By Gregg McQueen
Uptown residents witnessed a jolting sight in May, as the former Inwood Library building was demolished.
After a giant excavator pounded the building’s facade into rubble, it became abundantly clear that the rezoning of Inwood was at last moving forward.
The Inwood branch of the New York Public Library (NYPL), which stood at 4790 Broadway since 1952, was razed to make way for a new 14-story building that will include a modernized NYPL branch, 175 units of affordable housing and other amenities.
Nicknamed The Eliza in honor of Eliza Hamilton, Alexander Hamilton’s wife, the project will also host a 6,800-square-foot Pre-K facility operated by the Department of Education, a 10,000-square-foot activity and training center managed by The Community League of the Heights (CLOTH) and Children’s Village, and a STEM lab run by First Robotics.
The project is currently in the early stages of construction, as excavation is now underway following the demolition of the site, which also included a former car wash.
“It feels wonderful to be moving forward,” said CLOTH Executive Director Yvonne Stennett, speaking outside the construction site on a recent weekday. “It’s exciting for us and all of the entities involved.”
First announced in 2018, the project was delayed after community residents and business owners sued the city to halt the Inwood rezoning process. A July 2020 ruling by the New York State Supreme Court upheld the rezoning plan, which was allowed to proceed when the New York Court of Appeals declined to hear an appeal from community members.
Stennett acknowledged the community opposition and protracted legal battle but expressed hope that all local residents would eventually embrace the project.
“It went through scrutiny, a lot of questions about why are we doing it, how it’s going to change the neighborhood,” Stennett said.
“Once it’s finished, it’ll be something that is good for the community,” she stated. “Regardless of the trials and tribulations to get it here and the controversy, I think that in the end, everyone benefits.”