Renovations at the Public Library's Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on Fifth Avenue Nearly Complete

One of the city's great indoor spaces is nearing the end of a two-year, $15 million renovation. Our Michael Scotto got a bird's eye view.

Rose Main Reading Room on 5th Avenue has for a century been a place of scholarly research.

But for the last two years, it has been closed to the public, covered in scaffolding the size of a football field.

The library's Chief Operating Officer, Iris Weinshall, and the team behind the renovations, brought us up four stories to the top of that platform, where we could actually reach out and touch the ornate fixtures you normally can see only from the floor.

"Even short me can touch the ceiling here," Weinshall said.

The scaffolding went up nearly two years ago, after a 16-pound plaster rosette came crashing to the floor in the middle of the night.

"When the rosette fell, fear I think reigned in our bones and we thought, 'Uh-oh, if one fell, that means that all of them must be in jeopardy,'" Weinshall said.

Ever since then, crews have been on top of the scaffolding —working to test, rebuild and reinforce — sometimes with the help of metal wire that loops into the attic.

"It's like a belt and suspenders," said Project Manager Anna Marie Prono.

Hundreds of plaster decorations crisscross the ceiling.

"This whole beam over here was re-plastered there," Prono said. 

Crews have also lowered 22 dusty chandeliers to the floor, and have been working to restore and polish them.

"This is really kind of intense right here," Prono said.

When complete, the room will look something like the grand Catalog Room, just a few feet away.

That room is nearing the end of its own renovation, part of which included, creating a brand new mural that was then placed in front of an older one.

"Those are two huge pieces of canvas that were rolled out and then the conservators," Prono said. "They blended it so you cannot see the seam up there at all.

The scaffolding here will begin to come down in June. This room and the Bill Blass Catalog Room will reopen in September.

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