The Brooklyn Public Library recently celebrated a grand opening for the Greenpoint Library and Environmental Education Center in North Brooklyn. Located at 107 Norman Avenue in Greenpoint, the center includes a new library, a public plaza, science learning centers for students, and flexible congregation spaces.
Activated areas within the building include a diverse collection of books and reading materials, study areas, meeting rooms, a dedicated space for teenagers, lab rooms, and a large community event space.
Outdoor areas include a large public plaza that is specifically designed to channel rainwater runoff to prevent flooding, reading gardens located on a second floor terrace, and a rooftop demonstration garden that will host workshops and educational events. The garden’s carefully curated flora comprises a mix of local trees and grasses native to the area in an effort to minimize environmental displacement and to provide additional educational opportunities.
“We’ve found there’s no substitute for learning directly from the landscape,” said Gena Wirth, design principal at SCAPE. “On all three stories, the library carves out space for hands-on encounters with the geological, ecological, and cultural history of Greenpoint. The plaza and gardens are designed to be accessible for all library patrons in years to come—from child-sized spaces for planting and play to richly detailed civic spaces for shared use, programs, and continued education.”
The entire development is built in accordance with LEED Platinum standards, a stringent sustainable building certification specified by United States Building Green Council, more commonly referred to as USGBC. Energy-efficient building components include high-efficiency ventilation, heating, and cooling systems, rooftop solar panels, and LED lighting throughout.
To further reduce the amount of energy used to maintain the structure’s internal temperature, the façade incorporates solar shading devices, windows that reduce the amount of UV light entering the building.
A 1,500-gallon cistern is perhaps the most prominent sustainable addition to the building. Located on the second floor, the cistern will be used to water the plants surrounding the building and lab experiments.
“Libraries are a great equalizer in New York City, and we’re proud to support dynamic, beautiful, and environmentally sound spaces for the next generation of Brooklynites to learn,” said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. “The Greenpoint Library and Environmental Education Center will be more than an essential free, high-quality resource for families; it will be a bulwark in our fight against climate change and an anchor for this iconic neighborhood for years to come.”
A portion of the construction costs were funded through a $5 million contribution from The Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund, a New York State grant initiative established from settlement monies paid by ExxonMobil following the Greenpoint oil spill. An additional $18 million dollars in funding was provided by the City of New York, the New York City Council, Borough President Adams, Assemblymember Joe Lentol, and the New York State Department of Education.
“Created by money obtained by the State from ExxonMobil for its devastating oil spill, The Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund aims to help reverse a legacy of environmental abuse and neglect in the Greenpoint community,” said New York State Attorney General Letitia James. “The new Greenpoint Library and Environmental Education Center, which received major support from the fund, is an essential institution that will provide environmental understanding, appreciation, and engagement in the community for generations to come.”
As part of local efforts to revitalize to relevance and function of libraries for both young and future generations, the new Greenpoint branch is one of three new Brooklyn libraries. The two additional branches include a location in Brooklyn Heights that was developed in collaboration by Hudson Companies, and another in Sunset Park developed with Fifth Avenue Committee.
“The new Greenpoint Library models the enormous potential of public libraries in the 21st century,” said Linda E. Johnson, president and CEO of Brooklyn Public Library. “With the help of our partners, from the Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund to Marble Fairbanks, we created a space for everyone in the community that is as inspiring as it is versatile.”