Culture / Education

Teen Center proposed in Hunts Point library

Plans are afoot to convert the long-vacant third floor of the landmark Hunts Point Branch Library into a Teen Center patterned after the one in Harlem.

Third floor where caretaker once lived would reopen

The empty third floor of the Hunts Point branch library may soon be getting a new look—and a new mission.

Last month, Bronx Community Board 2 voted to support a proposal that calls for reopening the long-abandoned top floor of the landmark library on Southern Boulevard near the corner of Tiffany Street and converting it into a reading and recreation center for teens.

History buff and literacy activist Jacob Morris said he envisioned the plan after a visit to the Hamilton Grange library in Harlem.

“I thought ‘how great this would be for other libraries,’” said Morris, who promoted his idea to several South Bronx community boards before getting interest in Hunts Point.

Community Board 2’s education committee chair Richard Sherman, a longtime elementary school teacher in the district, agreed that the idea has potential in Longwood.  Sherman visited the Harlem library after the proposal was made, and saw how the model could fit locally.

“It was a place for teenagers to meet,” said Sherman. “There were a lot of the kids who were either reading or relaxing. I thought it was a great multi-use of the room.”

The Harlem branches’ teen center has an amphitheater, an area with 30 computers that includes a game center, open mic programs and other activities for youth. Morris noticed that the variety of activities helped boost interest in the library among teens. He thinks that success can be replicated at the Hunts Point branch.

“Teens need resources,” said Morris. “Little kids go to the library but teens aren’t going there as often.”

The third floor has been closed to the public for fifty years. Red tape extends across the entrance. Once upon a time when the library had a more central role in the community, a caretaker lived here. That role has since disappeared.

For teens who visit the library, and their parents, the idea of a designated spot for young people is overdue.

“It sounds like a great idea,” said Rafael Torres, 17, who said he comes to the library once a week. “I like the idea of more computers and seeing more teens here in the library.”

“It’ll keep teens out of trouble,” said Raheem Shamel, a parent and local resident. “They’ll have some place to be, instead of wandering the streets.”

When the community board met in June, residents voiced concerns about the cost of a new floor on the forgotten third floor. But Sherman hoped that even if NYPL declines to fund the project, the City Council would pick up the slack. The Harlem branch cost the city $1.1 million, which is slightly more than a similar Hunts Point branch would cost to create, Morris predicted.

“This room would be a great thing for the community,” said Sherman. “It’s another place for [teens] to get in touch.”

In response to a request for comment from The Express, the New York Public Library’s Media Relations Manager, Amy Geduldig, emailed that “The Hunt’s Point Library is a priority in terms of capital funding, and The New York Public Library is currently requesting $7 million for a partial renovation of the branch, including ‘Interior spaces.’”

But, she added, that although the third floor repurposing idea at present “is not funded, over 1.7 million is currently being invested in the branch for roof and elevator repairs, among other capital improvements.”

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