June 21, 2018

A literary architect is erecting a swanky library In Queens


I jog a route from Greenpoint, Brooklyn, where I live, to Hunter’s Point, Queens, directly north. Hunter’s Point, the slim neighborhood wedged between Long Island City and the East River, is home to a gussied-up boardwalk area and not one but two East River stops a walking distance apart from one another. Between them, a few steps from the water, is a building that for the past few years I have watched slowly go up, a postmodern structure slabbed in ghostly gray and windowed in the kind of amorphous shapes found on old military uniforms. Imagine my surprise when I discovered it was to be a library.

The $38 million Hunter’s Point Library, as it will be known, has been erected at a snail’s pace since ground was broken for it in 2015. Part of its numerous delays—according to Nathaly Pesantez at the Long Island City Post—has to do with its ambitious design by star architect Steven Holl. Of particular concern is the fact that “the architect… insisted that a specific type of glass be used for the building due to its lighting and heat features. The glass chosen was manufactured in Germany, glazed in Spain, and eventually exported to Connecticut before reaching Long Island City. The glass was held up in Spain, however, due to a dock workers strike.”

But what are you going to tell the architect of a library that has already won multiple design awards? What are you going to tell the architect with such a mind for literature that he previously designed the Franz Kafka Society Center, or the Knut Hamsun Center (maybe not the most deserving of an award, but still…) or the numerous breathtaking museums and complexes that Holl is building around the world? Hurry up? If this library will become the exemplar of what a public library could be—a performing arts space, a public park, a learning center, and a multi-floored minimalist space for reading great literature—well, then I’m all for delaying it to perfection. More news when the library opens, a date currently set for winter 2019.



Michael Barron is an editor at Melville House.