Brooklyn Library Updates Statement About Plans for Historic Pacific Branch

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The Brooklyn Library has reaffirmed its commitment to keep open its popular and historic Pacific branch library following a story in Brooklyn Brief Wednesday that claimed the building, Brooklyn’s first Carnegie library, seemed fated to be torn down for private development despite library officials’ denials. To recap the convoluted story: Last year, the library planned to move the Pacific branch at 25 4th Avenue into new digs in Two Trees’ forthcoming BAM South development, then sell the building to pay for the new space. But a public outcry and pressure from elected officials caused the library to reconsider. The current plan is to open a new branch at BAM South and keep the existing Pacific library branch as well.

Last month, community group Citizens Defending Libraries started a new petition calling on the Mayor and other elected officials to abandon plans to sell off any New York City libraries to developers. Then 4th Avenue event space Brooklyn Lyceum put up a Facebook post saying “Looks like the Pacific Street Library is up for sale again.” This, in turn, prompted the story in Brooklyn Brief. Library officials told the blog the Pacific branch building is not for sale, but a statement on the library’s website said it could be in the future and that the library planned to “move its services” from the Pacific branch to BAM South when it is built.

The headline of the story is “Pacific Street Library: Not For Sale (for Now), But a Grim Fate Awaits.” The story says:

The managers of a Park Slope community space are worried the timeless Pacific Street branch of the Brooklyn Public Library is for sale and will ultimately be demolished, and have even directed concerned residents to an online petition to thwart the effort. Officials deny the allegation, but admit a new branch is ultimately in the works at a nearby construction site, with a plan to transfer the Pacific Street site’s activities, leaving the fate of the property unclear.

After we reached out to a library spokeswoman yesterday to find out the date of the library’s online document, the library changed its statement. It now reads:

While BPL initially planned to replace Pacific with a new library at South Site it has become clear that the neighborhood highly values this historic building and the services the library provides. BPL is committed to working with elected officials and community stakeholders to develop an appropriate plan to maintain the Pacific Street building and address the library’s $10 million capital need. BPL is committed to maintaining library service at the current Pacific Street building. BPL has no plans to sell Pacific Library.

City Council Gives Thumbs up to BAM South [Brownstoner]
Building of the Day: 25 4th Avenue [Brownstoner]
Photo by Matthew Taub via Brooklyn Brief

4 Comment

  • Lies..Lies and Dam Lies
    the BPL is not trustworthy

  • I’d love to believe this, but for over a year the BPL has made absolutely no move to “work with elected officials and community stakeholders” to develop a plan for the library. It wouldn’t be that hard – the vast majority of local elected officials have been very clear about their opposition to the the sale or transfer of the library function and a number of very credible civic groups (the Boerum Hill Association,the Park Slope Civic Council, Community Board 6, just to name a few) , as well as library focused advocacy groups, have been equally public in their opposition to the initial plan. None of us have been approached by the BPL for any discussion about the future of the Pacific Branch Library.

  • Some amplifying background-

    The Brooklyn Public Library is being very hard to pin down about what they are planning to do respecting the sale of the Pacific Branch Library that was previously one of their top priorities to sell. Back then it was because they say they want to sell the most valuable libraries first. “Valuable” for real estate purposes usually also means the most valuable libraries to the public and for public use as well.

    The Brooklyn Public Library had, at one point, made statements, albeit perhaps a little confused, that they were backing off from the sale of the Pacific Branch, but afterwards BPL spokesperson Josh Nachowitz was very emphatic that the sale of the Pacific branch library was NOT “off the table”.

    More recently the Brooklyn Public Library’s statements about the Pacific Branch are still confused. They make vague statements about having backed off but then. They say that its condition “keeps them up at night.” They say they don’t know what to do with it. When Public Advocate Tish James asks them what libraries they have that they are looking at next for sale BPL president Linda Johnson says that she is looking at all the branches for opportunities and partners in terms of real estate deals and then quickly talks about the BAM South library which they have always considered in connection with the Pacific Branch library. Previously they were saying they wanted to sell the Pacific Branch Library in order to partially pay to outfit the BAM South library which Johnson referred to as a cultural condominium library.

    The Brooklyn Public Library has made a few statements that are firmer about the recognized the value of preserving the Pacific Branch Library building: as the first Carnegie library in the borough, it has great historical value even though it has not yet, after all these years of requests, been landmarked.

    But preserving the building for historical purposes would not necessarily mean that the Brooklyn Public Library would NOT sell it, or that it would keep it in use as a library.

    The fact of the matter is that the Brooklyn Public Library does not like to say in advance what libraries they will be selling, because that does not assist in the BPL’s divide and conquer strategy. They keep their plans secret until the last moment. So, for instance, when the Brooklyn Public decided to sell and shrink the Brooklyn Heights Library in 2008 (or before) they did not tell the public until 2013. They have still not released the list of libraries that they were giving to developers to look at for similar redevelopment in the summer of 2007.

    Similarly, when public advocate Tish James asked Brooklyn public Library president Johnson what libraries might be subject of sale and shrinkage Johnson did not mention the Spaceworks deals for Red Hook or Williamsburg.

    It is tempting to look at these most recent additional statements as encouraging, but why then is the BPL cutting programs at this library this summer and refusing to do what was previously standard maintenance like painting.

    Michael D. D. White
    Citizens Defending Libraries

  • no-permits

    what is this $10mm capital for??? can’t be repairs or upgrades to the building because that would be over $800/ft.