The controversial plan to renovate the glorious Beaux-Arts main branch of the New York Public Library is no longer: The NY Times reports that the library has "abandoned its plan to turn part of its research flagship on 42nd Street into a circulating library and instead will renovate the Mid-Manhattan library on Fifth Avenue, several library trustees said."
Notably, Mayor de Blasio had been against this plan. According to the Times, "Several factors contributed to the library’s decision: a study that showed the cost of renovating the 42d Street building to be more than expected (the project had originally been estimated at about $300 million); a change in city government; and input from the public, several trustees said. (Four lawsuits have been filed against the project.)... The library is still expected to receive the $150 million that had been allotted to the project under the Bloomberg administration, but it will now be used for other purposes, several library trustees said."
Sir Norman Foster was the architect behind the renovation plans; Foster told the Times, "Obviously I respect the decision of the trustees and whoever’s been involved in the decision. If I have any kind of sadness on the thing — besides obviously not having the project going ahead and having spent a huge amount of passion on the project with colleagues — it is that the proposals have never been revealed, and there hasn’t really been a debate by those involved, including those who would have benefitted from an inclusive approach to the library." The Times adds, "Mr. Foster has so far been paid $9 million in private funds for his work on the project."
The Times' architecture critic Michael Kimmelman hated the renovation plans and burned them in this 2013 assessment; some highlights:
This time the bright idea involves demolishing the deteriorating seven floors of the structurally integral book stacks in the vault space under the Rose Main Reading Room at 42nd Street, and in its place installing a brand-new circulating library, designed by Mr. Foster: major transplant surgery, with the great building designed by Carrère and Hastings as guinea pig...
The value of an institution isn’t measured in public square feet. But its value can be devalued by bad architecture. And here we get to the schematics Mr. Foster finally unveiled last month. They aren’t worthy of him. After more than four years, this hardly seems the best he can do. The designs have all the elegance and distinction of a suburban mall. I was reminded that Mr. Foster is also responsible for the canopied enclosure of the inner court at the British Museum, a pompous waste of public space that inserts a shopping gallery into the heart of a sublime cultural institution...
To make a virtue of [the stacks' windows'] oppressiveness, Mr. Foster has pulled the various floors of the circulating branch back from the wall, creating balconies that officials hail as an architectural boon because visitors will be able to take in the full height of the slot windows. To me, what results is an awkward, cramped, banal pastiche of tiers facing claustrophobia-inducing windows, built around a space-wasting atrium with a curved staircase more suited to a Las Vegas hotel.
Computer programmer Matthew Zadrozny, whose protest against the NYPL's renovation plans gained noticed after Humans of New York featured him, told us, "I applaud the NYPL for courageously stepping in the right direction and look forward to inventing the future of the library with them. This is a good day for New York."