New push to rename relocated Van Nest Library

New push to rename relocated Van Nest Library

Photo by Ben Kochman

The odds are beginning to stack in favor of Pelham Parkway’s push to rename its local library.

A trio of politicians is urging the city’s bookkeepers to turn the page and give Pelham Parkway’s library branch — still recognized as the “Van Nest Library” decades after it moved north out of Van Nest to prime Pelham Parkway territory—a name to reflect the neighborhood it serves.

East Bronx electeds Rep. Joe Crowley and Councilman Jimmy Vacca have thrown their support behind the local campaign, alongside Queens Councilman Costa Constantinides, who chairs the Council’s subcommittee on libraries.

Together the electeds penned a letter Feb. 20 urging Dr. Anthony Marx, president of the New York Public Library, to adopt the wishes of the local community board and “change that name already!”

“Other communities have a library with the correct name; it’s time we had the right name too,” said Edith Blitzer, president of the Pelham Parkway Neighborhood Association.

Tricky Nabe History

If all this sounds too bookwormy, a quick history rundown:

Van Nest’s library branch operated on Rhinelander Avenue from 1928 to 1967, when it moved a few blocks north to its current spot on Barnes Avenue, one block below Pelham Parkway South.

Since 2006, locals in “Van Nest,” the neighborhood roughly bordered by Bronxdale Avenue, E. Tremont Avenue and the Bronx River Parkway, have also used the Morris Park Library on Morris Park Avenue.

“The reality is that the majority of Van Nest residents frequent the closer Morris Park location, while it is Pelham Parkway residents who use the resources at the Van Nest branch located in their neighborhood,” the East Bronx pols wrote in their letter.

Total local support

Blitzer, along with fellow Community Board 11 member Joe Bombace, started the name change blitz back in 2011 as part of a campaign to boost neighborhood pride and identity.

Even the Van Nest Neighborhood Alliance, a group of Van Nest activists, has lent its support to the name change.

In 2011, the Board forwarded a letter to the NYPL Board of Trustees, but got no response. This time around, NYPL brass remain skeptical.

The city agency said in November 2013 that it was wary of changing the name because it might confuse longtime Van Nest Library users, and because the name “Pelham Parkway Library” would be similar to the “Pelham Bay Library” even though its more than three miles away.

But the agency “remains open to having a conversation about the suggestion of a name change,” said Amy Geduldig, the NYPL’s media relations manager.

With near unanimous support from local groups and elected officials, the community is optimistic that the NYPL will come around.

They’re emboldened by a recent victory just north of Pelham Parkway, where the Department of City Planning agreed to add “Allerton” to its maps in response to pressure from locals and pols.

“With Crowley and Vacca on board,” Blitzer said, “I think it will be a different story.”

Reach Reporter Ben Kochman at (718) 742–3394. E-mail him at Follow him on Twitter @benkochman.

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