Across the borough, Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) is rehabilitating its vital neighborhood libraries with projects ranging from small restorations to full-scale renovations. The New Lots branch is being overhauled to modernize the library, address outdated infrastructure, better support the needs of the surrounding community and showcase its unique history as the site of a former burial ground for enslaved people and a space that celebrates African American heritage in East New York.
In partnership with BPL, former NYC Council Member Inez Barron, and Arts East New York, Hester Street (HST) led a community engagement process to offer East New York residents an opportunity to discover, commemorate, and build on the site’s unique history while looking to the future of the library as a vital gathering place and resource hub for the neighborhood. Starting in 2019, HST held community events to gather feedback and ideas on the programming and features of the renovated space until the COVID-19 pandemic paused the process. Resuming in 2022, HST engaged residents and specific patron groups, such as the New Lots Adult Learning Center participants and youth, through targeted activities to collect their input for the new library.
In June 2022, HST and BPL provided an engagement report back featuring key feedback from the community, with calls to include spaces that highlight East New York’s culture and history, develop educational resources on the African burial ground, and expand programs focused on art, health, and wellness.
Construction began in late 2023 and New Lots is expected to reopen and welcome patrons back to the library in 2025.