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CB6 Pushes for Expansion of Rego Park Library Amid Boom in Demand

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | March 19, 2013 8:32am

QUEENS — A library in Rego Park is so popular the local community board is making enlarging it a top priority.

The branch is one of several in Queens that are in the process of undergoing an expansion.

New library buildings are being constructed in Glen Oaks, Elmhurst, Hunters Point and Far Rockaway, according to data provided by Queens Library.

Major renovations are also being conducted at eight branches in Queens, including three damaged by Hurricane Sandy, and the Kew Gardens Hills branch, which is being expanded.

The Rego Park branch is among the most popular in the borough — fueled in part by its popularity among immigrants, according to the Queens Public Library. “It’s number 9 or number 10 in circulation out of 62 [branches],” said Joanne King, communications director for the Queens Library system.

Community Board 6, which covers Forest Hills and Rego Park, has been pushing for the expansion for many years, and last week, CB6 made the project its primary capital request as part of a list of recommendations sent by each community board to the Office of Management and Budget, said Frank Gulluscio, district manager at Community Board 6. 

While making the list, CB6 decided that expanding the branch was more important than requesting funds for catch basin cleanups, upgrading sewers, or reconstructing medians and cracked sidewalks, the board said.

The library is used by many Rego Park residents, including the elderly, students and immigrants, including many Russian-speaking residents who are able to browse a large section of books in their native tongue.

“There is a huge immigrant population that uses that branch, and they use it for everything,” Gulluscio said.

Long-time patrons agreed that the situation in the branch has become worse over the years. “It’s always crowded and there is never enough seating,” said Uri Shamir, a retired Rego Park resident, who says he has used the library a couple of times a week for over 20 years.

He said the library plays a very important role in Rego Park, but that lack of space is a challenge, especially after hours at the branch were cut last year, he said.

Often times, he said, there is a line of 20 to 30 people waiting for the library to open in the morning. “In the summertime, when the kids are off, it’s impossible to find a place,” he said. “It’s easier to sit outside.”

Nathan Davidov, 17, who attends Forest Hills High School, said he uses the library for school work. “I get books, databases,” he said. “It’s very useful, but it is always crowded."

A total of $3.8 million has been committed towards the project, according to the library. The money came from local Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz and Queens Borough President Helen Marshall.

"This new and larger Rego Park branch is much-needed. The current facility is a victim of its success and needs room to expand," Marshall said.

But the branch has a long way to go.

King said that the process of expanding the capacity at the Rego Park library may take up to 10 years.

The library, King said, is exploring various options, including analyzing whether it is possible to expand the current building or if it will be necessary to build a new one.

“If we were to take the building down to the ground and start over from scratch, it would cost approximately $20 million,” King said.  “But we haven’t designed the building… That’s an average based on how much it normally costs per square foot."