Good things come to those who wait, and that just might be true for the patrons of the New York Public Library’s Van Cortlandt branch.
After three years of planning, more than nine months of construction, and a move just three blocks away from its old Sedgwick Avenue home, the Van Cortlandt Village location finally opened the doors to its new branch Monday at 3882 Cannon Place.
All eyes have been on a move since February 2016 to give the library the space it was looking for. To make that happen, however, the branch needed $8 million to complete construction, $2 million of which allotted by Bronx borough president Ruben Diaz Jr., Councilman Andrew Cohen, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, and former state Sen. Jeffrey Klein.
Moving to a new space was something the Van Cortlandt branch thought about in the mid-1980s, according to branch manager Peter Pamphile, only 20 years after its first relocation from an apartment across the street.
As the years went on, the older 2,700-square-foot space became harder to renovate and improve as the need for amenities like cell phone charging stations at tables and a separate space for community events became things patrons increasingly wanted.
“I loved our old space because it was quaint,” Pamphile said. “But we couldn’t modify it anymore.”
All these needs and more have been addressed at the new Cannon Place location, offering things like a children’s bathroom, two adult restrooms, more laptops and computers, and a separate space for kids and teens.
The moving process was hectic, Pamphile said, as the old branch closed a month ago to accommodate the relocation. His team spent that time working with vendors and other departments within the New York Public Library system to ensure everything would be in place for the reopening.
“While it was crazy, it was well worth it because when things needed to be done, they got done quickly,” Pamphile said.
Another challenge the branch manager faced in the last month was turning patrons away as they tried to walk into both the old Sedgwick location and the new Cannon Place location during the day.
“They were so ready (for it) to be open that they were walking in not knowing that it wasn’t ready,” Pamphile said. “Seeing their faces, they (were) dismayed. But it’s like, ‘You’re going to get something so wonderful if you could just last a month. It’ll be well worth it.’”
While there are other local branches for people to visit, Pamphile notes “it’s just not that same as coming to your library.”
Now that he’s experienced a month-long process of relocation, Pamphile says he thought a lot about how big retailers are able to move into a new space on a regular basis.
“It made me really appreciate what they go through as well,” he said.
As Pamphile and his team settle into their new 5,500-square-foot home, he’s excited to see how far the branch has come.
“To go from where we were — which is half of the size of what we are in now — to something so modern, it’s truly amazing,” he said.
Pamphile also looks forward to seeing how happy patrons will be once they stop by.
“How often do you open up a new library, let alone in the Bronx?” he said. “People are going to be ecstatic.”
And if there’s one thing Pamphile has learned from this process, it’s to “always trust your team” as a branch manager.
“They’ve handled situations that could be frustrating with a smile,” he said. “I’m so proud of them.”
As Pamphile and his trustworthy team look ahead to the future of the new branch location, he believes they’ll see more visitors looking to make great use of the Van Cortlandt branch space.
“This is something that people need,” Pamphile said. “We want it to be used by everyone.”