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Scathing Petition Demands Accountability For Delayed Hunters Point Library

The incomplete Hunters Point Library (Photo: Nathaly Pesantez)

August 3, 2018 By Nathaly Pesantez

Long Island City is fuming over yet another delay to the long-stalled Hunters Point Library, with a new petition calling on the city to make amends with the community and sanction those involved in the project’s mismanagement.

The petition, directed at Mayor Bill de Blasio and created two days ago by a cohort of area civic groups, comes after the LIC Post reported that the library is now scheduled to open August 2019.

The library was last scheduled to open in February 2019, one of the many blown deadlines since the original 2014 target date, later changed to the first part of 2017, for the failed project.

Now at $41 million, the library is twice the original cost, and has been delayed for various reasons, including glass shipments held up in Spain because of a worker’s strike, change ups in the building’s complex design, and a rescheduled groundbreaking.

“This delay is unacceptable in a project that has been planned since development began in Hunters Point over 20 years ago, and has been in process since at least 2010,” part of the petition reads. More than 650 people have already signed the petition.

Meghan Cirrito, president of Friends of Queens Library at Court Square and a libraries advocate, said the project is an embarrassment and a glaring testament to government waste and inefficiency.

“What I’m seeing is a lack of accountability from up high, and a lack of urgency,” she said.

Her group, along with the Hunters Point Civic Association, the LIC Coalition, and more, are unified under one name—LIC United—and are now demanding that the mayor implement an accelerated construction timeline for the project, among other solid actions.

Hunters Point Library (QueensPost January 2018)

“If the mayor puts his weight behind this, we can actually get the timeline pushed up and have this expedited”, said Brent O’Leary, president of the Hunters Point Civic Association. “We deserve that because this was supposed to open a long time ago. This should be a priority.”

A committee, they say, should be formed to investigate what went wrong with the project, and penalties should be issued to those involved in creating the fiasco, including the Department of Design and Construction, Queens Library, and Triton Structural, the contractor.

“We have placed our trust in the city, the DDC, and Queens Library to shepherd this project through correctly and ethically, and they have lost it,” Cirrito said, adding, “If the people currently on the project are not the right fit, then we need new people.”

The committee should also issue recommendations for redress to the community, LIC United says.

Seven day a week library service is a must once the library opens, Cirrito said, and mobile library service should be offered five days a week until then, rather than the mere five hours of library service a week seen today.

Other demands include greater transparency in communicating the project’s progress to the neighborhood, daily oversight of the construction site, and for original elements excluded from the project to be incorporated into the final library.

“These demands are a way for the agencies and the elected officials to regain trust from the community and right their wrongs,” she said.

The DDC said it, too, wants to finish this project as quickly as possible.

“We welcome any efforts that would streamline the capital construction process,” said Ian Michaels, a DDC spokesperson.

Michaels said the project has had construction difficulties, but that the agency is working “very closely” with the contractor to complete the project.

The Hunters Point Library site today, via LIC United.

“The design itself was modified during construction, and those adjustments extended the schedule,” Michaels said. “When it’s done it will be a great addition to the community and a major cultural attraction for Queens, and we expect it to open next summer.”

Queens Library said in a statement that it recently met with community members to address their concerns (a tour on site that Cirrito attended).

“Queens Library understands the community’s frustration with the delays on the Hunters Point Library project,” a Queens Library spokesperson said, adding, “Jointly with DDC, we will also be speaking with local residents and their representatives at a Community Board meeting in the fall.”

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, who told the LIC Post last week that the most recent round of delays are at the hands of the project’s contractor, said he wholeheartedly supports LIC United’s petition.

“This contractor and the abject incompetence by the Department of Design of Construction over the last four years has put us where we are today,” Van Bramer said.

The Council Member, who has harshly criticized the DDC’s “horrific” mistakes that have led to the library’s state, said the project now has direct oversight on behalf of deputy mayor Laura Anglin and Lorraine Grillo, the new DDC president who also heads the School Construction Authority.

“I have noticed that the Library has clearly been prioritized,” Van Bramer said. “However, this new effort does not compensate for the incompetent contractor who has stepped away from the project.”

In addition, Van Bramer says de Blasio should personally pay a visit to the site so he can be held accountable for the project.

The mayor’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

“The community understands that it was mismanagement that caused this,” O’Leary said. “And we’re not going to accept being without a vital service that has been promised to us for so many years.”

Cirrito, who has worked as a librarian for several Queens Library branches, says the project’s delays have not only cost taxpayers millions, but has deprived the neighborhood of a service that offers more than just books.

“There are tangible benefits to having public libraries in a community,” she said. “My concern, as a public library supporter, is that this project has created a generation of families who don’t find value in libraries.”

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16 Comments

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JAMES EDSTROM

It all falls on useless Jimmy Van Bramer who blames everyone but himself for not doing their job. He is on the library committee, he lives here, he should have jumped in to fight for the community. He had excuses for this library last yr and the yr before, has excuses for Amazon, has excuses for no safe bike lanes while residents are getting killed, he has excuses for everything. The mega project Hudson Yards was built in three yrs. 3 yrs! We can not even get a garbage cans or a red light here in Hunters Point South, because Van Bramer feels that what residents want is not what he wants. Do not support Van Bramer anymore. Do not vote for him for Queens President. He is too busy calling police on business owners who disagree with him, he is too busy playing the gay card all the time and playing the victim. Say bye bye to Van Bramer.

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LIC RESIDENT CONCERNED

This space would have made a great recreation center, with a pool, ice skating rink, basketball court for the kids, seniors and general public – what a missed opportunity. In turn will make a great space for the homeless to come sit and hang out all day – like at the sunny branch you can’t kick them out – in the winters they come in to keep warm in the summer to keep cool while they sit on chairs met for the children, they are creepy, just eyeballing people at the library. Jimmy Van Bramer once again surfaces. Of course he throws his hands up in the air claims he did not know what was happening. Just remember not to vote for this clown when he runs for any public office. The library project mired with construction delays and defects.

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D.

History, please: The head of the Queens Library left in disgrace after overspending was “discovered” on his watch, such as lavishly refurbishing his private library headquarters. Name: ? Lost in memory, just as the fact he contracted for this overgrown white cardboard shoebox from a glam architecture firm. Name of firm?
That’s it: so long ago no one remembers. The egotism remains, the shame of it all, as it was meant to reflect itself architecturallyagaint the FDR memorial, the lauded white box at the end of Roosevelt Island. So they can look at each other.

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Brian

Since all of the LIC residents are new to the area I’ll list the issues and they can save their time with the committee:
They built a library which city funds as a way to rip off taxpayers. All you needed was a brick building with WiFi but they enlisted a architect to design a work of art since no one cared about the cost. They then hired a contractor and union employees who pay off city politicians like JVB and make sure the project goes over time and budget to line their own pockets. When the LIC rubes from the Midwest demand it finally finishes the city will pay the contractors and unions extra to do their original job as long as the politicians get their cut.

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D.

Brian,
Union employees are trained, enjoy safety and benefit protections due to everyone. Union employees built this city and have skills that an office lackey would never imagine attaining. Contempt for your fellow human beings reflects upon yourself, not the working people in this city’s schools, police, transportation., and so on. And plumbers. An egotist architect, non union, conceived a never-before attempted building, and we all expect it not to collapse in breeze, or the next hurricane. Built union, not slave labor.
Oh, it might fold. Because of the design.

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John O'Reilly

Councilmember Van Bramer has been a key member of the leadership team as Chair of the Council Committee on Cultural Affairs from the inception of the Hunters Point Library. As such he has been integrally involved in the approval of the funding of each step of this project; how can he now say “I have noticed that the Library has clearly been prioritized” as though this fiasco just popped up on his radar screen? Shouldn’t Councilmember Van Bramer have already “noticed” over the course of years the problems with the construction and done something more than words about them?

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Anonymous

Mr. JVB took the lowest bidder for this project and now on his twitter page he is demanding answers how dare he. He could careless now all of a sudden he is worried after a petition is going around. Everyone knows he true colors and it is not for the constitutents at all.

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Dr Andre Hanover

All this, after having to scrap the original exterior skin in favor of a cheap-looking concrete substitute.

This project has been a fiasco from the outset. Parties STILL can’t agree on what a modern library is supposed to provide. But they could ok an over-designed structure that will look great at night. Sadly, in broad daylight leaves us with a horribly different scenario.

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Frank

If there is “incompetence” on the part of the contractor and DDC, what measure are being taken to hold the relevant individuals accountable? Somehow I think the answer is “none”.

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Queens Library Lover

What’s happened to this library is a shame. I notice that many of the groups aim the petition at city agencies at not Mr. Van Bramer. He’s the one we elected to fix issues at the city level. He was also a Queens Library official at one point. It’s a shame that he has had essentially no impact in fixing this tragic delay. Money wasted, programs delayed, etc.

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Anonymous

Mr. JVB could care less he washed his hands from everything he is the one that wanted this fancy library be careful who comes in after him.

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Elsa

“Council Member Van Bramer was also reappointed to chair the Council’s Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations Committee. As Chair of the committee, he has oversight over 200 libraries and thousands of cultural organizations, institutions and programs throughout New York City. Council Member Van Bramer has led this committee his entire tenure in City Council. During this time he has fought hard to secure over $1 billion for our City’s libraries and the arts.”
#wheresjimmy?

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