New developments in Brooklyn Heights Library plan

May 17, 2016 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn Public Library has revealed new details concerning its timeline for the controversial sale and development of the Brooklyn Heights Library. Shown above: Hudson plans to build a 36-story luxury tower, seen center right, on the site of the current Brooklyn Heights Library.  Rendering courtesy of Marvel Architects

Timeline details, new lawsuit filed

Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) has released new details concerning its timeline for the controversial sale and development of the Brooklyn Heights Library.

At the same time, an advocacy group has filed a lawsuit against the sale and another group is raising funds for a separate lawsuit.

The library site, at 280 Cadman Plaza West, is being sold to developer Hudson Companies for $52 million. Hudson plans to build a 36-story luxury tower, with a new, smaller Brooklyn Heights branch on the ground floor and below ground. Marvel Architects will design the building. As part of the deal, 114 units of affordable housing will be built in Clinton Hill.

The project will generate $40 million for repairs at other branches throughout the borough, according to BPL.

Construction is scheduled to begin this year, BPL says, and will take three to four years. The building is slated to open in 2019-2020.

The Business & Career Library, which shares the building with the Brooklyn Heights branch, will be moved to the Central Library in Prospect Heights in June, but its permanent home there won’t be ready until 2017.

The Business & Career Library will be operating in an “interim location” at Central until its permanent space is ready, according to BPL.

An interim Brooklyn Heights branch library, to be located at Our Lady of Lebanon Church, 95 Remsen St., will open in July, BPL says. Its hours of operation will be: Monday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The interim library will host what BPL calls a “curated collection for Brooklyn Heights,” computers for public use and an adaptable program room.

After three years of controversy and a series of raucous ULURP hearings, the library sale was approved by the City Council in December and the Brooklyn Borough Board in March.

Concessions negotiated by Councilmember Stephen Levin (Brooklyn Heights – Williamsburg – Greenpoint) prior to the City Council’s approval assuaged concerns of Borough President Eric Adams, who had delayed the Borough Board’s vote.

The improvements to the plan negotiated by Levin include a larger library than originally proposed (26,600 square feet), a 9,000-square-foot STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education center, and a 5,000-square-foot library branch in DUMBO.

Lawsuit filed

Still, a number of advocacy groups oppose the sale. Most prominent of these is Citizens Defending Libraries, which has raised $3,700 so far in a campaign on Go Fund Me (https://www.gofundme.com/dmpvr7z7). The group, led by Michael D.D. White and Carolyn McIntyre, hopes to file a lawsuit against BPL.

Another organization, Love Brooklyn Libraries, Inc., headed by Brooklyn resident Marsha Rimler, has filed a lawsuit at state Supreme Court in Brooklyn. The lawsuit was brought primarily because there is no Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), the group’s attorney, Richard Lippes, told the Brooklyn Eagle.

“There was a negative declaration,” he said. “The city determined there were no adverse environmental circumstances.” But the plaintiffs believe there are several adverse environmental risks, including increased traffic, air pollution and noise, he said.

The group’s petition adds that the building qualifies for landmark status, noting that the current library building was designed by noted architect Francis Keally. Among other accomplishments, Keally’s advocacy for the preservation of historic buildings lead to the adoption New York City’s historic preservation ordinance, according to LBL.

The petition notes that the reliefs around the main entrance on the Cadman Plaza West façade were designed by Clemente Spampinato, whose works are on display at Annapolis, the World Golf Hall of Fame and other venues. In 1980 Spampinato was chosen to exhibit his works during the XIII Winter Olympic Games, among other honors.

The legal action heads to court on June 10 (not June 6, as previously stated).

Love Brooklyn Libraries, Inc. is also raising money for its legal battle. Contributions may be made through its website (www.lovebrooklynlibrariesinc.org/).

Another advocacy group, called by the very similar name, Love Brooklyn Libraries!, is also considering legal action. Love Brooklyn Libraries! told the Eagle that Love Brooklyn Libraries, Inc.  split off from the original group but kept the name.

Love Brooklyn Libraries, Inc. has denied this and notes on its press releases that it is not affiliated with any other library group. Love Brooklyn Libraries, Inc. claims that the other group has usurped the name.

Each group has sent a cease and desist letter to the other.

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Updated May 20 to reflect the upcoming Love Brooklyn Libraries, Inc. hearing will take place on June 10, not June 6.