Queens Daily Eagle: Gianaris urges LIC landlord to halt library eviction on eve of shutdown

Originally published in Queens Daily Eagle on February 12, 2020.

State Sen. Michael Gianaris has sent a letter to a major Long Island City landlord, urging the property owner to extend a local library’s lease before the community space closes for good Saturday.

In a last-gasp attempt to save the library, Gianaris asked Savanna Realty, which owns the Court Square skyscraper that houses a popular branch of the Queens Public Library., to extend the library’s lease until Dec. 31. That would give library officials more time to find a new location after 30 years inside the Citigroup Tower, he wrote.

“This library is a critical asset to our community and cannot afford for it to cease operations just this weekend,” Gianaris wrote to Savanna’s Managing Director Brian Reiver. “With more time, we will be able to partner with neighbors, community groups and various government agencies to find a long term home for the library.”

Savanna decided to boot the library branch at least as early as last year, after Amazon pulled out of a corporate campus deal which included a plan to rent space in the Citigroup Tower, Queens’ tallest building, THE CITY reported.

Community leaders and library customers have denounced what they call corporate greed on the part of Savanna, a private equity firm, and have tried to stave off the site’s pending closure for months. They have held rallies and searched for a new permanent space in the pricey Western Queens neighborhood. The library is closing before the lease expires in March so that staff members have enough time pack up the site’s thousands of books and resources, Long Island City Post reported.

“This library is a critical asset to Long Island City and this company should be able to extend their lease, for even a few more months, to facilitate continuity of services while a permanent home is found,” Gianaris said in a statement. “The Court Square Library plays an important role for a growing neighborhood and I will do everything I can to ensure its continuing presence in our community in a permanent home.” 

QPL President Dennis Walcott said the library system has been looking for a new site since July 2018, despite criticism that the organization waited too long to begin its search.

“We are fully committed to having a library in a growing neighborhood we have served for 30 years and continue to work to identify affordable and appropriate space,” Walcott said in a statement last month. “At the same time, the reality is that we have a fiduciary responsibility to manage the short- and long-term implications of securing a new home in an area with skyrocketing rents.”