The Bayonne City Council has adopted a bond ordinance for renovations to the Bayonne Free Public Library. The ordinance bonds $650,000 for the construction costs, which is part of matching local funds that will accompany a $1 million grant the library is set to receive as part of the New Jersey Library Construction Bond Act.
Last March, the council passed a resolution applying for the grant to cover half of the cost of the renovations. Totaling $2 million, the city will match the state grant with the $650,000 from municipal bonds and $350,000 from library funds.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the library has played an essential role. During the stay-at-home order, the digital library remained open to residents, and virtual book readings took place daily on Facebook Live. Now the library has reopened in-person with a limited capacity, again allowing residents access to its wealth of information.
Modernizing the library
The library in Bayonne was one of 29 to receive the first round of construction grants, according to Library Director J.P. Porcaro. At the March 17 meeting, he said the grant will fund the completion of five large projects.
According to Porcaro, who has been the library director for three years, one of the issues he’s been facing since day one is leaks across the building. He said this is due to the age of the building.
The main area of the library was built in 1907 and the two wings were built in the 1930s, Porcaro said. The storm drains and drainage system, also built in the 1930s, were constructed within the walls. Due to their age, they have broken down and now leak throughout the building
Porcaro was especially excited about fixing the leaks: “It’s gonna be great to get those replaced.”
The boiler system is also being replaced. The original boiler system is still in place from the 1900s. Because the boiler system and building were constructed back then, a lot of the lining contains asbestos, Porcaro said.
The renovations will include the removal of the asbestos following safety regulations and guidelines. The library is safe for asbestos exposure now, but once construction begins the library will be temporarily closed out of caution.
According to Porcaro, most public areas in the library will be updated to be “barrier-free,” removing obstacles for the disabled. The children’s area will also be expanding.
“It will be great for all residents of Bayonne to be able to have barrier-free access to every public area of the library,” Porcaro said.
Porcaro said the interior of the library will be modernized to be as “beautiful” as the outside of the building and that it stays that way. While the renovations are interior-focused, the construction will include sealing up cracks in the crumbling exterior of the building to prevent any further degradation.
“That way, the outside stays as beautiful as it is now, and I’m really excited to be moving forward on it,” Porcaro said.
According to Porcaro, the library is still waiting to receive the grant agreement from the state before moving forward.
“As soon as we get it back, I’ll be working with you all over at City Hall to get moving on the next steps,” Porcaro said.
He thanked the City Council for helping the library apply and for the bond ordinance with matching funds which he said helped the library receive the grant.
“We’re excited and looking forward to all the new improvements you’re going to be doing over there,” City Council President Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski said.
“This funding will enable the library to make significant capital improvements to the building, which plays an important role in the life of our community,” Mayor James Davis said.
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