Brooklyn Public Library’s (BPL) Community Advisory Committee will be meeting at Brooklyn Borough Hall on Tuesday, October 7 at 6:30 p.m. to discuss the next steps in the redevelopment of the Brooklyn Heights Branch Library.
Topics will include the selection of the developer of the Heights site, the next steps involved in the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) and the interim library space (Our Lady of Lebanon Church) in Brooklyn Heights. This discussion is open to the public.
In mid-September, BPL trustees voted to sell the Brooklyn Heights branch to Hudson Companies/Marvel Architects for $52 million. Hudson plans a 30-story mixed use project, which would include a space for a replacement branch library.
The Business Library, which currently shares the building with the Heights branch, would be moved to the Central Library at Grand Army Plaza.
The new branch library will provide 20,000 square feet, with 15,000 “above grade,” with the remainer in the basement level. There are also discussions about retail space and an 11,000 square-foot gymnasium affiliated with St. Ann’s School, though community space is an option also under discussion.
In exchange for the land, the Hudson Companies will build 114 new affordable housing units elsewhere, in addition to 132 market rate units to be built on site. The affordable units must be built within the boundaries of Community Board 2.
The plan has raised a storm of protest among those who see it as a transfer of public space to a private developer. Despite the assurances of BPL that the useable square footage will be at least equivalent to that in the current library, some feel that the removal of the Business Library, used without distinction by those who visit the Heights branch, is a de facto shrinkage of local resources.
The entire BPL system is notoriously underfunded. The library says it needs hundreds of millions of dollars to repair branches throughout Brooklyn, and has discussed selling other libraries for development as well. BPL says it will have roughly $40 million left over from the sale after expenses.
BPL says repairs to the Heights branch would amount to $9.2 million, including an estimated $3.5-$4.5 million to replace a non-functioning HVAC system.
Those objecting to the sale say they are suspicious of BPL’s figures regarding the cost of repairs.
The Brooklyn Heights Association (BHA) said in a statement on Sept. 29 that they feel the project, as outlined in the original Request for Proposals, “has the potential to make a significant contribution–if the developers and BPL trustees will take the time to re-evaluate their design, and engage in an open process with the broader library and civic center community.”
BHA called the design “a clunky condominium sitting atop generic retail space.”
“We want to see a distinctive and welcoming public building that provides a graceful transition from the civic buildings on Cadman Plaza to the residences of Brooklyn Heights – a library that is a visual gateway to the neighborhood,” BHA wrote.
BHA also questioned the decision to “assign considerable square footage to an exclusive private school gymnasium.” BHA called for community or public school space instead.
Borough President Eric Adams told the Eagle that he would comment on the proposal during the ULURP process.