NYPL holds stakeholder meeting on new Westchester Square branch

Councilman James Vacca (second from right) was one of the key stakeholders who met with New York Public Library officials to gather feedback about programing for the new Westchester Square library branch, expected to open around 2018. The invitation only meeting took place on Monday, January, 12. Vacca is joined by Westchester Square library manager Kathleen Carrasco, NYPL vice president George Mihaltses, and associate director for East Bronx Neighborhood Library Network Tiffany Alston.
Photo courtest of Councilman Vacca’s office

The New York Public Library is reaching out to the local community to gather feedback about programing for the new Westchester Square branch library.

Even though the scheduled opening of the branch is in 2018, NYPL personnel held an invitation-only stakeholder meeting with key residents in The Square community, business leaders and elected officials, at the present Glebe Avenue branch on Monday, January 12. More public engagement may follow.

Attendees of the meeting included Councilman James Vacca, who said he secured $12 million in funding for the project to be completed on Lane Avenue in the heart of The Square, and also said that it was a productive, albeit early, meeting to discuss programming at the new branch.

“We were starting to suggest some programming concepts we would like to see the library include,” said Vacca. “We spoke about continuing education, GED programs for adults, (and) we spoke about having a library open on Sundays. That was something that I brought up, because right now we have no east Bronx library branch open on Sundays.”

Also discussed was the kind of collection that was expected, said Vacca. The councilman said that the library is one part of a plan to jumpstart Westchester Square, which includes bringing the Bronx Council on the Arts to a former bank building in several years, and the recent renovation of Owen Dolen Park.

He also believed that the meeting may bring about design ideas for the interior of the new building.

“Maybe now that the library people know what we are looking for programmatically, they will keep that in mind when they design the inside of the library,” said Vacca.

Sandi Lusk, a meeting attendee and co-founder of the Westchester Square Zerega Improvement Organization, which runs children’s programming at the existing Glebe Avenue branch, said that she came away with the impression that the NYPL will make the library go beyond that of a traditional neighborhood branch and be more of a ‘library center’ for this part of the borough.

It could be along the lines of Bronx Library Center on Kingsbrige Road, which is the library center for the whole borough, sources suggested.

“They want to make this one of the chief borough research centers; it is going to have a lot of research capabilities,” said Lusk.

The new library should have digital collections and electronic resources, she said, in addition to adult and children’s programs. It could also include legal immigration assistance and english as a second language (ESL) classes, as well as wellness training, which were Vacca’s ideas, she said.

Lusk said that her main concern is that the library continue to serve as the local branch for the Westcheser Square community even as it is expanded into regional library hub. This is especially important as changing demographics have brought more families with children into the surrounding communities, she said.

“My main concern is that in the goal to make this overarching plan to serve the entire borough, that the local community does not get overlooked, because it is replacing the branch library, which is part of the community,” she said, adding that she is concerned about continuing children’s programs at the new building.

Westchester Square is a major transit hub, and the library believes that people will avail themselves to pick up and drop off books in the mornings and evenings, she said, adding that The Square branch also presents the opportunity for the NYPL to create a building with a striking design that can be a beacon in the area.

The NYPL will have discussions with the community about materials, and what should be inside the library in terms of furniture and lighting, and work with their own staff, in order to have architects design the best building interior possible.

The new building will be located on the site of an annex building of the Huntington Free Library.

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at procc‌hio@c‌ngloc‌al.com. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.

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