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Newark Library Needs New Roof

Building has suffered water damage and mold.

The Newark Public Library has been showing its age.

The handsome Beaux-Arts building that has sat on Washington Street for more than 100 years has been suffering water leaks from a patchy roof, which needs to be completely replaced, according to library officials.

“It’s going to be very expensive,” said Wilma J. Grey, the library director.

Estimates for a new roof will be over $600,000, Grey said.

Joseph Casale, the library’s assistant director for finance & development, said the pricey roof replacement should be paid through a 2012 capital allocation from the city's coffers.

"We need to first ascertain the availability of capital dollars from the city, which is imminent," he said in an email message, which also indicated that the roof replacement request is plugged into a process set by the city in order to secure funds.

On questions on when the roof will be replaced, Casale said it will depend on the "timing of the bid process."

Tropical Storm Irene caused water leakage into the building and some areas of the library’s main stack space in August, Grey said. Some office area was also damaged.

There have also been reports of mold growth that were brought up during a September meeting with the library’s board of trustees, according to Claudine Royal, chairwoman of Preserve Newark Libraries, a non-profit group based in the West Ward.

Jared Ash, president of the local union representing the library's workers, said a staff work space has been closed since October due to the mold growth.

“It’s pretty critical,” Ash said about the water leaks. “Things are difficult enough. Without a quick timely response, it’s (the roof) going to be imperiled.”

After the storm, workers patched the existing roof, Grey said.

Casale said the patch repair work was paid with capital funds.

“Hopefully patches will hold for the winter, until we can repair the roof more permanently," Grey said. "It’s been patched. It’s not an issue right now.”

Despite the leaks into the stacks, Grey said relatively few books were discarded.

The main library building was erected in 1901 and features a classical Beaux-Arts style of facade with elegant carved stone walls, pilasters framing large double-hung windows, and delicate stone friezes.

A central, soaring atrium commands the heart of the library inside. A stained glass skylight bathes natural, soft light into the large galleries along the atrium where art exhibits are usually held.

Ash said the library is modeled after the Palazzo Strozzi, an Italian Renaissance palace in Florence, Italy.

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