Breaking: Council Member Steve Levin Gives Thumbs-Up for Heights Library Development

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Surprise! In an extremely important and unexpected move, with the final City Council vote less than a week away, Council Member Steve Levin has officially come out in support of the controversial proposal for the sale and development of the current site of the Brooklyn Heights Library branch.

A week ago, City Council approval of the highly controversial sale looked uncertain. Now, with Levin’s support, the City Council is almost sure to approve the proposal in their ULURP vote on Wednesday.

Brownstoner readers will recall the library plan entails selling the city-owned library site at 280 Cadman Plaza West for $52,000,000 to developer Hudson Companies. Hudson will then build a 36-story condo tower with 139 luxury units and a new library and two retail spaces on the ground floor.

Hudson will also open an interim library nearby during construction and construct 114 units of affordable housing at two sites in Clinton Hill.

Levin’s support is contingent upon a few changes to the original plan, however. These include a larger library in the new building, and, unexpectedly, a new library to serve Dumbo and Vinegar Hill. Other requirements include making the affordable units more affordable and adding measures to make sure the public is getting a fair price for the site.

A spokesman for Council Member Levin told Brownstoner, “Also, to be clear, the improvements are all conditions that the city, developer and public library have already agreed to. The project was approved by the Subcommittee on Planning, Dispositions and Concessions and Land Use Committee this afternoon.”

Hudson Companies can start chilling the champagne.

Here’s Levin’s full announcement:

NEW YORK – Today, Council Member Stephen Levin announced his support for a substantially improved Brooklyn Heights Library project. This proposal would redevelop the current Brooklyn Heights Library neighborhood branch with a new, state of the art library built into the base of a residential building and provide 114 units of affordable housing in Brooklyn’s Community District 2. The Brooklyn Heights Library project was approved with conditions by Community Board 2 and is supported by the Brooklyn Heights Association. The updated proposal includes significant improvements and new public benefits secured by Council Member Levin.

In response to months of impassioned community feedback at multiple hearings and concerns expressed by Community Board 2 and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Council Member Levin successfully pushed for the expansion of the new Brooklyn Heights library, as well as the addition of significant new benefits for the local community, including  the creation of a brand new library to serve the DUMBO, Vinegar Hill, and Farragut Houses communities, new protections to ensure that the city will receive full and fair compensation for the sale of a public asset, deepened affordability on housing units provided by the project, and the creation of pioneering new public STEM labs serving students in the area.

Crucially, with the expansion of the new Brooklyn Heights Library and the creation of a new library nearby in DUMBO/Vinegar Hill/Farragut, the public will see a net gain of publicly accessible library square footage in the area. Major changes to the project resulting from Council Member Levin’s advocacy include:

  • The size of the new Brooklyn Heights Library will be expanded  by 24%, from 21,500 square feet to 26,620 square feet;
  • A brand new, 5,000 square foot library will be created to serve the DUMBO, Vinegar Hill, and Farragut Houses communities. This will be the expansion of the Brooklyn Public Library System since the Cortelyou branch was added in 1983;
  • 9,000 square feet in the new building at Cadman Plaza West will be set aside for dedicated STEM education labs administered by the NYC Department of Education and serving students  in Brooklyn’s Community School District 13;
  • The Brooklyn Public Library will commit to maintain seven-day-a-week service at the new Brooklyn Heights Library;
  • The Brooklyn Public Library will commit to maintain robust programming at the New Brooklyn Heights Library and enter into a public process to gather community feedback on programming needs;
  • The Brooklyn Public Library will partner with local business and entrepreneurship groups to create a new, 3,000 square foot ‘Technology & Business Services Center’ in the new Brooklyn Heights Library in order to preserve and enhance the technology-rich workspace and business-facing services of the current Business & Career Library and better meet the needs of a 21st Century workforce;
  • The developer will agree to a recapture provision that will allow the Brooklyn Public Library to share in any profit above a benchmark rate of return;
  • Higher end Area Median Income (“AMI”) limits for affordable housing units built as part of the project have been lowered. Units formerly at 165% AMI have been lowered to 125% AMI and units formerly at 100% AMI have been lowered to 80% AMI, deepening the affordability for New Yorkers;
  • The project is supported by the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York and SEIU 32BJ with an agreement on labor standards.

“The decision to sell a public asset should never be made lightly,” said Council Member Stephen Levin. “I believe that the new community benefits and protections added to this proposal, including an expansion of the new Brooklyn Heights Library and the first new branch added to the Brooklyn Public Library system since 1983, make it a good deal for the public and my community. Libraries are a vital resource for every neighborhood and New Yorkers depend on them for a place to learn, study, and grow. This project will revitalize the Brooklyn Heights branch with a new, state of the art physical space and top-of-the-line programming and service commitments, create a brand new library serving communities that don’t currently have one, support the capital needs of historic branches across the borough, create badly needed affordable housing, and ensure that the public’s interest in getting the full value of our asset is protected. I am thankful to Mayor de Blasio, the Brooklyn Public Library, the many community stakeholders who gave valuable input during this process, and Hudson Companies for their partnership in working to improve this project and deliver a good deal for the public.”

“Libraries and affordable housing are two of our most critical community needs,” said Land Use Committee Chair Council Member David Greenfield. “I congratulate my colleague Council Member Levin on this historic deal to expand library access and affordable housing opportunities in Brooklyn neighborhoods. This deal is a win-win-win for the communities, Brooklyn Public Library and all New Yorkers.”

“I would like to congratulate Council Member Levin for demonstrating real leadership on this crucial issue, while keeping in mind the best interests of the public and the members of his district,” said Council Member Andrew Cohen.

public and the members of his district,” said Council Member Andrew Cohen.

The announcement was originally published on Levin’s tumblr.

Related Stories
City Planning Unanimously Approves Brooklyn Heights Library Sale and Tower
Borough President Eric Adams “Disapproves” Controversial Plan to Develop Heights Library
Clinton Hill Affordable Housing From Brooklyn Heights Library Developer Revealed!

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