Failed A/C system plagues shuttered Brooklyn Heights library

August 14, 2012 By Mary Frost
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As this summer’s heat wave continues, the Brooklyn Public Library’s Brooklyn Heights branch, lacking air conditioning, continues to lock out patrons.

The library, at Cadman Plaza West and Tilliary Street, which also houses the Business and Careers libraries, closes by 2 p.m. on most days — if it opens at all.

A bright green Bookmobile is parked on Clinton Street, behind the building, from 2–6 p.m. All evening programs have been moved to the Central Library at Grand Army Plaza.

The library says on its website that it hopes to get around to fixing the air conditioning failure by next summer, but it does not explain why the problem — which has recurred for years — began in the first place or why it has not been adequately addressed before. The library has not answered questions by the Brooklyn Daily Eagle dealing with this longstanding problem, beyond the superficialities covered in its posted statement.

The library’s website explanation is that the air conditioning system cannot be repaired because of its condition and age: “The only solution is to replace the entire system, which will take at least several months to complete upon receipt of the replacement equipment. The Library is currently working to ensure that this replacement is made before summer 2013.”

This summer’s meltdown was caused by “a major and unexpected breakdown” of the air conditioner’s components, according to the library, but long-time patrons say that the air conditioning has been malfunctioning for years. The only difference this year is the incessant heat.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle reporter Don Evans remembers writing about faulty air conditioning at the Heights branch “five or six years ago.”

“The air conditioning broke down, they had a crew come in to make repairs, then it would happen all over again,” he said over the July Fourth holiday. “On a warm day the staff wouldn’t work, so they closed it. People would go there and discover it was closed, with just a hand-written notice on the door.”

“This happens every summer,” a volunteer with Friends of the Brooklyn Heights Library said.

The library says that finding the money to repair the A/C will be a challenge, given the “significant building improvement needs throughout the borough, and the limited capital funding we receive.”

Councilman Steve Levin’s chief of staff Ashley Thompson told the Eagle that the Councilman was “working with a capital team to figure out what fixing the system entails and how much money they will need. We’re confident we can come to a resolution.”

Until cool weather rolls around, however, it looks like the Bookmobile is here to stay.

The 29-foot-vehicle holds roughly 6,000 books for both kid and adults, a BPL spokesperson told the Eagle on Friday. “They try to have a nice selection.”

The Bookmobile is not as useful, however, for patrons of the Business Library. The unit does have some business books, the spokesperson said, “but if you’re looking for a specific book you might have to go to another branch.”

If the Internet service to the Bookmobile is activated during your visit you can even get a library card there, she said. “If it’s not activated it can take two days.” The Internet was not activated on the day this reporter visited, and the Bookmobile does not provide computers for patrons.

The Central Library at Grand Army Plaza remains open seven days a week throughout the summer.

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