Save The Elmhurst Carnegie Library! sign now

The Elmhurst Library (86-01 Broadway), a rare surviving Carnegie institution could meet the wrecking ball in 2008 or sometime thereafter. The signers of this petition endorse 1 or both of the following preservation-friendly proposals that would accommodate one of the busiest library branches:

1. Build an annex for the existing Carnegie branch. The Queens Library can survey non-historic sites for a much-needed annex (which may prove most ideal).

2. Preservation & development can co-exist: Designing a sensitive expansion while restoring the existing building. (For example, the Poppenhusen branchs faзade was restored in recent years, while renovating and adaptively reusing the interior).

The Elmhurst Carnegie Library opened March 31, 1906 as a three-bay Georgian Revival, and was designed by the notable architectural firm of Lord & Hewlett. In the early 20th century, the Queens Borough Public Library erected 7 libraries with funding from the Carnegie Foundation, which included the Astoria, Flushing, Elmhurst, Far Rockaway, Poppenhusen, Richmond Hill, and Woodhaven institutions. The Astoria branch is gone in retrospect, since its facade has been obscured by a later addition. The firm also designed the Far Rockaway and Flushing Carnegie branches, which have met the wrecking ball, leaving the Elmhurst branch as the only Lord & Hewlett building extant in Queens.

The Elmhurst Librarys faзade alterations are mimimal but reversible, and passerby sense its distinctive presence on Broadway, which is complemented by an award-winning community garden. There are alternatives to expand the book collection without sacrificing an institution of architectural, cultural, and historical significance; not to mention mature tree plantings. Millions in funding are being allocated by our councilmembers and city agencies for development and redevelopment projects citywide, but why not spend it here to preserve this rare gem?

At a 2007 Newtown Civic Association meeting, James Van Bramer of the Queens Library, explained he is seeking dialogue from the community and preservationists, & if enough people oppose the proposed demolition, he would be open to possibilities along the lines of historic preservation which highlight the much-needed expansion.

The proposed replacements thus far are out-of-context and an insult to history. If built, it would drastically alter the historic fabric of a section in Elmhurst where theres a higher concentration of such buildings (e.g. the landmarked Dutch Reformed Church, St. James Episcopal Church on National Register, etc). The Elmhurst Library is one of few remaining unofficial landmarks left in Elmhurst when faced with the rampant and tasteless development in the neighborhood, and much of Queens for that matter.

Peg Breen, President of The NY Landmarks Conservancy, stated The fruits of the Carnegie gift are one of the great architectural, cultural, and intellectual ornaments of New York City. It is not enough to save some we must try to save them all. Simeon Bankoff, Executive Director of the Historic Districts Council, stated HDC supports the preservation of all existing Carnegie Library branches." On July 11, 2007, Jeffrey Kroessler delivered a speech on behalf of HDC, regarding the legacy of the Carnegie Library and remnants in the boroughs, to further the preservation ethic. It was well-received.

Jeffrey Kroessler's book, Lighting the Way: A Centennial History of the Queens Borough Public Library, 1896-1996, was published in honor of the 100th anniversary in 1996. In August 2007, he composed a brilliant op-ed piece which shouldnt have come to that reality. It is Losing Our Way, which can be accessed as follows: http://hdcvoice.blogspot.com/2007/08/save-elmhurst-public-library.html

The Architecture of Literacy: The Carnegie Libraries of New York City was written by Mary B. Dierickx in 1996. It was a joint project, sponsored by Mayor Giuliani's office, NYC's Depts. of General Services & Design and Construction, the 3 branch libraries, & Cooper Union. If the city proceeded with the demolition of the Elmhurst Library, it would pose a great contradiction.

This one-of-a-kind Carnegie branch is not owned by a private developer, but by the Queens Library in which the public maintains faith, whether it be via management or institution itself. It is imperative for the Queens Library to work with the general public, and continue to establish the community within the community, so we can all continue to open up our minds to the ivory pillars of learning. May the Queens Library consider the above proposals to prevent its demise, and commemorate a significant 100+ year-old noble institution for present & future generations.

For more information on the preservation-friendly proposal, and original letter to James Van Bramer: http://hdcvoice.blogspot.com/2007/11/proposal-to-save-elmhursts-carnegie.html

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Pansy MeyersBy:
Entertainment and MediaIn:
Petition target:
James Van Bramer (Queens Library Director of Government & Community Affairs), Thomas Galante (Queens Library Director), Councilmember Helen Sears, Queens Community Board 4, Assemblymember Markey

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