The new Battery Park City Library also has computers, DVDs and CDs, but branch manager Billy Parrott said “some people will always want to hold a book.”
Read all about the B.P.C. Library
By Julie Shapiro
Only one thing is missing from Battery Park City’s sunny, spacious new library, set to open March 15: the musty smell of well-worn books.
“The most exciting thing is having a brand-new collection,” said Billy Parrott, the branch manager, as he gave Downtown Express a tour this week. “We have very, very, very few books taken from other libraries.”
With brightly colored volumes and glossy DVDs filling the shelves, the $6.7 million, 10,000-square-foot library on North End Ave. looked as fresh and orderly as a Borders this week as staff prepared for the grand opening.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Jim Cavanaugh, president of the Battery Park City Authority, who added that he plans to check out the library’s history collection.
The newest branch of the New York Public Library includes a cozy children’s corner with beanbag chairs, separate computer areas for children and adults, a young adult section near the graphic novels and a periodicals reading room overlooking the Hudson River. The orange-themed design by 1100 Architects gives the windowed space a warm, welcoming feeling. In a nod to the neighborhood’s young families, the library has a special area for stroller parking.
In keeping with Battery Park City’s eco-friendly mission, many of the materials used to build and furnish the library had former lives. A noise-dampening carpet on the second floor is made from recycled tires; the seats and backs of the chairs are made from discarded parachute straps; and the floor contains scraps of wood, stone and glass.
Most important, the Battery Park City Branch Library also has books — more than 15,300 of them — along with more than 7,400 non-print items like CDs and DVDs. Readers will be able to find “everything from Plato’s ‘Republic’ to Danielle Steel and everything in between,” Parrott said. The DVDs include popular TV shows like “Big Love” and movies, all free to take out — which could make locals second-guess their Netflix subscription, Parrott said.
While many of New York Public Library’s branches house special collections related to their neighborhood’s history, Battery Park City is too new to merit its own collection, Parrott said. Instead, the branch ordered extra books on finance, because of the proximity to Wall St., and environmental issues, because of the building’s green theme.
Parrott, who previously managed the Jefferson Market branch in the Village, is still finalizing the library’s programming schedule, but he plans to include children’s story time, adult author readings, community movie nights and computer classes. Once it gets warmer, some of the free programs may be held in Teardrop Park, in the library’s backyard.
That programming could get a boost from some extra Goldman Sachs funding, said Leticia Remauro, spokesperson for the B.P.C. Authority. The library plans to spend all of Goldman’s donated $3.5 million on the construction, but the interest that accrued on the donation could be left over, and that money would go to the new branch as well, said Herb Scher, spokesperson for the N.Y.P.L. Local politicians also allocated money to build the library.
Word of the potential for extra money came as a surprise to Community Board 1’s Battery Park City Committee at a meeting Tuesday night. The committee and neighborhood residents fought hard to get funding for the library through several difficult budget cycles.
Maria Smith, a former chairperson of the B.P.C. Committee, recalled the letter-writing campaign led by residents over 10 years ago to convince the N.Y.P.L. that Lower Manhattan needed another branch.
“In the beginning, it was an uphill battle,” Smith said. “They said the community was too small for a library. It didn’t just happen overnight.”
If the library gets extra money, the committee members hope the library will use it for increased hours or more programs, though Tom Goodkind is still hoping for a pair of lions designed by Tom Otterness to flank the building’s entrance. Some board members suggested that the lions be named for Percy Corcoran and Marti Cohen-Wolf, the two residents who fought hardest for the library.
One cost the new B.P.C. branch doesn’t have to worry about is rent — the Battery Park City Authority gave them the space in the Riverhouse condo building for $1 a year through 2069. Two other nonprofits, the Mercycorps Action Center and Poets House, have already opened in the LEED Gold building.
Parrott likened the funding arrangement to the original public libraries founded by Andrew Carnegie. Carnegie provided the money to build thousands of libraries throughout the English-speaking world, but only if the local government paid for the books and operations.
Despite the push toward the Internet and e-books, Parrott is confident that libraries aren’t going anywhere. He noted that neighborhood children excitedly pull their parents over to peek in the windows of the unopened branch, and many adults, too, are loyal to print.
“Some people will always want to hold a book,” Parrott said.
Starting Mon., March 15, the B.P.C. library at 175 N. End Ave. will be open Mondays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays from noon to 8 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The grand opening celebration will take place Thurs., March 18 at 10 a.m., followed by tours of the building and programs for all ages that afternoon.