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Library Books Down Street

Hazelwood's Carnegie branch to abandon digs -- and add threat of drug-dealing nearby

The Carnegie Library plans to shutter its Hazelwood branch on Monongahela Street and move to a location on much-busier Second Avenue. But at a Nov. 5 City Council hearing, supporters of the current site pled with city officials to, well, throw the book at them.


The Hazelwood library, said Carnegie spokesman Craig Dunham, is "historically an underused branch," and moving it to a higher-profile location at the corner of Flowers and Second avenues would "do a lot to spur [use of] services" by making it more accessible to people from "outside the immediate service area." The new home could only be temporary, given ongoing plans to revitalize the former LTV site nearby, and the library pledged to find a use for the older building. "We are not abandoning the community," Dunham stressed. In fact, other backers of the plan contended that the new location could help spur the redevelopment of Second Avenue, a frequent site for drug transactions and the attendant violence.


The problem for more than a dozen residents who attended the hearing, though, is that Second Avenue is a frequent site for drug transactions and violence. "Would you want your mothers, your wives, your daughters ... to walk through a drug-infested neighborhood?" Hazelwood Presbyterian Church minister Patricia Mason thundered at councilors.


"If you read your police records, you'll see that at least the past five shootings ... occurred right beneath the door of where the library is moving to," agreed Hazelwood resident Homer Craig.


Champions of the current site complain that although there have been three public hearings about the building's future, Carnegie officials already slated the Monongahela Street site for closing. And while Carnegie officials insisted a new building was necessary for the library to be handicapped-accessible, the lone person to testify from a wheelchair, Janet Evans, opposed the move. "It seems like when it comes to the disabled population, nobody asks what should be done," she said. For her part, the old building "can be renovated" with "a ramp on the side somewhere. ... As far as the new location, I'm not really too happy about it" because of the crime threat.


But despite the opposition, the Carnegie's plans have been endorsed by the board of the Hazelwood Initiative, whose chair Lisa Kunst Vavro points out that the library is moving less than three blocks away -- to a location closer to a local senior citizens center. The Carnegie is still planning to begin renovating the Second Avenue site for occupancy in January, with plans to move in by March.

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