NYPL’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building renovations are part of $317 million revamp

About 1,800 books and three paintings from the collection of philanthropist Brooke Astor will be featured in a room at the New York Public Library’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building as part of a new scholar center.

The Lenox and Astor Room will be one of 10 revamped spaces reserved for seminars, quiet study and reading, according to library officials.

The scholarly hub is part of a larger, sweeping plan to revamp the historic building on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. The next phase of construction, slated to begin July 16, will create more public space for research, exhibitions and educational programs.

Ten rooms currently used for staff, storage and study space on the second floor will be spruced up and transformed into the scholar center. The renovations will involve upgrading the lighting and restoring historical design features.

Once finished, the space will allow the library to showcase items donated through Astor’s will for the first time, according to Risa Honig, the library’s vice president for capital planning and construction.

“It was a room that had not been renovated for many, many, many years. It’s currently not in good shape, and its underutilized,” said Honig. “It can be used for many things, but the idea is that it’s really to educate and inform.”

The revamp will also make way for a new entrance on 40th Street, another elevator and an additional staircase in the historic beaux-arts building, Honig said.

“It will create a better circulation flow,” Honig said, adding: “The biggest thing that the renovations mean is more public space — more renovated public space for scholars, for research, for the general public.”

The library plans to complete this round of renovations by 2021, while undertaking projects on a rolling basis. Workers will shut down a second floor, central corridor near the forthcoming scholar center until September 2019. To accommodate patrons during the work, the library will add public seats on the third floor Salomon Room and offer another research room elsewhere.

Back in November, the library unveiled a $317 million master plan to overhaul the landmarked library building. Officials commissioned Mecanoo, a Dutch architecture firm, and New York City-based Beyer Blinder Belle to update the structure, while maintaining its character. The Stephen A. Schwarzman library debuted in 1911, along with the iconic lion statues beside its front entrance.

Under the master plan, the library previously began upgrading the building facade and improving the stacks under Bryant Park, according to Honig.

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