure, the way it's designed and built. We really need to start saving our national treasures."
Built in 1936, the library evokes an Italian villa, featuring a Spanish tile roof, a replica frieze from the Davanzatti Palace in Florence, and enclosed courtyard garden. Medallions depicting a half dozen literary giants adorn the outside wall.
While the library is fully functioning and well-maintained - its circulation ranks 39th out of the 62 Queens Branch Libraries - Arcuri wants to restore it to its former glory.
He said $1.3 million would fund an architectural makeover, making the whole building handicapped accessible. He would like to reopen the children's downstairs library and outdoor garden, build an elevator and install an electronic book-keeping system.
The changes would bring the library up to date while preserving its past, he said.
To make a donation, contact the Queens Library Foundation at 89-11 Merrick Blvd., Jamaica NY 11432. Or call 718-480-4273.
Reach reporter Matthew Monks by e-mail at email@example.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.
©2004 Community Newspaper Group
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