Greenpoint Library and Environmental Education Center opens to the public

Oct 20, 2020

This morning, the new LEED-Gold, Marble Fairbanks and SCAPE-designed Greenpoint Library and Environmental Education Center opened for business. The ribbon-cutting was held in a socially-distanced ceremony livecast on Brooklyn Public Library’s Facebook page.

While due to the Coronavirus the library is only open initially for limited lobby service, the completion and opening of the branch to patrons nonetheless represents a major milestone in Brooklyn Public Library’s effort to redevelop or revitalize a third of its branches, as part of the largest slate of redevelopment of Brooklyn’s libraries since the Carnegie era.

Funded in part with $5 million provided by the Office of the New York State Attorney General and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation through the Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund, as well as $14 million in Library and City capital funding and $1.8 million from the New York State Department of Education, the library will in part be dedicated to environmental education, activism and awareness in an era of climate changecreating environmental stewards and nature lovers out of future generations of New Yorkers.

“We’ve found there’s no substitute for learning directly from the landscape,” said Gena Wirth, Design Principal at SCAPE. “On all three stories, the Library carves out space for hands-on encounters with the geological, ecological, and cultural history of Greenpoint. The Plaza and Gardens are designed to be accessible for all Library patrons in years to come – from child-sized spaces for planting and play to richly-detailed civic spaces for shared use, programs, and continued education.”

A series of three tiered civic spaces wrapping the new and expanded building were designed by SCAPE. Library leadership aims to host more than 300 environmental programs there per year, in partnership with local advocacy and educational groups aided by the space, which is replete with details that bring the natural world to patrons’ fingertips, including:

First-floor Streetscape Plaza / On the street-adjacent public plaza at the library’s entrance, outcroppings of granite interpret the geological history of the area as “glacial erratics” that trace the NW to SE movement of the Laurentide Ice Sheet during its expansion across Brooklyn. As a contiguous element of the Greenpoint streetscape, the Plaza will remain open for public use, reading and rest during and after the pandemic.

Second-floor Reading Garden / On the second floor of the library, the Reading Garden is a flexible space for meetings, performances, or enjoying a book in the sun. A large sculpted planting bed encapsulates the seating area–planted with native and fruit-bearing shrubs, this “nest” offers both food and a critical habitat for birds and insects, who in turn distribute seeds throughout the neighborhood.

Third-floor Demonstration Garden / On the third floor of the Library, an educational Demonstration Garden offers a space for elementary school students and community groups to get their hands in the dirt – helping Library staff select and maintain plantings for a series of raised beds throughout the year. Surrounding this garden, a pollinator green roof is planted with sedum beds laid out in rows that evoke the surrounding neighborhood’s Polish agricultural history.

Learn more about the project here, and stay tuned for upcoming virtual programs in months to come.