November 13, 2017
1BR/1BA, $3500/month, heat and hot water included, no dogs, books OK
by Susan Rella
You’ve finally made it: Your parents have retired as apartment guarantors, there’s no partition walling your studio into a one-bedroom (for you and two friends to share), you have an elevator and no longer need to schlep suitcases of laundry through snowy city streets — hell, you don’t even have to leave your floor to do laundry. You are in apartment paradise, in heaven, the promised land of concierges and twenty-four-hour fitness centers. You even have a goddamn garbage disposal. You are condo-living, and the Amenities. Are. Endless.
And speaking of those amenities, let’s add another: BOOKS.
As Michelle Lerner reported last week in the Washington Post, more and more apartment buildings are offering communal libraries as a luxury convenience. Here in New York, two rental buildings are providing literary comforts to their residents:
- 365 Bond in Brooklyn’s rapidly, depressingly gentrifying Boerum Hill boasts, in addition to its game room and rooftop sun terrace, a “Library and Club Room with fireplaces,” replete with a long, reclaimed-wood table, dark leather seating, brass lighting fixtures, and cozy reading nooks.
- Across the river in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen (ahem, pardon me, I mean, uh, Clinton), the developers at FIVE TWO FIVE have gone even further — they’re offering a curated library with books hand-selected by staff members at The Strand, one of the city’s most legendary bookselling spaces. The building will also offer resident-only book signings, readings, a Strand-sponsored book club, and even classes in creative writing.
Lerner also writes about two other luxury spots with libraries: a very Chicago-centric library full of Chicago-relevant literature and views of downtown Chicago in Chicago’s 1000M, and an artist-curated exhibit space/library hybrid in Florida’s Oceana Bal Harbor, where artist Jorge Mendez Blake curates exhibits by other artists, assembles his own literary art installations, manages the library’s offerings of art, design, and literary books, and even, apparently, made the damn bookshelves.
This isn’t a new trend: Joanne Kaufman at the New York Times covered libraries as amenities back in 2012. Earlier this year, Tom Daykin at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote about the growing number of partnerships between public libraries and apartment buildings. And while these stories of Rich People Getting Free Books! are bittersweet to say the least, they are undoubtedly better stories than, say, this piece in the Real Deal about a Fifth Avenue apartment building literally demanding money from the neighboring New York Public Library, to the tune of half-a-mill, just to let the branch put up some damn scaffolding.
If these sort of stories interest you, and you can’t get enough of the sometimes-murky, often-fraught interaction between libraries and real estate, …man, have we got the book for you.
Susan Rella is the Director of Production at Melville House, and a former bookseller.