After a half dozen libraries in Brooklyn were damaged by Hurricane Sandy, the last branch to recover, the Coney Island Library, reopened Wednesday. NY1's Jeanine Ramirez filed the following report.
Balloons decorated the new doors Wednesday, letting Coney Island residents know their library is back.
"Finally, after a whole year, we have the library open for the kids. Thank God," said one person.
"It's been awful without a library," said another. "The kids in this neighborhood depend on this library. It was missed."
Hurricane Sandy wiped out the first floor when about five feet of water rushed in. NY1 took a tour of the building after it was gutted out and construction was underway. It is now rebuilt and upgraded with tablets, computers and self-checkout machines.
"We had repeatedly promised that we would deliver a product that was better than the one that the storm had decimated, and I am so happy to be standing here in Coney Island in a library that is so much better than the library that was here a year ago," said Linda Johnson, president of the Brooklyn Public Library.
While the library is wired for the future, it also pays tribute to the past, with images of Coney Island's heyday decorating the walls and salvaged wood from the boardwalk lining its ceilings.
Six of the Brooklyn Public Library branches were affected by Hurricane Sandy, Coney Island most severely, with more than $2.5 million in damage. Twenty thousand books were ruined, as were all of the furniture, electrical systems, boiler and elevator. The site is the last of the library sites to reopen.
"We could've opened this months following the storm just to get a library reopened, but we had an opportunity," said City Councilman Domenic Recchia of Brooklyn. "Look how beautiful this is."
The new library also complies fully with the Americans with Disabilities Act, including wheelchair accessibility.
Over the year that the library has been closed, a bookmobile has come to the neighborhood several times a week to help fill the void. Now, the branch is open Monday through Friday, seven to eight hours a day.