Library Targets Early 2018

Written by richard lutz on . Posted in Volume 36, Issue 15 - May 7, 2016

Youth Center, Sportspark, Bike Access, Ferry

New quarters for Roosevelt Island’s branch of the New York Public Library (NYPL) may be ready by late 2017 or early 2018, according to the project’s architect and a representative of the City’s Department of Design + Construction (DDC).

Laurie Hawkinson, Architect
Laurie Hawkinson, Architect

The chief architect for the project, Laurie Hawkinson of Smith-Miller & Hawkinson Architects, said that planning documents have reached DDC, will soon be reviewed, and construction should begin in the Fall, after a 4-6-month procurement process. “Construction should start in the last month or two of 2017,” said Matthew Blood, Sr. Project Manager for Libraries at DDC. Some time will be saved because the job is on State-controlled land, and it will not have to go through certain City agencies.

The architectural presentation was made at a meeting of the Real Estate Advisory Committee of the Board of Directors of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC).

The NYPL and DDC planners called for RIOC to move forward with some landscaping work outside the site, at 501 Main Street, where the branch library will occupy the ground floor. (The Catholic Parish has leased the second floor.)


The sorry state of some Sportspark amenities came up as part of a discussion of renovations planned there. The building will soon get a new boiler and a new roof, and work on its pool. For this, Sportspark will close from August 15 to Thanksgiving – a little over a month.

A comment was made that a “real renovation” would cost “a lot of money,” and there was a brief discussion of asking an outside operator to put $50 million into the structure. But RIOC Board member Margie Smith and others objected that such a plan would take the facility “a step away from the community” and possibly result in profit-making fees that would deny its use to too many Islanders.

Bike Access

The Real Estate meeting also considered bicycle access to the Island, with RIOC officials expressing concern about bicyclists who now use the helix ramp. Cornell Tech has volunteered to find a design-engineering firm to review traffic at the arrival desk, and consider a separate helix that would accommodate bikes. It would be 12 feet wide so that emergency vehicles could also use it in a special situation. Cost is estimated at $3-4 million.

Ferry Dock

The matter of where to locate a Ferry Dock also came under discussion, with RIOC favoring renovation of the oil dock just north of the east pier of the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge, while Cornell Tech representatives were said to favor a site on the other side of the same bridge pier that would put it closer to the Cornell campus. (Cornell Tech has since informed The WIRE that, in fact, it favors the oil dock location.  Spokesperson Jovana Rizzo told the newspaper, "The City changed it [the location], and they [Cornell Tech] have asked them to reconsider...  We agree that it should be the oil dock.")  In the meeting, RIOC Board member Faye Christian commented, “We feel that everything is being done to accommodate Cornell, but this should be closer to the community.” Another comment in the meeting: A location north of the Queensboro Bridge would group the dock with the Tram station, and “make a real transportation hub.”

Youth Center

“The space is terrible,” commented RIOC Acting President Susan Rosenthal, speaking of the state of the Youth Center. “It’s a shame that this is our Youth Center. If I weren’t a lady, I’d tell you how I described it in a call to the architects.”

The Youth Center has no ADA-compliant restroom, needs substantial cosmetic work throughout, including replacement or repair of flooring. RIOC Board member Kathie Grimm called the space “very depressing.”

In touching on the Youth Center’s programming, Rosenthal commented, “This goes back to our [responsibility to] monitor the use of Public Purpose Funds. We should do some new due diligence. We need input and montoring of their programs.” RIOC is sending out a Request for Proposals (RFP) to seek an operator for the Center. “Nothing against [current Youth Center head] Charie DeFino,” she added. But she said that “We’ll deal first with the facility, and then the other.” The RFP for the facility work should go out within the next few weeks, a RIOC officer said.

Contact Info

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