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Photograph: Courtesy BPL/Gregg Richards

Brooklyn’s newest eco-friendly library has a ton of fascinating hidden secrets

The Greenpoint Library and Environmental Education Center is officially open for business!

By
Will Gleason
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The Brooklyn Public Library system’s newest location officially opened yesterday with a (socially distanced) celebration on the streets of Greenpoint.

Designed by Marble Fairbanks, with landscaping by SCAPE, the Greenpoint Library and Environmental Education Center is twice the size of the library that formerly stood on the site. Visitors to the new building will find 15,000 square feet of both indoor and outdoor spaces for library services. Due to the ongoing pandemic, the location is currently limited to grab-and-go service, but there are still tons of cool things to note about the new space.

library
Photograph: Courtesy BPL/Gregg Richards

"The new Greenpoint Library models the enormous potential of public libraries in the 21st century,” said Linda E. Johnson, President and CEO of Brooklyn Public Library.  “With the help of our partners, from the Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund to Marble Fairbanks, we created a space for everyone in the community that is as inspiring as it is versatile. In 2020, in Brooklyn and beyond, we need more libraries like this one: that make vital knowledge and beautiful design accessible to all, that empower people from all walks of life to come together and build a more sustainable, more just world."

In fact, that “sustainable” portion of the new library’s mission is embedded into the very structure of the building itself. Dedicated to environmental education, activism and awareness, the structure has a bunch of tiny details that tie into its larger eco-friendly theme. 

Here are a few to note so you have some fun facts on your first visit:

  • At exactly noon during the solstices and the equinoxes, the sun will shine perfectly through four rectangular windows on the first floor.
  • Glacial outcroppings in front of the library will represent the Laurentide Ice Sheet during its expansion across Brooklyn approximately 18,000 years ago.
  • The library’s three meeting rooms each feature a wood wall containing a different species of tree native to the Greenpoint area: ash, walnut and red oak.
  • A second-floor cistern will be able to capture and store up to 1,500 gallons of rainwater which the library will use for lab experiments and to water its plants
  • Solar panels on the library’s roof will be able to produce over 19,000 kilowatts a year. A tracking screen on the second floor will be provide real-time information on the energy being generated.
  • A bioswale—a channel that conveys and stores rainwater runoff—is located outside the library to prevent flooding and teach about climate change readiness.
  • A hidden garden on the library’s rooftop will teach local student and community groups about the life cycle of plants and the surrounding neighborhood’s agricultural history.

Another interesting tidbit? The environmental-themed library was actually partially funded with money obtained by New York State from ExxonMobil for its devastating oil spills in the neighborhood, a lovely bit of karmic justice that anyone with or without a library card can appreciate.

library
Photograph: Courtesy BPL/Gregg Richards

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