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CB 8 backs expanding local library

Community Board 8 members unanimously threw their support during their meeting last week behind an expansion that would add 3,000 square feet, a room for teenagers and new technology to the library in Kew Gardens Hills.

The expansion, which residents have been fighting for over the past decade, is needed for an institution serving a community that has seen a population spike since the library was built in the late 1960s, Kew Gardens Hills Civic Association President Patricia Dolan said.

In 1967, there were about 16,000 people living in Kew Gardens Hills. Now there are more than 30,000.

“The library is probably the most popular institution in Kew Gardens Hills,” said Dolan, who has attended a countless number of meetings over the past decade to advocate for the expansion. “This is the place everybody meets at. It’s the 14th busiest library in the Queens system, and the Queens library system is the busiest in the country.”

Architect Anne Menke and Peter Magnani, director of capital and facilities management at Queens Library, presented the library expansion plans at the community board meeting Nov. 12. Menke, of the Manhattan−based Work Architecture company, said the expansion, which would take about a year to complete, would double the size of the existing meeting room, add a separate space for “sometimes noisy” teenagers, install new restrooms, and enlarge the children and adult sections.

“Also, every table will have laptop access and there will be a wireless connection,” said Menke.

So far, the community has raised several millions for the project, including $3.85 million from Borough President Helen Marshall and $250,000 from both City Councilman James Gennaro (D−Fresh Meadows) and state Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn (D−Flushing).

The funds raised should likely cover the costs of the expansion, provided construction can soon begin. In order for that to happen, the library would need a mayoral override from Mayor Michael Bloomberg to bypass a community input process for a zoning variance.

CB 8 members unanimously voted to support the override.

At least a year would be added onto the life of the project should the library have to go through the regular public comment period, which Dolan said would likely mean the library would not have enough money for the project due to rising construction costs.

“For the good of the community, the mayor can grant an override,” Dolan said. “This is clearly a case where the community’s interest is at stake.”

Library officials will be going to the mayor within the next several weeks to ask for the override. Representatives for Bloomberg were not available for comment.

The mayor’s office did not return phone calls for comment.

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