On Wednesday, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams “disapproved with conditions” the development project proposed for the site of the Brooklyn Heights Library at 280 Cadman Plaza West, as part of the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) process.
The response was issued following months of hearing from passionate local residents and community activists and a public hearing Adams held in the courtroom of Brooklyn Borough Hall on August 18.
Among other recommendations that addressed concerns raised at a Borough Hall hearing, Adams proposed including elementary school space in the development; called for affordable housing on-site; recommended that the library maintain its current publicly-accessible floor area, inclusive of the Business Library; and proposed a possible merger of the city’s library systems.
In its controversial proposal, Hudson Companies Inc. hopes to build a 36-story residential tower on the library site and construct 114 affordable-housing units at two locations on Fulton Street and on Atlantic Avenue in Clinton Hill. The project would include a 21,500-square-foot library, two ground-floor retail spaces and 139 market-rate condominiums.
Adams said he considered written statements and hours of testimony.
“My recommendations for the future of the Brooklyn Heights Branch, which have been guided by the thousands of Brooklynites whose feedback I have considered in recent weeks, are a blueprint for responsible community development that puts our children and families first,” Adams said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.
“Moreover, we must seize this opportunity to resolve the larger fiscal crisis that our libraries face, with solutions that guarantee equitable and dependable funding for capital upgrades and branch programming,” he added.
To address the problem of overcrowded schools in Brooklyn Heights and Downtown Brooklyn, Adams proposed building elementary school space at the site, which could include an annex (with a gymnasium and lunch room) for overcrowded P.S. 8.
In addition, he called on the New York City Department of Education (DOE) and New York City School Construction Authority (SCA) to establish a task force that would include local Community Education Councils, Community Boards and elected representatives “to develop a site identification plan that would solve the public school seat shortage in and around Downtown Brooklyn.”
Library size, air rights
Addressing an often-repeated concern of library users that the proposal would drastically shrink the space that Brooklyn Heights library users are used to, which includes the adjoining Business and Career Library (scheduled to move to the Central branch at Grand Army Plaza), Adams called for the new library to “maintain its current publicly-accessible floor area, inclusive of the Business Library.”
In addition, he said that proceeds from the sale of any air rights related to library sites should be directed to library branches. He asked the city’s Department of City Planning to develop a zoning text change to make such transfers easier.
Addressing concerns of income inequality, Adams called for the affordable housing component of the development to be sited within the Brooklyn Heights tower, rather than in Clinton Hill.
Adams also called for more family-sized units, pointing out the “significantly unbalanced number of studio apartments versus two- and three-bedroom apartments which are most in demand for families borough-wide.”
At previous hearings, David Kramer, Hudson Company principal, defended the idea of placing the affordable housing component off-site, saying that by doing so the company could afford to double the number of affordable units.
But the idea makes many residents and housing advocates uncomfortable. Rob Solano, testifying at Borough Hall for Churches United for Fair Housing, said, “Separate but equal is not right.”
Merge library systems
Saying that the city’s public library system “is not a proper working model,” Adams noted how library maintenance, operations and staffing have suffered “due to inconsistent and unpredictable funding streams.”
To fix the system, he proposed the incorporation of public libraries into the city’s agency structure.
“Brooklyn Public Library would become an independent agency that would be subject to merger with other library systems pending results of a cost-benefit analysis,” Adams said.
Local and minority contractors
Adams also recommended using Brooklyn-based contractors and subcontractors for the project, especially those that are designated locally-based enterprises (LBEs) and minority and women-owned business enterprises (MWBEs).
Adams’ recommendations will be considered by the City Planning Commission (CPC) as part of their public meeting on Tuesday, September 22.