SNFL – NYPL. Photo by Max Touhey

The Library revealed its completely-transformed central circulating branch the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library in Midtown, opened a new, larger Roosevelt Island Library, nearly completed a brand new Staten Island branch, and launched full renovations of five original Carnegie libraries in high-needs communities

The New York Public Library provided New Yorkers with over $335 million worth of new, enhanced, repaired, or expanded public space in 2021, strengthening the city’s social infrastructure and giving all people increased access to free, inspiring, and much-needed places to learn, gather, and grow. 

The highlight of the Library’s 2021 capital construction program was the opening of its critically-acclaimed, completely-transformed central circulating library the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library, offering seven floors of books, programming spaces, and classrooms for all ages. Communities in Roosevelt Island, Lower Manhattan, and Morningside Heights also received new, renovated, or expanded spaces.

The Library also completed upgrades to Gottesman Hall in the iconic Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street to allow for the opening of the system’s first permanent exhibition of gems from its research collections, the Polonsky Exhibition of The New York Public Library’s Treasures, which opened in September 2021.  

The Polonsky Exhibition of The New York Public Library’s Treasures

In addition, the Library made $2.8 million in repairs to 22 branches across its system, which serves the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island. 

In terms of future projects, the Library restarted construction stalled by the pandemic and has now nearly completed the Charleston Library, a completely new branch on Staten Island slated to open in early 2022 (likely February). Charleston will be the 14th library serving Staten Islanders. Improvement projects at Jefferson Market, Mott Haven, and others are also nearly completed and will conclude in early 2022.

In addition, the Library kicked off construction of a brand new Inwood Library, and launched complete renovations of five original Carnegie libraries located in high-needs communities. Utilizing $100 million of funding allocated in 2016 as part of the City’s 10-year capital plan, the Library will modernize and expand public space at the Port Richmond Library in Staten Island, the Fort Washington and 125th Street Libraries in Manhattan, and the Hunts Point and Melrose Libraries in the Bronx. 

All of these projects rely on support from New York City and, in the case of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library, private donors. The Library partners with a variety of agencies to execute its capital vision, including the City’s Department of Design and Construction, the New York City Economic Development Corporation, and the New York City Housing Preservation and Development, among others. 

“Following a year of unprecedented isolation, it is so important that public libraries offer New Yorkers inspiring, welcoming, functional, beautiful spaces to gather, learn, and grow,” said Anthony W. Marx, president of The New York Public Library. “With the strong support of New York City and donors such as the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, we have been able to make real progress this year updating and enhancing our extensive footprint of neighborhood branches to ensure they can best serve our communities now in this moment and for generations to come. And there is so much more to come.”

The work in 2021 continues progress made over the last several years, including:

  • The opening of a new Van Cortlandt Library in July 2019. The branch on Cannon Place, designed by Andrew Berman Architects, is double the size of the former one-room branch, and includes dedicated spaces for children, teens, adults, and programming. The design has won several awards, including an AIA New York Chapter Award.
  • The opening of a new Macomb’s Bridge Library in Harlem in January 2020. The new location, designed by Michielli + Wyetzner Architects, is nearly five times the size of the previous 685-square-foot branch, which was constructed in a former studio apartment in a New York City Housing Authority complex. The design has won several awards, including a Docomomo US 2021 Modernism in America Award of Merit, an AIA New York Chapter Merit Award in the Interiors Category, and an AIA NY State design award.
  • New branches or renovations for the Kingsbridge and Woodstock Libraries in the Bronx, the Washington Heights and 53 Street Library in Manhattan, and the Stapleton Library in Staten Island. It is clear from these examples that improved spaces lead to increased use:
    • Washington Heights in Manhattan was nearly fully renovated in 2014. In its first full year post-renovation versus its last full year pre-renovation, it saw a 47% increase in visits, a 45% increase in circulation, and a 105% increase in program attendance.
    • The 53rd Street Library remains one of Library system’s most visited and used branched
    • Stapleton Library in Staten Island was fully renovated in 2013. In its first full year post-renovation versus its last full year pre-renovation, it saw program attendance increase 177 percent, visits increase 33 percent, and circulation increase 51 percent, according to the report.
    • Kingsbridge Library in the Bronx saw an 80 percent increase in visits, a 76% increase in circulation, and a 90% increase in program attendance after its 2011 renovation.

More detail on 2021 projects below:

  • The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library: The Library’s central circulating branch on 40th Street and Fifth Avenue, formerly called the Mid-Manhattan Library, was renovated and completely transformed with generous support from New York City and a landmark $55 million grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF)—the second largest one-time individual gift in The New York Public Library’s 127-year history. The building’s modern interior and overall inspiring design is by Dutch architect Francine Houben of Mecanoo architects, a “library whisperer” who also designed the renovation of the Martin Luther King Library in Washington DC, among others, along with the unique expertise of renowned New York City-based firm Beyer Blinder Belle and partner Elizabeth Leber. The light-filled building, which officially opened in July 2021, has a 26,000 square foot floor dedicated to children and teens, approximately 44,000 square foot of open library space, capacity for 400,000 books, double the seats of Mid-Manhattan and 20,000 additional square feet, the only free publicly-accessible rooftop in terrace in Midtown, the 20,000-square-foot Pasculano Learning Center for tech training, ESOL, career services, and other adult learning opportunities, and the 21,000-square-foot Thomas Yoseloff Business Center. The building is also filled with public and functional art, including an inspiring ceiling installation by artist Hayal Pozanti, and special chairs created by renowned furniture designed Thos. Moser.
  • The Roosevelt Island Library: In January 2021, the Library opened a new 5,200-square-foot branch for the growing Roosevelt Island community, replacing the former one-room library. Designed by Smith-Miller + Hawkinson Architects and managed by the New York City Department of Design and Construction, the new $7.8 million library offers double the space of the former location, a separate children’s area, a teen area, a reading room for adults, 16,000 books to browse, 29 dedicated computer workstations or laptops, and a community room, among other amenities. 
  • Inwood Library: In September 2021, ground was officially broken on a New York City project that will include a new 20,000 square foot branch for the Inwood community. The new modern library, which will replace the aging and outdated former branch and will maximize space to allow for increased amenities,, will offer books, rooms for classes and programs, computers, and quiet spaces for all ages. The new branch will be part of a project called The Eliza, which will also offer the community 174 units of affordable housing among other important amenities. Partners on the project include the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development, the New York City Housing Development Corporation, Robin Hood, the Community League of the Heights, The Children’s Village, Ranger Properties, Housing Workshop, and Alembic Community Development. The Library opened a temporary site across the street from the project to serve the community while construction is ongoing. The branch is expected to open in 2023.
  • Charleston Library: Staten Island will get its 14th branch library in January 2022, when the 10,000-square-foot Charleston Library opens in the Bricktown Commons Shopping Center. The $17 million branch, designed by Ikon 5 Architects and the first Net Zero library in New York City, will offer the community flexible spaces for a variety of uses, a children’s room with computers, storytime area, stroller parking, and bathroom, a teen area with computers and lounge space, an adult reading room with computers, seats, park views, on-site programs, classes, and workshops for all, a solar panel array on the roof, along with other energy saving measures, making it the first Net Zero library in New York City, and the artwork installation “Curiouser” by Mark Reigelman, commissioned by the Department of Cultural Affairs Percent for Art program.
  • Bloomingdale Library Upgrades: In August 2021, the Library completed a $3 million improvement project at the Bloomingdale Library in Morningside Heights. The work, managed by the New York City Department of Design and Construction, included the addition of a dedicated teen room that allows teens to talk, engage in group study, use computers, or work independently without disturbing other patrons. The branch also received much-needed upgrades to the second floor restrooms and new drinking fountains.
  • New Amsterdam Library Upgrades: In July 2021, the New Amsterdam Library reopened following $4.2 million in uprades, include new ADA bathrooms, new ADA doors, new cooling systems, upgrades to the fire and sprinkler systems, new floors, and overall design upgrades, including an exposed brick vaulted ceiling.
  • Launch of Carnegie Renovations: In 2021, the Library broke ground on five projects to completely renovate five original Carnegie libraries in high-needs communities: Port Richmond in Staten Island, 125th Street and Fort Washington in Manhattan, and Hunts Point and Melrose in the South Bronx. The projects, which will preserve the historic character of the historic branches while modernizing the interior and maximizing / expanding public space to best serve today’s patrons, are being funded with $100 million from the City’s 10-year capital plan, allocated in 2016. The architecture firms managing the designs (which were informed by community surveys) are Cannon Design (Port Richmond, 125th Street, and Fort Washington) and Mitchell Giurgola (Hunts Point and Melrose). All of the renovations will adhere to Carnegie design standards developed by the Library and Mitchell Giurgola. 

About The New York Public Library
The New York Public Library is a free provider of education and information for the people of New York and beyond. With 92 locations—including research and branch libraries—throughout the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island, the Library offers free materials, computer access, classes, exhibitions, programming, and more to everyone from toddlers to scholars, and has seen record numbers of attendance and circulation in recent years. The New York Public Library serves nearly 17 million patrons who come through its doors annually and millions more around the globe who use its resources at nypl.org. To offer this wide array of free programming, The New York Public Library relies on both public and private funding. Learn more about how to support the Library at nypl.org/support.