Inwood Ponders Preserving Library

On March 18, over 150 Inwood residents gathered at the Good Shepherd school on Isham Street for a forum to discuss their concerns and ideas about the city’s plan to redevelop the neighborhood’s public library, replace it with a new “state-of-the-art” library, and add “100 percent affordable housing” apartments. City Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer also attended.

The main concerns expressed included were the proposed sale of the publicly owned land to a private developer; the city’s lack of plans for maintaining library services without interruption during construction; the height of the new building; and whether the apartments built would be permanently affordable to people living in the neighborhood.

The Inwood Library, located on Broadway between Dyckman and Academy streets, is an important community center. Cheramie Mondesire, a former teacher who lives in the neighborhood, said residents had told her things like, “My parents learned to speak English at that library” and “My parents learned to become citizens at the library,” while others “came there to learn about housing and tenants rights.” It also has a program that preserves the oral histories of people in the area.

“We are a community that has been shorted millions of dollars in our schools by a lack of fiscal equity,” Estevan Nembhard, a Communist Party district organizer, told the meeting. “The Inwood Public Library is a basic part of the safety net that picks up that slack.”

The meeting was organized by the Northern Manhattan Is Not for Sale coalition, a group of residents and local and citywide organizations. It believes that if residents’ concerns are properly resolved, this could be a great opportunity to have a community-led development project based on local needs. 

“We need to make sure it’s affordable for people like my mother who rely on SSI, whose income is $12,000, but also to have a percentage for the sons and daughters of that mother who is a teacher or police officer who are making more than $26-$30,000 a year,” Councilmember Rodriguez, who represents the neighborhood, told the crowd. 

Rodriguez added that the idea of developing a community land trust “should be the core of this conversation. I will be working with you to ensure we keep the land trust as an important part of the negotiation.”

Learn more about Northern Manhattan is Not for Sale