STATEN ISLAND, NY – Dozens of children, teens and their families spent Thursday afternoon doing arts and crafts, eating hot dogs and hamburgers, conducting a science experiment and choosing free books at Veterans Park in Port Richmond at an event hosted by the New York Public Library (NYPL) in honor of Immigrant Heritage Month.
“Port Richmond has always been a city of immigrants,” said Andrew Oppenheimer, librarian at the Port Richmond branch. “My father emigrated here from Germany and grew up not far from here. The only thing that has changed is the background of immigrant communities, but it has always been a city of immigrants. So it’s very important to Port Richmond. “
As a teenage librarian, Oppenheimer says he likes to provide teens with experiences they wouldn’t typically find in their schools. At the event, he brought hundreds of rubber bands and wrapped them around a watermelon until it exploded with pressure as part of a science learning experiment.
“This is great because at least we are recognized,” said Cecilia Ahluwalia, who enjoys visiting the Port Richmond library with her grandchildren. “Plus, it’s an opportunity for kids to come and have fun and do arts and crafts.”
The Port Richmond Library is currently closed for refurbishment and is expected to open in 2023. It has been closed to the community since the summer of 2020 which is why they have Bookmobiles to provide services in the neighborhood, such as library card making, checking and return books and offer partnerships with schools to provide them with the resources they need.
Jenelin Ynfante, who works for bilingual children’s services and promotes Spanish in Spanish-speaking communities, was responsible for the arts and crafts table at the event. She helped the children to make wooden mermaids, octopuses, turtles and other sea creatures with sticks, thread and colored markers.
“I just feel that, socially, it’s really important for children to be with other children, experiment, have fun and be themselves,” Ynfante said.
There were also hundreds of books to be distributed free to the community during the event. The children selected books with their parents and took home the titles they knew or had intrigued them.
“We are trying to help the families not go crazy this summer,” said Mitsa Kafaer, an employee at the Port Richmond Library. “We are distributing books and kits to take home, so the children can have something to do, especially with COVID still ongoing”
He noted that the books differ from last year’s selections because they represent families with varied heritage, including Mexican, Chinese, South Asian, and more.
This is one of the first events hosted by the NYPL to kick off the Summer at the Library initiative, which will take place in all NYPL branches, Staten Island, Manhattan and the Bronx, to expand reading and bring books to children. homes.