The book is closing on a Queens library that has been shelved for nearly two years after being swamped by Hurricane Ida, THE CITY has learned.
The Lefrak City branch of the Queens Public Library will shift to a new location a few blocks from its 57th Avenue site, which suffered severe flooding damage during the September 2021 storm — then took on even more water from a heavy rainfall in April.
“This kind of killed us,” said Queens Community Board 4 District Manager Christian Cassagnol, adding that there had been calls for expanding library services in the area even before the Lefrak City branch closed. “This did hurt us.”
The branch has remained closed for nearly 700 days since remnants of Ida overloaded the building with at least 10 inches of water, according to Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska, a QPL spokesperson.
Queens library officials parked a so-called “mobile library” outside the shuttered Lefrak branch after Ida, but it operates only on Fridays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Initially, library officials tried to salvage and renovate the flooded space, which is leased by the QPL from Melbourne Leasing Limited Partnership, Kern-Jedrychowska said.
But that plan was scrapped because “underlying infrastructure issues remain that make it vulnerable” to future floods, she added.
The April storm sent several inches of water surging into the branch, Kern-Jedrychowska said, “despite intensive flood-prevention work that had been done.”
The landlord and Queens library officials plan to relocate the branch half a mile to 95-15 Horace Harding Expressway, off the corner of Junction Boulevard.
Melbourne Leasing United Partnership also owns the now-shuttered 57th Avenue location, which is about a 10-minute walk from the branch library’s next home. But a lease has not yet been signed after months of negotiations.
There is no timeline on when the new branch will be ready to open.
The library has flooded multiple times over the past decade, said New York State Assemblymember Jeffrion Aubry, who represents the district.
“We anticipate this negotiation won’t take a very long time because this is a community that desperately needs that facility,” he said.
The Lefrak City library’s extended shutdown comes as the overall Queens system has $160 million in unfunded repair projects, THE CITY reported in June.
Not Just For Books
The three closest public libraries are in North Corona, Elmhurst and Rego Park.
“It sucks that it’s been closed for two years. Like come on, it don’t make no sense,” Lorna Johnson told THE CITY as she took a break on a bus stop bench across from the closed library outpost. “They keep telling me there’s another one that way but I don’t want to go to the other one.”
The library branch had been more than just a place for Johnson to read. The former city worker and area resident of 25 years said she relied on the library’s computers to go online in search of employment.
“I told my son, if the library was open I would have had a job,” said Johnson, who lives two blocks away from the branch. “And my phone’s messed up now, so I can’t even do it on that.”
Other area residents noted how the library served as a crucial access point for social services.
Adela Bisono recalled using the library’s computers to fill out food-stamp applications and to write essays for English as an Additional Language classes when she immigrated to the Queens neighborhood from the Dominican Republic at age 16.
And until the library closed its door two years ago, she said it also doubled as an after-school hangout for her two sons, who would use its computers.
“We used to play Roblox there,” said her 10-year-old son Bryant, referring to the online gaming platform.
“Yeah, we used to, until the whole hurricane came out and then destroyed it,” chimed in his 8-year-old brother, Jeancy.
David Smith, 88, also lamented the two-year closure of the library branch as he stood near the safety netting that separated the sidewalk from a “Queens Library” sign behind him.
“It’s no good, it’s no good at all,” said Smith, adding that he has had a library card almost his entire life. “I was in Jamaica yesterday, and I was finally able to go to the library.
“I’m a library person. I miss it.”