Cramped Vannie library checks out new space


It’s finally a done deal.

The New York Public Library finalized a deal Aug. 16 to purchase the land and vacant building for the Van Cortlandt Village branch at 3882 Cannon Place. When it opens in 2019, the new library will double the 2,700 square feet of its current Sedgwick Avenue location.

This was welcome news to branch manager Peter Pamphile, who said the additional space would allow for more computers and an area for both children’s and community programming.

“If you want to have a fun event … you have to make sure you let people know in advance,” Pamphile said of the library’s current location. “Then you have to move all the tables. You have to move all the chairs.

“You want to give a safe space and enough space so everyone could have fun and not worry about tripping over everything. So, that plays a role in our programming.”

When the library had a children’s event, featuring an African drummer a few years ago, it was so loud because of the small space, it disturbed some of the adult patrons. And that was playing as softly as he could.

One of the reasons the library had difficulty finding space nearby is because the neighborhood is primarily residential with few facilities large enough to accommodate the needs of a library, Pamphile said.

The purchase also was welcome news to Margaret Groarke, vice president of the Fort Independence Park Neighborhood Association. The community, she said, wanted something at 3882 Cannon Place that would benefit the area, and “we think that this is one of those changes to do that.”

This site has had a rocky history in the community. More than 12 years ago, a developer tried to construct a larger building than what city officials allowed. The building was supposed to be a two-family home, but instead the developer constructed a six-unit multifamily building.

Groarke’s association was able to halt construction, and the city’s buildings department forced the developer to tear the structure down.

Afterward, the developer built a two-story rectangular-shaped building — which still sits the address. Once again, the developer was constrained to supportive housing because of the zoning there — something the developer was never able to secure.

With the land moving into the hands of the city, it can now be used for broader community purposes.

The Van Cortlandt Village branch has experienced a 49 percent increase in attendance. And that’s just over the past few years. The branch has operated out of 3874 Sedgwick Ave., since 1968.

Patrons will have a chance to provide input to the new library design through a campaign called “Building for You,” said Amy Geduldig, a library spokeswoman.

Currently, a rectangular-shaped two-story building sits on the property.

The library paid Scarsdale-based 3882 Cannon LLC $1.8 million, according to property records, while taking over an outstanding debt of $475,000. Although a consortium of elected officials including Councilman Andrew Cohen, Bronx borough president Ruben Diaz Jr., Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz and state Sen. Jeffrey Klein allocated more than $2 million for the project, officials don’t know how much the new library will cost quite yet.

Additionally, the library received aid from the state during the last fiscal year for “initial interior reconstruction and outfitting,” according to public records.

The public library system is currently undertaking $350 million worth of capital projects, earmarking $117 million of that for 53 projects in the Bronx.

In addition to the Van Cortlandt branch, some of the other expansion includes branches at Woodlawn Heights and Hunts Point.