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New York Public Library Re-opens Renovated Washington Heights Library

The New York Public Library (N.Y.P.L.) re-opened the Washington Heights Library at 1000 St. Nicholas Avenue on Monday, March 3, 2014. This branch library is housed in a 100-year-old Carnegie library building.

Originally an independent neighborhood library, in 1901 the Washington Heights Library became the Washington Heights Branch of the New York Public Library. [The neighborhood of Washington Heights on the isle of Manhattan in New York City is not to be confused with the small town of Washington Heights, New York, which is in Orange County, north of New York City.] In February of 1914, it moved into its current building, which was designed by Carrere & Hastings.

According to the N.Y.P.L., “The renovated Washington Heights Library features a redesign of one of the largest children’s floors in the NYPL system – now an open, light-filled space that includes children’s materials (books, CDs, and DVDs), as well as an area for programming. The improved first floor accommodates adult and teen users, while the lower level houses an updated community room and a new lab for technology workshops, which was converted from former administrative space.”

The Washington Heights Branch Library now has twenty-five desktop computers, twenty-four Macs, and sixteen laptops available to the public. This is more the triple the number of public computers the library previously had. All three renovated floors have touch-screens that patrons can use for programs.

The 17,000-square-foot-library branch officially re-opened with a public ribbon-cutting ceremony on March 3rd with community leaders and library staff. Residents and students from nearby schools were also invited to participate in the day-long festivities, which include programs for all ages and a birthday cake to celebrate the Washington Heights Library building’s centennial (100th anniversary) the week before.

“It is fitting that today we celebrate both the centennial and renovation of the Washington Heights Library – honoring the past, present, and future of a branch that represents the wealth of services that libraries have and will continue to offer,” said N.Y.P.L. President Tony Marx. “For over 100 years the Washington Heights branch has been a beloved community institution, one where students learn, friends gather, and books inspire. I thank our users for their patience as we worked on the branch and I am proud to present them with their beautiful library, equipped to support the community for years to come.”

Constructed in two stages, the $12,400,000 project covered more than 12,000 square feet of space in the branch library at the intersection of St. Nicholas Avenue and West 160th Street. The New York City Department of Design & Construction managed infrastructure upgrades, such as the installation of a LULA lift and exterior ramp for access to the first floor, in addition to HVAC and fire safety upgrades.

The NYPL then renovated three floors of the 17,000 square foot building. Dattner Architects worked on the system upgrades to the building and the renovation of the first floor and lower level, in addition to installing the new A.D.A.-compliant elevator. Andrew Berman Architect was responsible for the redesign of the second floor children’s room.

The renovation of the Washington Heights Library was made possible by the support of Mayor Bill de Blasio, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, former New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, New York Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, former New York Council Member Robert Jackson, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, United States Congressman Charles B. Rangel, New York State Senator Bill Perkins, New York State Assemblywoman Gabriela Rosa, the NYC Department of Design and Construction, as well as the private support of The Starr Foundation, Cordelia Corporation and an anonymous donor.

“Three cheers for libraries! Public libraries are a vital community resource, and it is thrilling that the Washington Heights branch is now re-opening. Libraries are great for kids, seniors, and everyone in between,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

"The Washington Heights Public Library has served the community well for a hundred years, and with the new renovations, is better equipped to provide valuable service for many more years to come. Libraries strengthen communities and provide a safe learning environment for our youth. I encourage everyone to make frequent use of this place that was built to enrich our lives,” said Congressman Charles B. Rangel

“Today—our students and seniors, our children and families—will rush through the doors of the Washington Heights Library in search of the vast trove of knowledge, programs and enriching services that are once again at their fingertips. I am very pleased that the critical renovations are finally complete at this treasured community enclave and particularly heartened that our library now has additional technological capacity to meet the interconnected needs of our shared constituents,” said Senator Bill Perkins.

“We were delighted to help renovate the Washington Heights Library by providing barrier-free access and a new heating, cooling, and ventilation system. We congratulate our partners at the New York Public Library on the reopening of the Washington Heights branch – may it serve the public well for another hundred years,” said David A. Resnick, A.I.A., Acting Commissioner of the New York City Department of Design & Construction.

“We were pleased to be able to transform this historic library building with a new open, modern interior offering the community cheerful welcoming spaces for the continuing pursuit of knowledge…well into the future,” Joseph Coppola A.I.A., Principal, Dattner Architects.

“The Washington Heights Library will now enter its next Century serving the Upper Manhattan community—transformed from a traditional repository of reading material to a vital community center, digital portal, and multi-cultural resource,” Richard Dattner F.A.I.A., Principal, Dattner Architects.

“Each building in New York City has its own personality. The Washington Heights branch library projects a dignified and respectable presence, calm and aspirational at the same time. In designing the children's library for Washington Heights we sought to create a warm, comfortable, and surprising world within the branch for all the children of the neighborhood. It is my highest reward as an architect to design for an institution such as the NYPL, and to see our work well used by its young patrons for years to come,” said Andrew Berman of Andrew Berman Architect.

The Washington Heights Library is open on Mondays and Wednesdays from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.; on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11:00 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and on Fridays and Sundays from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. It is closed on Sundays.

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