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Local library branch closing - Fort Hamilton building to undergo extensive renovation

Good things are worth waiting for. That was the message delivered by library officials during a recent community forum at the Fort Hamilton Library. The Brooklyn Public Library branch at 9424 Fourth Avenue will close at the end of business on Saturday, March 29 so that work can begin on a $3.6 million expansion and renovation. The project will increase the size of the building by 50 percent and aims to return some historic charm to the century-old structure. The rehabilitation is expected to take two years. “I know two years sounds like a long time,” said Brooklyn Public Library executive director Dionne Mack-Harvin, who urged the community to be patient. Mack-Harvin noted that receiving city funding for additional public space was “pretty rare for us.” The Honorable Alice Fisher Rubin, a member of the Brooklyn Public Library board of trustees, said the improvements would be worth the wait. “We understand the inconvenience to the community and we’re making every effort to make sure there are still services available,” Rubin said. “But if you hang in there, I think you’ll be very happy with the new library.” Architectural renderings were placed on display at the March 15 community meeting. Lay Cheng Lee, the library’s Director of Capital Planning and Facilities Management, gave an overview of the project. “We will be extremely sensitive to make sure that we don’t destroy its character,” Lee said. The simple brick building is an original Andrew Carnegie library. The philanthropist’s $1.6 gift enabled the Brooklyn Public Library to build 21 branch libraries between 1901 and 1923. Fort Hamilton was one of the first communities to benefit from Carnegie’s gift. The branch on Fourth Avenue was dedicated in 1907. Renovation project highlights include a rear and side extension that will increase public and staff space from 3300 to 5000 square feet. The addition will include a new community meeting room. The “historically sensitive” interior renovation will include a new vestibule, painting and decorative finishes. There will be new windows, lighting and shelving. Additional computers will be available to patrons as well as new ADA compliant restrooms. Interior work also includes upgraded ventilation, heating and air-conditioning. The exterior renovation includes brick re-pointing, cornice restoration and landscaping. Library officials thanked City Council-member Vincent Gentile for helping to secure the necessary funding. Gentile said that the extra public meeting space was needed by the community. The councilman also noted that historic photographs from the early 1900’s show a building that was “far more beautiful and ornate” than the one that exists today. “Bit by bit we’ve covered up some of the beauty that was here,” Gentile said. “The renovation will try to bring it back to the original state as much as possible.” The renovated library is expected to open in the spring of 2010. Until then, staff from the Fort Hamilton branch will be reassigned to neighboring libraries. During the closure, the Brooklyn Public Library “Bookmobile” will provide service every Monday between 11am and 4pm in front of the Fort Hamilton branch, beginning on March 31. The Bookmobile bus is a travelling collection of books. You can sign up for library cards, as well as reserve, check out and return books. The Bookmobile also houses two laptop computers. During the closure, programs currently offered to children, young adults, seniors and other patrons will be offered at other nearby libraries and the St. Patrick’s Msgr. Parks Center at 418 95th Street. Outreach at local schools and community organizations will continue. Library users may use nearby libraries: Bay Ridge Library, 7223 Ridge Boulevard, 718-748-5709. Dyker Library, 8202 13th Avenue, 718-748-6261. McKinley Park Library, 6802 Fort Hamilton Parkway, 718 748 8001. New Utrecht Library, 1743 86th Street, 718-236-4086.

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