In a surprising move, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams submitted his official recommendation to “disapprove with conditions” the plan to sell and redevelop the Brooklyn Public Library branch at 280 Cadman Plaza West in Brooklyn Heights. Adams’ announcement is an official part of the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) and means that nine affirmative votes are required from the City Planning Commission on September 22 in order for the development plan to move forward for a City Council vote.
Adams took issue with the fact that the plan contained no explicit guarantee that cash from the library sale would go back to the Brooklyn Public Library rather than into the city’s general fund. He proposed additional changes to the proposal, including adding a public school annex for the overcrowded PS 8 and permanent affordable housing to the site.
Adams also outlined an entirely new model for funding Brooklyn’s library system.
As submitted to Adams, the redevelopment plan calls for the city to sell the site of the Brooklyn Heights Library branch — currently public land — to private developer Hudson Companies for $52,000,000. Hudson would then build a 36-story luxury condo tower on the site with a new library at its base, in addition to 114 units of affordable housing in Clinton Hill. The idea is to use $40,000,000 from the sale of the site to repair other dilapidated libraries in the borough.
But, “as it stands, the public library system [in New York City] is not a proper working model,” said Adams in a press release Wednesday, noting the unreliable funding sources for library maintenance, operations, and staffing. Adams proposes merging the Brooklyn Public Library with the City’s other library systems.
The original development plan called for a library with smaller square footage than the existing branch, and for moving the Business Library elsewhere. Adams rejected this idea, recommending that any new library have the same accessible square footage and also retain the Business Library.
“It is appropriate for the City to pursue opportunities that utilize our municipal air right assets but any such utilization must maximize community benefit above and beyond what has been the standard to date,” said Adams. “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.”
It is unusual although not unheard of for the Brooklyn Borough President to disapprove a development plan of this scale. Adams’ predecessor Marty Markowitz disapproved the controversial 2005 rezoning of the Williamsburg and Greenpoint waterfront. (It was ultimately approved and allowed the development of the residential towers that have transformed the area.)
But Markowitz approved many plans since, including what is now the Lightstone development in Gowanus, the Domino Sugar redevelopment in Williamsburg, Greenpoint Landing in Greenpoint, and the Rheingold Brewery development in Bushwick.
Adams’ recommendation will now be considered by the City Planning Commission at its September 22 public meeting. If the City Planning Commission approves the development plan, it will proceed to a vote in the City Council.
Read more about the proposed Brooklyn Heights Library development:
Brooklyn Heights Library: Borough President Eric Adams Listens to Community Concerns [Brownstoner]
Hudson Companies Navigates Public and Private With Brooklyn Heights Library [Brownstoner]
280 Cadman Plaza West Coverage [Brownstoner]