Posts tagged with "Queens Public Library":

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Hunters Point Library is being sued over ADA violations

Today, the nonprofit Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) filed a class-action lawsuit against Queens Public Library (QPL), the Board of Trustees of the QPL, and the City of New York over the Library’s newest branch, Hunters Point Library. Designed by Steven Holl Architects, the branch in Long Island City has been facing backlash from patrons and community members since it’s opening in September for not being fully accessible to people with disabilities.  Despite disability rights laws, the newly constructed building's circulation relies heavily on stairs which limits access and excludes many from accessing the collection altogether. While there is one elevator, it does not stop at certain levels in the library and patrons have complained of long lines and congestion. The reason that was previously given for such an omission was that librarians can retrieve materials for patrons who cannot access the stacks themselves.  Plaintiffs Tanya Jackson and the Center for Independence of the Disabled, New York are suing to require the library to fix this “unjust and discriminatory situation.” Jackson stated in a recent press release, “It is shocking to me that a brand-new public library would not be fully accessible to people with mobility disabilities like myself. Libraries should welcome everyone, not exclude whole populations of people.”  In addition to the three levels which are completely inaccessible to persons with mobility disabilities, there are reportedly numerous other barriers at the library: The children’s section contains a multi-level lounge and meeting spaces inaccessible to children and caregivers with mobility disabilities, the upper level of the rooftop terrace has no access point other than stairs, the framed panoramic views of Manhattan throughout the library are only viewable from the stairs, and designated stroller “parking” areas block circulation from the elevator to other main parts of the library.  “The ADA is not a new requirement, and it is not hard to understand. It is baffling that this $41.5 million building is missing these fundamental elements. It’s as though the library didn’t even care about these requirements, or worse, didn’t even consider the needs of these members of the community,” said Andrew Kozak-Oxnard, a staff attorney at DRA. “People with disabilities should be able to browse, relax, and enjoy the library just like everyone else.” The lawsuit alleges violations of both federal and local civil rights laws for disability-based discrimination and hopes to rectify the situation by requiring the defendants to develop a plan that provides equal access to the library. DRA is the leading nonprofit in disability rights in the country and claims to win nearly all of its cases and “knock down barriers for people with all types of disabilities.” Rather than seeking monetary compensation, their suits aim to force reforms to systems and practices of oppression against those with disabilities.  Michelle Caiola, managing director of litigation at DRA insisted, “Hunters Point Library was meant to be a model, a state-of-the-art institution designed to serve the needs of the community. The Library’s total disregard for adults and children with disabilities must be addressed.” The Queens Public Library provided the following statement to AN:
"This morning we learned that a disability rights organization filed a lawsuit against the Library and the City of New York alleging that Hunters Point is not accessible to people living with disabilities. It is always the Library’s goal to be welcoming, open and available to everyone, including customers with disabilities. We are taking this matter very seriously."
Steven Holl Architects has been contacted for comment and this article will be updated accordingly.
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[Updated] Hunters Point Library facing maintenance issues after opening

Update 10/30/2019: A representative for Steven Holl Architects says that issues with water entering the building and the sprinkler have been resolved. They claim that "the issues that have come up are wrinkles normal to the opening of any new building, especially when the building is receiving such a huge audience," adding that "reading areas and study desks are continually full." Update 10/29/2019: A spokesperson for the Queens Public Library has said that DDC determined that the water was due to a problem with fire sprinkler, which has been resolved. Water also seeped from the rooftop area through a doorway. DDC is addressing both these problems and is working with contractors to repair the cracks in the floor. The Steven Holl Architects–designed Hunters Point Library in Long Island City, Queens, is already facing troubles, according to the New York Post. Previously under fire for its accessibility issues—the adult fiction stacks could only be accessed via staircase, a feature which met ADA compliance as the library claimed that patrons with limited mobility could ask librarians for help (the books have since been moved)—the building was suspected of leaking (it has been determined to have been both a faulty sprinkler system and an insufficiently weather-proofed door) and has been showing cracks on the floor, some as long as ten feet, just a month after opening.  In addition, librarians and patrons say there are major sound issues, with floors that “screech” when chairs are moved and a quiet room that is anything but. Librarians also told the Post that they felt the 22,000-square-foot building, which New York magazine architecture critic Justin Davidson described as a five-story “Seussian obstacle course,” could have made a better attempt at maximizing its usable space for books and other resources, rather than being designed like a “museum or gallery.” Librarians have also reported inadequate visibility within the library. Curbed says that the Queens Public Library system is working with the Department of Design and Construction, who was responsible for the actual building of the library, to address these concerns. The Hunters Point Library was a much-anticipated addition to the Queens waterfront and is eminently visible from the Manhattan waterfront. Through the project was approved in 2010, construction didn’t begin until 2015 and it opened just this September. Costing approximately $41 million (over $1,800 per square foot), the library was built as part of the Bloomberg-era Design and Construction Excellence initiative, which brought a series of public buildings with serious architectural chops to the city. As Davidson has previously pointed out, they came in often at staggering prices, due perhaps more to government inefficiency and bureaucracy, as well as state rules that require taking on the lowest-bidding contractors, than because of high-flying architectural fees and forward-thinking designs. (Holl himself reportedly told would-be publicly minded architects in New York City to “get ready to lose money, and do it with a smile," according to Davidson.) Steven Holl Architects and the New York City Department of Design and Construction have been contacted for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.
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Steven Holl's Hunters Point Community Library rises next to the East River

In the year 2010, Steven Holl was chosen to design a community branch of the Queens Library on a commanding site in Long Island City. It would be located opposite the United Nations Headquarters on the shore of the Queens side of the East River and on an angle with the Roosevelt Memorial. In this location bordering Gantry State Park, with a worthy communal purpose, Holl designed a kind of sparkling, bejeweled gate to the city. While the site's close proximity to the U.N. and the Roosevelt Island memorial creates an honorable pedigree, there is a spate of developers' towers around the library—well-built, but expediently designed. Because of the growth of Hunters Point, there was need for a communal branch library. New York City's Queens Library and New York City's Department of Design and Construction (DDC) co-sponsored this modernist design.

Long Island City, or, more specifically Hunters Point, has a rural history that extends back to the 17th century and only later became a cultural and commercial center that is now heavily residential. There are many galleries here, too. In Hunters Point, in the vicinity of the library, 10,000 residential units were built in the last decade and there is a projection of more in the near future.

This Queens Library makes its books available; while it welcomes digital technology, and sets apart a space for cyber activities and working computers, it spurns the notion of a 'bookless library.' In that sense, it is a humanist institution: embracing tradition while also focusing on up-to-date technology.

The architectural design activity for this library may have begun in 2010, but the initiating plans for the social presence of a library were begun about a decade earlier by Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, a Queens Democrat. Van Bramer made it possible for Holl's building to reach above a single story, which was Holl's wish for a more monumental statement so that the 81-foot high building would not be dwarfed by the surrounding towers and have a presence on its own. As it turns out, the construction of the new library will cost the city $42 million.

Contemporary materials were de rigueur for Queens: steel and reinforced concrete and reinforced glass sheets were still industrial, while their functions were solved with the help of digital programs like Rhino. Robert Silman's structural engineering firm postulated that they needed many beams to stiffen the building around the huge windows, so that without any columns in the building, it could withstand any wind pressure. Nine major beams go straight across the narrow building—40-feet wide—in an east/west direction. This supports the suspension of the floors which often are not continuous from north to south. In other words, there is some tricky cantilevering of the floor levels. The walls are a meager 12 inches thick so the steel reinforcement is crucial.

In the beginning, Holl planned for the facing material to be a foamed aluminum, but it was substituted by a subtle, sustainable aluminum paint due to cost constraints. The paint will cover the oriented strand board texture of the reinforced concrete wall surfaces. This all-over texture from flat-surfaced random wooden bits for the formwork is opposed to the Brutalists' rough plywood surface formwork texture. This sustainable painted surface will achieve a glow or “subtle sparkle.”

This was not Holl's first experience designing libraries. In 1988 he won a competition for an extension to the venerable Berlin Amerika Gedenk Bibliothek, but it was not built, a lost commission that he sorely remembers.

Holl is very conscious of nature's intrinsic part in his designs. This Queens Library building is economical and sustainable, in accord with Holl's consciousness of our standing in this planet; it meets the LEED standards. Although the energy system is efficient, they could not use expensive geothermal wells. Another unfortunate budgetary constraint was the prohibition of a reflecting pool, a feature which often accompanies Holl's architecture. However, the project is surrounded by Gantry State Park, a fine imposing setting. There is planned transition between the park and the Library grounds in the form of steps leading towards it. Saved from the budgetary cuts to the building is the rooftop auditorium for which Queens Library recently okayed the funds.

Light coming into the library is profuse: it arrives from all sides. In order to filter the glare, Holl designed silvery, translucent motorized curtains to cover the large-scale windows and this sun screening helps to control the amount of air conditioning dispenced. The largest window on the western exposure has a slanted lower linear frame echoing the line of stairs. Its peculiar shape is vaguely reminiscent of the art of Keith Haring.

Circulation paths have been created around the library for processional movement: The main route leads to the adult section at the west where stairs climb parallel to the diagonal edge of the window frame. There is an elevator on the east side, but the pride of place is the ceremonial climb to different levels of open stacks of bookshelves for three age groups.

A major aesthetic notion of the building is its virtual sculptural carving out of the rectangular mass of a box until it arrives at divisions like the three main age areas. This effect, according to Olaf Schmidt, associate at Steven Holl Architects, might come from Holl's preoccupation with limestone carvings around 2010. Holl, himself, has described some of these buildings' sculptural formations as “subtractive.”

Holl's intuitive inclination can perhaps best be linked to a penchant for the sense-centered ideas of Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908-1961) and his notion that the body and that which it perceives cannot be disentangled from each other.

Into this mix can be added a rationalizing element, the introduction of proportions. In all his work, Holl is guided by the Fibonacci series and the Golden Section (1.618 ratio) to bring equanimity to the visitor's mind.

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Holl's Pricey New Library in Queens Must Tone it Down a Notch

Looks like Steven Holl’s impressive design for a new library in Queens, New York costs quite a bit more than expected. DNA Info reported that bids for the 21,000-square-foot project came in about $10-20 million over budget. But that doesn’t mean the project is dead just yet. While the city has nixed a planned geothermal heating and cooling system, is swapping customized interior fixtures for standard ones, and is replacing the aluminum façade with painted concrete, they say the library will stay true to its original design. Despite the changes, the  library will still include an amphitheater, community room and a reading garden.  A spokesperson for the Queens Public Library said a timeline will not be available until new bids are evaluated by the Department of Design and Construction. interior-hall-archpaper