The Saratoga Library in Ocean Hill-Brownsville is set to reopen this December, after more than two years of being shuttered for a HVAC replacement, BK Reader has learned.

The return of the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) branch at 8 Thomas S. Boyland Street is being celebrated by local residents and leaders, who say the Classical Revival-style library is a vital resource for the kids and seniors of Ocean Hill-Brownsville.

“It’s great that the library is reopening,” Ocean Hill-Brownsville resident Del Stribling told BK Reader.

“There are people who don’t have internet access, there are kids who obviously need access to books, and I know adults who still go to the library and that’s how they experience new books,” he said.

First opened in 1908, Saratoga Library was closed in late November 2020 to replace the branch’s HVAC system, including its rooftop units, BPL Press Officer Fritzi Bodenheimer told BK Reader.

Saratoga Library will reopen in December. Photo: Jessy Edwards for BK Reader.

The replacement also involved adding units to the library’s interior on the lower level, which involved new duct work, piping and other accessories. The library’s closure left residents with the option of instead visiting the Macon branch or the Washington Irving BPL branch, both more than a mile away.

Ocean Hill resident Louise Kern said she went to the Saratoga Library before it closed, and always found it packed with people, from kids doing homework to older people using the computers.

“It’s a positive thing that people will be able to use it again,” she said. “Take advantage!”

Kern said she was surprised the library was shuttered for “so long” and felt it pointed to the historical lack of resources placed in the Ocean Hill-Brownsville neighborhood.

But was it a lack of resources, really? Brooklyn Heights residents in June celebrated the opening of a brand new 26,620 square foot library, with a teen library space and children’s reading room. Construction on the Brooklyn Heights branch began in 2017.

The Saratoga Libary. Photo: Don Wiss / Creative Commons

The Saratoga Library had to be closed because the nature of the construction work made it unsafe for patrons and staff to be in the building, Bodenheimer said.

“Additionally, because the HVAC was being replaced, there would have been no cooling and even some limited heating in certain areas,” she added.

The library also hit construction delays due to the pandemic. The project was managed by the NYC Department of Design and Construction (DDC), and for a time, all non-essential DDC construction jobs were put on hold by the City due to COVID-19, Bodenheimer said.

“In addition, like many others, we experienced long lead times for the mechanical units due to supply chain issues.”

Council Member Darlene Mealy. Photo: Darlene Mealy / Facebook

However, the library is now looking forward to reopening for the community in December. It is currently waiting for an inspection by the FDNY and is making final preparations like refreshing the paint and getting books back on the shelves.

Bodenheimer said the library was “making some plans” for the big day. “Stay tuned!”

Meanwhile, Council Member Darlene Mealy of the 41st Council District told BK Reader the library reopening was a “positive development” for the neighborhood.

“I am pleased that after the many challenges that this institution faced which resulted in its closure it’s now ready to re-open and serve the community, especially our children and students,” she said.

“As a place of learning and information this library will be a much-needed complement to the educational needs of all the residents of my district.”

Jessy Edwards

Jessy Edwards is a writer based in Bushwick. Originally from New Zealand, she has written for the BBC, Rolling Stone, NBC New York, CNBC and her hometown newspaper, The Dominion Post, among others.

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