Volume 18 • Issue 52 | May 12 - 18, 2006

Long-overdue Soho library may open at summer’s end

By Alex Schmidt

Nearly two years after ground was broken for the first Soho library branch, opening day is on the horizon. Workers are refacing masonry, painting walls and welding metal awnings in preparation for the big day, which the New York Public Library has said will be in late summer.

The library is on tiny Jersey St., one block south of Houston between Lafayette and Mulberry Sts. Officially called the Mulberry St. Branch, the library will occupy three floors, of a late 19th-century loft building that was once a chocolate factory. The first floor on street level will contain the circulation desk, the next floor down the children’s collection and the bottom floor the reference, adult and young adult fiction and nonfiction collections. The building will have 22 public computers.

“It’s going to be an exciting time for the community,” said Councilmember Alan Gerson, who was chairperson of Community Board 2 when his predecessor Kathryn Freed first initiated plans for a Soho library. During times of budget crisis, the library risked being placed on the backburner. But Gerson, citing Soho’s dearth of community facilities, kept it a priority.

“Everyone has waited so long that they’ll be happy when it opens,” he said. “We’ll have to plan a big community celebration.”

Gayle Snible, a library spokesperson, said community response has been overwhelmingly positive.

“They needed a library and they’re happy they’re getting one,” she said. Snible said the closest branches to the Mulberry St. Branch are Jefferson Market at Sixth Ave. and 10th St., Ottendorfer on Second Ave. near Eighth St. and Hamilton Fish at E. Houston St. and Avenue D — so building a branch in the neighborhood was an obvious necessity.

As a nod to the arts character of Soho and the history of Little Italy, the library will contain special collections of art books and Italian-American heritage books and materials. Public art is slated to line Jersey St.

Work remains on the finishing touches. But given how long the community has waited, Gerson added, cheerfully, “I would be happy if it opens in the fall.”


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