Wakefield Library to get much-needed renovations

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie was joined by Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Councilman Andy King and Library president Tony Marx at the Wakefield Library to announce $5.3 million in renovations October 29.
Community News Group / Arthur Cusano

It was warm and toasty in the Wakefield Library Saturday, October 29 when local elected officials announced $5.3 million for renovations. But not because the heat worked well – the reality, in fact, was quite the opposite.

“Just so you don’t think this was a publicity stunt, there are temporary heaters throughout the building because the boiler stopped working,” Marx said. “New York Public Library president Tony Marx told visitors. “You can’t make this stuff up.”

That boiler is one of number of things to be repaired at the library in the coming months.

The renovations, which will require the library to be closed for an unspecified period of time, will also include façade and front entry rehabilitation, renovation of flooring and ceilings, and upgrades to the plumbing, HVAC systems, electrical, lighting, fire alarm and security systems.

Improvements will also include a new circulation desk and better space configuration as well as improved Americans with Disabilities Act compliant accessibility for the mobility impaired.

Marx said the building is also used for computer access, English language classes, career counseling, college application assistance and even toddler storytime.

“This is the hub of this community, as it is for every community,” he said. “But that only works if the building works.”

Opened in 1938, the library – which received 110,362 visits and circulated 62,753 items in the 2016 fiscal year – has operated under a deteriorating state for years despite its high use by the community.

Councilman Andy King, who also chairs the city’s Library Committee, said young people like the public school children on hand for the event were one of the main reasons libraries needed to stay funded.

“It’s a safety net for so many of our young people and helps them escape some of the elements out in the street. This is what libraries offer – not just a learning tool, it’s a developmental tool for everyone.”

Assemblyman Carl Heastie said he was happy the Assembly was able to acquire the funding and work with other state and city officials to get the project moving.

“This wonderful corner of the Bronx deserves attention, this is a really happy day,” Heastie said.

Borough president Ruben Diaz Jr. said the library was a go-to service agency for many in the Bronx, and that the city had allocated almost $8 million in the past seven years, and hoped to continue funding libraries.

“If our students don’t continue to have a place where they can expand their imaginations, where the can pique their curiosity and quench that thirst, and if adults can’t come in and get an ESL class or other information they need to better themselves, what are we doing it for?,” Diaz said.

Reach Reporter Arthur Cusano at (718) 260-4591. E-mail him at acusano@cnglocal.com.

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