Brooklyn Heights

Brooklyn Public Library wants your feedback on controversial Brooklyn Heights proposals

Hallen: Add pre-K and kindergarten to condo

December 27, 2013 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) says it is looking for feedback from the public on the seven proposals it has received for redeveloping the site of the Brooklyn Heights Branch Library.

The proposals include a range of design features, including glass-covered facades, ground floor retail, rooftop gardens and affordable housing. All include towers that are, on average, roughly the same height as 1 Pierrepont Plaza next door, though at least one is taller (roughly 36 stories). While most of the proposals offer 20,000 square feet of library space, one offers 31,192 square feet.

The Brooklyn Heights Branch would be rebuilt on the tower’s ground floor and basement; the Business Library would be removed and sent to Grand Army Plaza.

BPL will be accepting public comments on its website, which provides photos and details about each proposal, through January 17.

The Library says the comment opportunity is part of its effort to involve the local community in planning the redevelopment project.

The project has sparked vocal opposition, however, from those who say the city is selling off public libraries for the benefit of private developers, and that “the fix is in.” Opponents, who say BPL has exaggerated the amount it would cost to repair the existing library building’s air conditioner and facilities, say they plan to comment “None of the above” or “Just fix up our old library” to all seven proposals.

Instead of simply objecting to the project, however, Deborah Hallen, president of The Friends of the Brooklyn Heights Branch Library, urges residents to use this opportunity to address the needs of the community.

“We do need a state-of-the-art library,” she said, describing leaks in the ceiling and shoddy construction throughout the existing structure. “And with more people moving into the community, there aren’t enough schools. P.S. 8’s preschool is closing, and kindergartners are going to be put on a waiting list next year.”

Hallen wants the condo developers to devote space to a new pre-K and kindergarten. “You buy a place in Brooklyn Heights thinking you’re going to get into this wonderful school, only to be put on the wait list,” she said.

Brooklyn Heights Association’s president Alexandra Bowie says BHA also wants to hear what residents think.

“We are pleased that the BPL is seeking public comments on the proposals and we urge Brooklyn Heights residents who comment to share their thoughts with us,” Bowie told the Brooklyn Eagle on Friday.

“We would like the library to work with the community to identify which features are most promising, and negotiate those with the developers. The BHA will be releasing a survey early in the new year seeking exactly that input.”

Bowie added that the BHA is “pleased that the BPL has added a representative of the community to the selection committee.”

With many officials away following Christmas, Library spokesperson Emma Woods told the Eagle on Friday that BPL doesn’t have a comment about responses to the survey at this time, but will discuss the issue after the new year.

On December 12, BPL officials presented the responses to their Request For Proposals (RFP) at a meeting which was frequently disrupted by boos and catcalls from those who said the public had no real input in what was essentially a done deal to sell city property.

“Any accusation that the process is rigged is completely and totally inaccurate,” Josh Nachowitz, BPL’s VP of Government and Community Relations, told reporters at that time. “If the fix was in we wouldn’t be here tonight.”

The Library says the sale of the Heights’ property is intended to generate capital funds that help address $300 million in deferred maintenance in all 60 deteriorating libraries across the borough.

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