City May Sell Brooklyn Heights and Boerum Hill Libraries

According to the Daily News, the city has decided to sell of two Brooklyn branch libraries. The branch in Brooklyn Heights on Cadman Plaza West could be sold to a developer next year. The library would remain on the ground floor while apartments would be built above it. The library would shrink from 60,000 square feet to 16,000 square feet. Under the library’s plan, the Pacific Branch on Fourth Avenue in Boerum Hill would be sold in 2016 and the library would move to a building in the Brooklyn Cultural District. Many of Brooklyn’s libraries are over 100 years old, originally donated by Andrew Carnegie, and are need of over $200 million in repairs. Brooklyn Heights Association executive director Judy Stanton asked, “what do you do in the very long interim period when there will be no branch there?” The sales need to be approved by the City Council. GMAP, GMAP

Update: A spokesperson for the Brooklyn Public Library pointed out that though the building that houses the Brooklyn Heights Branch is 60,000 square feet, the neighborhood branch takes up only about 13,000 square feet of space in the building. The new branch will be at least 2,000 square feet larger. And the library has committed to having a replacement branch in place before any closing so a library will always be available to the community.

Brooklyn Public Library Plans to sell Two Dilapidated Branches [NY Daily News]

Photo By Nicholas Strini for PropertyShark

 

21 Comment

  • They can find money to give to sports teams to come here, they can fund ridiculous studies for years to tell them if it’s feasible to do this or that, they can spend millions on ticker tape parades, and millions more on prostituting the city in order to get the Olympics, but they can’t find the money to fix up libraries? Really?

    • The current BPL administration has no interest in these buildings. They see them not as vitally important community centers and pieces of Brooklyn history, but has potential one-time cash paydays. They’d rather spend money on leasing newly developed space than renovating what they already have. Honestly, to read any interview President Linda Johnson gives, you’d think she hated books and libraries. They seem very inconvenient to her. She has no interest in the Carnegie buildings, she has no interest in their potential. She’s got a very misguided vision. Just take a look at the new logo.

      • deancollins

        If they get a great deal on the new facility on the ground floor (peppercorn rents for the next 99 years etc) then why wouldn’t they sell the underlying land for housing development on the floors above….or are you saying that knowing that the land underneath the building is owned help you read better…..

  • minard

    The Brooklyn Heights library is toast. There will be new condos there in the blink of an eye. But the Boerum Hill library is landmarked isn’t it? I hope so.
    There is a very interesting article in the NY Times today about the plans to eviscerate the Main Library Building on FIfth Avenue. Norman Foster will be inserting a state of the art cruise ship casino/shopping arcade in what had been the building’s heart and soul. The stacks.
    What is going on with library officials lately? They are deconstructing one of the most glorious democratic institutions in the world. The NY public libraries.

  • Come on – what is the mission of the BPL?. I dont think it is providing community centers or maintaining historical structures. For $200 million dollars (or more with the proceeds of the sales) the BPL could practically provide every brooklynite an ereader and a e-library subscription.

  • This precisely what happened to the Donnell Library Center. In 2007 it was announced that it would be replaced by a hotel, and given space in the first two floors. As of Jan 2013 there is no library.

    It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to give the library a new space if the city would man-up and make developers do what they promise to do. But there has been a long NYC tradition of selling the city to real estate developers–only accelerated by Bloomberg.

  • I don’t care if they go door to door with e-readers, and hand them out, it won’t replace a bricks and mortar library. Technology is great, but the people who need a library the most, are not the ones who will be able or want to use e-readers and the internet. Have the e-readers in the library, with staff to teach older people how to use them, sure, but the social interaction of people, the swell of pride a child gets from his/her first time checking a book out, you can’t replace that by e-readers.

    While I’m griping, the use of the word “dilapidated” by the Daily News is misleading. The buildings aren’t on the verge of falling down, which the title suggests.

  • The administration that is overseeing this sale is seriously short-sighted and not thinking of the community they serve. Apart from providing affordable access to books, libraries are perfect places to provide career-skills in an assortment of new media & digital applications, in learning languages and in so many other services. Instead of selling and robbing the community of important resources, surely they could re-assess their budget vis-a-vis the needs of the community and re-tailor their services.

    It is an outrage that the administration is concentrating so much of their resources on the Central Library at Grand Army Plaza and ignoring the needs of the community in other locations.

    I hardly think that the library administration is doing justice to their articulated mission/vision statement:

    Mission
    “It is the mission of Brooklyn Public Library to ensure the preservation and transmission of society’s knowledge, history and culture, and to provide the people of Brooklyn with free and open access to information for education, recreation and reference.

    Vision
    Brooklyn Public Library will be a vital center of knowledge for all, accessible 24 hours a day, and will be a leader in traditional and innovative library services which reflect the diverse and dynamic spirit of the people of Brooklyn.”

  • dittoburg

    The library system president’s $1 million dollar salary could be cut a bit. Like by 70%. There’s no way they cannot attract an excellent librarian at that salary.

    I don’t think ereaders are so great. Access to ebooks is fine – but my young reader son, for example, is barely interested in books on ipads and such. The variety, size and tangibility of children’s books is not (yet) mirrored electronically. Plus all the community access and meeting there.The weekly visit to the actual library however is another matter, he practically runs in through the doors. Bricks and mortar are still important. However, I suppose these particular bricks are too expensive.

    Its a shame NYC residents can’t vote on library budgets directly like we can in our community.

    • I cannot vouch for this website–http://new-york-employees.findthedata.org/l/18034/Linda-Johnson–but it states her salary is $169,846. That is 83% less than one million dollars.

      • dittoburg

        The president is a dude, I think you might be referring to the director, a lady? I was talking about the president – whose salary comes from the same budget? I may be mistaken. There was an NYTimes article about library president’s salary a few years ago – and I remember it being a million, or something similary high. I’ll see what I can dig up. Perhpas then president’s salary doesn’t come from the budget for the libraries.

        • Based on my experience serving (as the representative of my boss) on the boards of not-for-profits, trustees or directors draw no salary. The current chair of the library’s board of trustees, Anthony W. Crowell, worked in city government for 15 years before being named dean and president of New York Law School last year. Linda Johnson is the president of the library and per the earlier source (with the mangled link), she earns a salary of $169,846.

      • dittoburg

        Ok, Anthony Marx’s base salary was a bit under $700,000 back in 2011 according to a WSJ article. Apparently that was less than his predecessor’s salary, so perhaps they did do some salary cutting…

  • The real issue isnt kids books (only a small section of both these libraries is dedicated to kids books) and that space could easily be rented somewhere.

    As for e-readers that really was just a reference to the fact that large central repositories for physical books just arent the proper model for general purpose reading in the 21st century. Its not to say there is no need for ANY libraries (childrens, research, etc) or community spaces (not BPL’s mission) but maintaining alot of expensive physical buildings (many very old) is probably not the best way to “preserv[e] and transmis[t] society’s knowledge, history and culture, and to provide the people of Brooklyn with free and open access to information for education, recreation and reference.”

    Its 2013 – the solutions that were designed for 1913 aren’t necessarily the best designed for 2013 or the next 100 years.

  • The Brooklyn Heights branch is not an ancient Carnegie building—it was constructed in the late 1950s. Very unfortunate that the air conditioning keeps breaking down, rendering it uninhabitable in the summers.

    However, it is on a wedge where Clinton Street terminates at Cadman Plaza West and Tillary Street begins, so extremely heavily trafficked street where every single cab headed back to Manhattan passes by, so not greatest location for new expensive housing. That side of the street is, though, not in the Brooklyn Heights Landmark District.

  • The way this posting groups together the two library situations is a bit misleading.

    The Brooklyn Heights library is a god-awful building — not an historical 100+ year old Carnegie library. If a developer were to build and provide a new space for the library, that would be good thing for the community imo.

    As for the Boerum Hill library that is a beautiful, historic building which should not be lost. Maybe they can use the proceeds of the Brooklyn Heights sale to restore the Boerum Hill one.

  • The earlier comments in reference to the library leadership and commitment to service to the community are totally right in the case of the Heights branch sell out.
    Right now, the present focus of the Brooklyn Heights Association should not be on where people might get their books during some future, interim period but, rather, on the inevitable, ultimate result of the planned sell out.
    Currently, the terms look unsupportable for those of us concerned about the loss of a major neighborhood amenity. I think we should focus sharply on what actual space it would take to provide good services to children, adult and geriatric readers, computer users, along with up to date space for community meetings. Those numbers need to be spelled out now, well before any selling takes place.
    There are many ways to make this a winning situation. But one way for it to be a sure community loser would be for the BPL, apparently a very eager seller, to be allowed to lay out its version of an attractive and maximally money-making proposition for any prospective developer without first giving serious priority to the needs of the neighborhood’s many library users. It appears that immediate action will be needed to get the community into the BPL’s selling loop.
    Then, quite separately, I wonder that this sale can be justified under original terms of the Urban Renewal, Title One program by which the library obtained the site with the rich underwriting of the Federal Govt program in the early sixties. One of our land use wizards might be turned loose on that.