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Bushwick Library to Get $4M to Fix Roof Where Plaster Fell During Storm

By Serena Dai | September 22, 2014 5:35pm
 The Washington Irving branch of Brooklyn Public Library is in dire need of repair, library officials said.
Washington Irving Library to Receive $4M for Renovations
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BUSHWICK — A Bushwick library that has shut down numerous times in the last year due to a faulty heating system and a leaky roof will soon see an influx of cash to fix its major woes.

The Washington Irvington Branch will get $4 million of the $52 million that the Brooklyn Public Library will receive from the sale of the Brooklyn Heights branch.

The cash will go toward making infrastructure improvements in the branch located at 360 Irving Ave. — including fixing a roof that had its plaster crash into the library this spring, according to George Joseph, assistant vice president of capital planning and facilities management.

A piece of plaster from a weaker part of the deteriorating roof crashed into the staff area during a storm in March, said Joseph and Donna Hubbard, a regional librarian. No one was hurt, but the incident shut down the library for several days, Hubbard said.

The library subsequently moved a preschool program from the first floor to the basement, she said.

"That’s the last straw," Joseph said of the plaster falling.

Meanwhile, boiler breakdowns caused the library to close unexpectedly three or four times this past winter after it lost heat, Hubbard said.

The library serves five local schools, and sudden closures cause problems for students who use the library after shcool, she said.

"It’s probably been a problem for the last six years," she said. "Each time we close, it’s only a day or two, but it does affect the public that uses the branch."

The building was erected in 1923 and was the last one in Brooklyn to be funded by Andrew Carnegie, according to BPL.

Though incremental updates have happened since 2006, including the addition of self-check out stations and air conditioning, the building has not had major renovations for about 20 years, officials said.

"Most of the time, it’s just Band-Aids," Joseph said. "It looks better than it is. Every time there’s a leak, we’ll come in and patch it."

The library has already budgeted $750,000 to make incremental roof improvements, Joseph said, but the new money will go toward making bigger fixes.

It will also upgrade the boiler system, modernize the fire alarm system and make cosmetic changes with any remaining funds.

Money will be transferred toward fixing the branch after the sale of the Brooklyn Heights branch is finalized through the city approval process.

Fixing the roof will require the branch to close for three to six months, Joseph said, while other upgrades may not require the branch to close.

For library staff, fixing the roof means no longer putting out garbage cans and tarp when it rains.

"We’re excited about it," Hubbard said."The staff has been working in this building for a while, and they’ve had the leaks for a while."

Washington Irving is also one of several libraries in the borough adding Saturday service. Starting Oct. 4, the branch will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays.