2013-07-05 / Community

Checking Out BC/Rockaway’s Libraries

After Sandy:
By Dan Guarino

Among the many services and staples of the community that were impacted by Hurricane Sandy, the public libraries in Broad Channel and Rockaway particularly felt the brunt of the storm.

The Arverne, Broad Channel, Peninsula and Seaside branches of the Queens Library were all hit by the deluge and suffered severe damage.

Despite this, libraries, librarians and staff worked under all types of conditions to provide vital services and information to meet residents’ many and varying needs.

Often they stretched beyond their every day, pre-storm function.

The Far Rockaway branch became an emergency assistance distribution center, providing desperately needed supplies like food, water, baby supplies, batteries, toiletries, pet food, cleaning supplies and other essentials.

At times lines stretch around the block. Hundreds of people came seeking help, and thousands of meals were provided.

Putting a face on the aid they provided, the Queens Library website noted how “a mother’s 8-year old daughter was traumatized by being displaced from her home; she was comforted by our Children’s Librarian. A library patron cried when she saw the destroyed books strewn throughout one of our libraries. She expressed how she had come from a dictatorship, and that books were the most important thing in the world to her.”

At the Peninsula branch on Rockaway Beach Boulevard, first a specially equipped bus and then a mounted temporary trailer provided needed relief supplies as well as information and books. Arverne was also serviced by a library trailer.

Since the storm, the Library has been working steadily to restore each branch to full service.

Thomas W. Galante, President and CEO of the Queens Library, has stated “(we have) been working hard to help the community rebuild, while continuing to provide the educational and informational support that you value.”

In an open letter addressing progress made in the several months since the storm, Galante updated the “status of rebuilding the storm-damaged libraries.”

Galante said, “We have come a long way, and expect to be see all the waterfront community libraries as good as new very soon.

“Queens Library at Seaside, 116-15 Rockaway Beach Boulevard in Rockaway Park is in active construction. We expect it to re-open by October, 2013.

“Queens Library at Arverne, at 312 Beach 54 Street, will be under construction shortly. Re-opening is expected by December 2013.

“In the meantime, a temporary library is serving the community. Stop by, if you haven’t already. They are doing amazing things in a small space, with programs, classes, job search help, homework assistance and more.

“Thanks to supplementary funding from Bank of America, it is open seven days a week through the end of 2013.

“The library at Peninsula, 92-25 Rockaway Beach Boulevard, Rockaway Beach, will require extensive rebuilding. The NYC Department of Design and Construction will be doing the construction.

“The fully-repaired library is expected to reopen at the end of 2014. In the interim, there is a modular building for lending materials and for computer access.

“A second, mobile library is going to be installed for programs and workshops. That should be on site this summer.

“When construction is complete,

Rockaway Park will have a completely renovated and re-decorated library with a new collection of books, videos and other materials that will serve you for a long, long time.

“Broad Channel, at 16-26 Cross Bay Boulevard, reopened this past winter. “Wider-fi” is providing wireless Internet service within a few blocks of the library, to better serve the community.

“Howard Beach, at 92-06 156th Avenue (which was also in a severely flooded area) has been operating at full strength since shortly after the storm. New flooring was recently installed.”

Commenting on what is to come for the Library, Galante concluded by saying, “We look forward toward a bright future together, as a community.”

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