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Friday, October 30, 2020

New Initiative at Select Branches Extends Outdoor Wireless Internet Signal 300 Feet in All Directions

Brooklyn, NY -- Today Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) announced a new initiative aimed at bridging the digital divide titled Bklyn Reach: Expanding Wi-Fi Beyond the Branches. By installing rooftop antennas at library branches in high-need neighborhoods, BPL will extend its free wireless internet signal 300 feet into the community. The new antennas are installed at Brownsville, Bushwick, Coney Island, Red Hook and Stone Avenue Libraries. 

Over the next few weeks, antennas will be installed at an additional fourteen locations–Arlington, Bedford, Borough Park, Brighton Beach, Cypress Hills, Jamaica Bay, Kings Bay, Macon, Midwood, New Lots, Saratoga, Walt Whitman, Washington Irving and Flatbush Libraries– bringing expanded Wi-Fi service to over 30 percent of BPL’s branches.

A 2019 report issued by the NYC Comptroller shows that 29 percent of all New York City households (917,239) lack broadband internet access and approximately two-thirds of those households (565,239) lack cellular data plans. In some neighborhoods, more than 50 percent of residents have no internet at home. 

"Brooklyn Public Library has long recognized internet access as a prerequisite to survival and done all we can to bridge the digital divide," said Linda E. Johnson, President and CEO of Brooklyn Public Library. "During the first four months of the pandemic, nearly 185,000 patrons came to the stoops of closed branches to go online, and Bklyn Reach will allow access to thousands more. That means more of our neighbors can attend school, apply for new jobs, order prescription medicine, check out books, and more." 

The lack of service disproportionately impacts low income neighborhoods, creating significant barriers to education and to economic, civic and social life. Before the pandemic, the library bridged the gap, offering a connection and computers for homework, job applications and research; personalized tech support; and an extraordinary range of technology classes ranging from basic computer skills to robotics, coding, game design and more. In fiscal year 2020, our patrons logged nearly 1.3 million Wi-Fi sessions and over a million desktop computer sessions; and when our branches closed for the pandemic, patrons continued to access Wi-Fi from the steps of closed branches.

BKLYN Reach is part of a series of initiatives to help families working and learning from home. It is estimated that between 1,100 and 3,600 people live within 300 feet of each of our 59 branches, with up to 33,000 living within a half mile.

In addition to the Wi-Fi service, in partnership with the New York City Department of Transportation’s Street Seats program, visitors to the Red Hook and Flatbush Libraries can sit, use the Wi-Fi for work or school, and connect safely with friends or co-workers.

The Library is also adding Wi-Fi service to bookmobiles to deliver the service throughout the borough. In early 2021, BPL will unveil a new techmobile which will provide both STEM programming and tech services including Wi-Fi, laptop charging stations, desktop computers and meeting space, generously funded by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.

Brooklyn has the largest broadband access gap of any borough; nearly 30 percent of all Brooklynites and 40% of low-income households have neither home nor cellular broadband with even higher rates of disconnection among lower-income residents.

BKLYN Reach, which builds on years of hotspot giveaways and laptop loans, aims to close that gap and democratize information, making digitals programs and collections truly available to all who seek them.

Bklyn Reach: Expanding Wi-Fi Beyond the Branches is generously supported by The Charles H. Revson Foundation, the Robin Hood Foundation, Solomon Wilson Family Foundation, 1834 Project, Andrea Bozzo & John Martinez, Nancy & Chad Dickerson, Jodi Green & Mike Halperin, Jill Simeone & Stephen Kitts, E. Wachs Family Foundation and Anonymous.

“The internet is essential to navigating life in the City and for many New Yorkers visiting the public library to access computers or free WiFi is a part of their daily routine. While Brooklyn Public Library had to close its doors as a result of COVID-19, they’ve looked for creative and high impact solutions to bring their critical services outside. We couldn’t be more pleased to support Bklyn Reach and greater access to free internet service for New Yorkers, especially now when we need it most,” said Julie Sandorf, President of The Charles H. Revson Foundation.   .

“Access to the internet is a basic human right and an absolute necessity during the COVID-19 crisis, especially as some neighborhoods in Brooklyn are now going back on short-term lock down due to a surge in infection rates. No one should have to crowd outside of a public library building in hopes of accessing Wi-Fi to complete school assignments, make medical appointments, or search for a job. Robin Hood is proud to partner with the Brooklyn Public Library to provide expanded free broadband internet at five of its locations to better serve neighbors living without internet nearby," said Wes Moore, CEO of Robin Hood Foundation.

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About Brooklyn Public Library
Brooklyn Public Library is one of the nation’s largest library systems and among New York City’s most democratic institutions. As a leader in developing modern 21st century libraries, we provide resources to support personal advancement, foster civic literacy, and strengthen the fabric of community among the more than 2.6 million individuals who call Brooklyn home. We provide nearly 65,000 free programs a year with writers, thinkers, artists, and educators—from around the corner and around the world. And we give patrons millions of opportunities to enjoy one of life’s greatest satisfactions: the joy of a good book. 

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