A rendering of the New Library and Environmental Education Center. Via BPL

The Greenpoint community, joined by students from PS 34 and public officials including Coucilman Stephen Levin, Deputy Borough President Diana Reyna and Assemblyman Joe Lentol, broke ground on our new Library and Environmental center on October 23rd.

On Thursday, that state-of-the-art, community-conscious, environmentally equitable building was heralded in the San Francisco Chronicle as one of three new building projects in the nation that “demonstrate architecture’s unique power to build, sustain and forge communities.” 

Noting that “public spaces are increasingly being privatized,” and “cities are being shaped according to the desires of the elite,” Sean Weiss of City College of New York writes in the Chronicle, that by welcome contrast:

A new building for the branch library in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighborhood – the Greenpoint Library and Environmental Education Center – exemplifies public architecture’s ability to reflect the concerns of local communities.

A massive oil spill that was discovered in 1978 wreaked havoc on Newtown Creek, the waterway bordering Greenpoint to the north. Because cleanup efforts are still ongoing, environmental activism remains a defining aspect of the community’s identity.


Given this history, it’s no surprise that issues of environmental justice were important when it came time to rebuilding a larger library in Greenpoint, one of the more widely used branch libraries in the Brooklyn Public Library system.

Designed by the architecture firm Marble Fairbanks, the two-story building has all the features of a traditional library, from book stacks to reading rooms. But there are also meeting spaces being built for the expressed use of community activists and environmentalists, as well as an education center for environmental awareness – nods to the neighborhood’s history of environmental activism.

It’s also being built according to the highest standards of green design, with plans to reduce the building’s air pollution, energy and water use. The building’s two green roofs, in addition to its public plaza, will be planted with species native to the region.

A grant from the Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund, created through a settlement with Exxon Mobil over the spill, even paid for part of the new project. Collectively, the library’s design shows how at the local level, environmental justice and social justice are intertwined.

Way to lead the nation, Greenpoint!


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