We’ve wondered about this for a while – what’s up with the tiny doors and micro balconies on the back facade of the New York Public Library, Stephen A. Schwarzman building at Bryant Park? With such a monumental building, the architectural elements seem almost like an anomaly or an after thought, especially contrasted with the massive arched windows of the Rose Reading Room.

We first noticed them scoping out photography spots for the 2013 Dîner en Blanc, which took pace in Bryant Park. Since then we’ve been curious about how to get in there or what’s inside. We got our answer today, exploring the library, at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the recent renovation.

The Reading Room is 52 feet high, so we know the floor of the space is far below where the doors are located. Inside the reading room, there’s a narrow, elevated mezzanine that wraps around. There are wooden doors placed regularly along the mezzanine. Normally the mezzanine is only accessible to staff, but at the press event today, there was much more freedom to move around.


We opened one of the wooden doors up, and behold! There were a couple steps going down, and a short, undecorated passageway. There was another door with the foreboding sign: “DANGER! DO NOT UNLOCK THIS DOOR!” and a window with cross bars. We were with our friend, photographer Max Touhey, and he explained to us that according to the New York Public Library, the doors were built as part of a planned extension of the building which never happened. He also told us that one of the windows does open, where you can get a view of Bryant Park.


Next, enjoy our photos from the newly renovated Rose Reading Room and read about the Top 10 Secrets of the New York Public Library.