Kew Gardens Hills Library set to reopen 1

Bookworms, including City Councilmember Jim Gennaro, second from left, united outside the Kew Gardens Hills Library last Thursday to demand its reopening for full service after six months of use as a testing site.

The calls of Kew Gardens Hills Library lovers have been heard: The branch is expected to resume service no later than July 13.

Ewa Kern Jedrychowska of the Queens Public Library told the Chronicle the library would not be extending its agreement to serve as a Covid-19 testing site after its current one ends on June 30.

“While we know many of our customers want the branch to reopen as soon as possible and we are also eager to serve the public at the branch again, we are committed to supporting the City’s efforts to combat the spread of Covid-19,” Kern Jedrychowska said in a May 7 email.

The announcement came after a rally at the branch’s doors one day earlier. About 50 bookworms stood before the 72-33 Vleigh Place library and demanded it reopen for full in-person service. Service had been restored at 14 other locations on May 10, and the Kew Gardens Hills cardholders were disappointed their branch was not one of them.

“This is a community that reads. This is a community that honors reading and learning and we really miss the library,” said Ethyl Haber, president of the Friends of Kew Gardens Hills Library and one of the rally’s organizers.

The rally supplemented a petition to “give back” the library to its community. As of May 12, over 1,030 people signed onto the request.

The Kew Gardens Hills Library has been operating as a city Health + Hospitals’ Test & Trace Corps site since Oct. 5. Although originally slated as a temporary resource, its use as a testing location was extended until June 30 due to its high demand.

But Haber claims that activity has slowed severely in recent weeks. The lines that once wrapped around the block have vanished, she said, and there is no reason to continue the library’s use as a testing site and deny the neighborhood use of its service.

City Councilmember Jim Gennaro (D-Hillcrest) was one of the Thursday ralliers. He and Assemblymember Daniel Rosenthal (D-Fresh Meadows) had submitted a letter to Queens Public Library President Dennis Walcott just three days earlier calling for restoration for full service at the Kew Gardens Hills branch.

“Our community has waited patiently as the library was adapted to address the need for testing locations for Covid-19, but as we move towards higher vaccination numbers and lower hospitalizations, we and the community strongly believe the need for this library to continue as a testing location has ended, given the abundance of Covid-19 testing locations within walking distance of the library,” the representatives wrote.

Gennaro and Rosenthal requested that the library not renew its contract with the city Test & Trace Corps in the weeks leading up to June 30. They also specified not to use the library as a vaccination site, either. Both requests were heeded by the QPL.

According to the QPL, the reopening of the initial 14 branches marks the second stage of its reopening plan. Its goal is to be fully operational at all branches by mid-July.

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