July 8, 2005


Political and Community Leaders Celebrate Future Cultural Destination

Brooklyn, NY...Brooklyn Public Library, the nation's fifth largest public library system. breaks ground on a $16.5 million major renovation of its Central Library outdoor Plaza and new Auditorium, which will revitalize Grand Army Plaza, a hub for the Brooklyn community and refurbish the entrance to the landmark building. The expansion was designed by the award-winning firm, Vincent Benic Architects and is slated for completion in Fall of 2006. The renovation of the Central Library Plaza and Auditorium represents a significant fundraising effort, spearheaded by the Brooklyn Public Library Foundation.

"A new Auditorium for public programs and re-done Plaza with places to sit, wireless connectivity and improved access for babies in strollers and people in wheelchairs will make Brooklyn Public Library's Central Library even more popular," says Ginnie Cooper, Executive Director of Brooklyn Public Library. "When construction is complete, the Plaza will transform from the front steps of the Central Library to the front porch of the community."

The 16,000-square-foot renovated Plaza will become an extension of the Central Library offering customers a space to experience programs, events and to read, visit information kiosks, browse the internet via wireless access and enjoy the landscaped garden. The 200-seat Auditorium, located beneath the Plaza, will feature spaces for exhibitions, performance and educational programs. The renovation will revitalize Grand Army Plaza for the neighboring Crown Heights, Prospect Heights and Park Slope communities and the cultural institutions beyond.

"When a reader opens a book, they open a door to a brighter future for their mind," said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. "And, the opening up of the public plaza of the Central branch, which is itself shaped like a book, along with the new auditorium for public programs, will open the door to a new era for everyone who visits Grand Army Plaza in the years to come."

The Brooklyn Public Library Central Library Plaza & Auditorium is a significant project of the Brooklyn Public Library Foundation with major funding provided by the Brooklyn Borough President, New York City Office of the Mayor, New York City Council, Congressman Ed Towns, Congressman Jose Serrano of the Bronx, Congressman John Sweeney who represents New York from Poughkeepsie to Lake Placid, Congressman Jim Walsh from Syracuse, Senator Chuck Schumer, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Dr. S. Stevan Dweck, and Independence Community Foundation.

The presentation of a $500,000 grant from Independence Community Foundation is also a key part of the groundbreaking program.

"We are delighted to provide this pace-setter grant for a project that will transform the public plaza and entrance to Brooklyn's flagship Central Library," says Marilyn Gelber, Executive Director. "All of us at Independence are proud to be part of this expansion that will provide a warm welcome to visitors at this popular Grand Army Plaza hub," says Terence Mitchell, Brooklyn Public Library Foundation Trustee and Consumer Banking President at Independence Community Bank.

Distinguished guests at the groundbreaking include: Keynote Speaker, the Hon. Marty Markowitz, Brooklyn Borough President; Ginnie Cooper, Executive Director of Brooklyn Public Library; Dr. Lucille Thomas, President, Board of Trustees, Brooklyn Public Library; Howard Smith, Chair, Board of Trustees, Brooklyn Public Library Foundation; Vincent Benic, Vincent Benic Architect; Hon. Major Owens, U.S. House of Representatives; Hon. Letitia James, New York City Council; Marilyn Gelber, Executive Director, Independence Community Foundation, and Terry Mitchell, Brooklyn Public Library Foundation Trustee and President of the Consumer Banking Division at Independence Community Bank.

Vincent Benic Architect, a firm noted for restoration and preservation projects of the highest quality, has completed the design work. Vincent Benic over 20 years of professional experience and has provided preservation consulting and design development for many major New York projects, including the Guggenheim Soho, The Cloisters, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Ellis Island National Monument. The firm has received awards from the Municipal Art Society, The New York Landmarks Conservancy, the Connecticut Preservation Trust, the Painting & Decorating Council of America, New York State AIA and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Construction on the Central Library Plaza began in May 2005 with an estimated fall 2006 completion date.

The Brooklyn Public Library Foundation, a non-profit corporation, was established in 1997 to provide significant private financial support, including capital improvements, educational programs, technology initiatives and endowment. The 25-seat Board of the Foundation includes prominent individuals with records of outstanding community leadership.

Independence Community Foundation, which is presenting a $500,000 grant to the the Central Library Plaza + Auditorium project today, was created and endowed by Independence Community Bank when it became a public company in 1998. The work of the Foundation continues the long-standing tradition of charitable giving by the Bank, which has played a vital role in the economic and social growth of the New York metropolitan region since Independence was established in 1850. With nearly $18 billion in assets, Independence Community Bank offers a wide range of banking services through a network of more than 125 full-service branches, including 20 in Brooklyn. The Independence Community Foundation focuses on building partnerships for change with community non-profit organizations and cultural and educational institutions. Its primary mission is to renew neighborhoods by promoting economic growth, housing development, educational achievement and cultural enrichment. Get information on the Foundation at

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