Brooklyn Heights

Judge rules against group trying to halt sale of Brooklyn Heights Library

July 11, 2016 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A group trying to halt the sale and development of the Brooklyn Heights Library lost its case in court last week. The project includes a 36-story tower with 139 condominium units (the tallest building shown) and two retail spaces on Clinton Street.  Rendering courtesy of Marvel Architects

A group that had sought to stop the controversial sale and development of the Brooklyn Heights Library lost its case in court last week when state Supreme Court Justice Justice Dawn Jiminez-Salta rejected its claims.

Love Brooklyn Libraries, Inc., headed by Brooklyn resident Marsha Rimler, had challenged the project’s environmental review, but the court dismissed the claims on July 7, saying they lacked merit.

The court also ruled that the lawsuit was not served within the required deadline, and that any extension of the deadline for service would be unwarranted.

“We are pleased that the court recognized that this suit had no merit. Now, a project that has undergone extensive public review, which will include a number of benefits to the community including more affordable housing, can proceed,” city spokesperson Austin Finan told the Brooklyn Eagle via email on Monday.

This paper has reached out to Love Brooklyn Libraries, Inc.’s attorney but did not receive a response by press time.

Love Brooklyn Libraries, Inc. had claimed that the city’s environmental review did not take into account several adverse environmental risks, including increased traffic, air pollution and noise, and long shadows cast in nearby parks.

The city, however, provided a detailed explanation of how its environmental analysis was carried out, demonstrating it was in technical compliance with applicable laws. For example, the analysis found that construction vehicles would not add more than 50 “vehicle-trips” at any intersection during peak hours. Because of this, further analysis was not warranted, according to guidance under the CEQR Technical Manual, the city’s environmental “bible.”

In her decision, Justice Jiminez-Salta noted that for environmental reviews conducted within New York City, courts have long accepted conformance with guidelines in the CEQR Technical Manual as establishing compliance with environmental laws (known as SEORA/CEBA).

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She observed that the library’s Environmental Assessment Statement (EAS) was consistent with guidance in the CEQR Technical Manual.

“Consequently, this Court finds that the Project’s EAS environmental review was not arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion or affected by error of law because it took a hard look at areas of environmental concern and contained reasoned elaborations of its conclusions,” she wrote.

The city also made its case that the EAS reasonably concluded that the project would have no significant adverse impacts on architectural resources. While the EAS considered the current library’s architect, Francis Keally, and facade sculptor, Clemente Spampinato, the building is not recognized as an architectural resource by Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) or other significant bodies.

The judge also noted that Love Brooklyn Libraries, Inc. missed the filing deadline for an Article 78 proceeding, used to challenge government agencies. The group “did not complete service until [37] days after the expiration of the Statute of Limitations which is more than twice the [15] days provided pursuant to CPLR Section 306-b,” she wrote.

“As a result, this Court finds that this delay is both significant and prejudicial in the context of an Article 78 proceeding which is subject to an abbreviated four-month Statute of Limitations in recognition of the strong public policy that the operation of governmental agencies should not be unnecessarily clouded by potential litigation,” she added.

The library site 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. As part of the deal, 114 units of affordable housing will be built in Clinton Hill.

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

The City Council gave the project the green light after Councilmember Stephen Levin (Brooklyn Heights – Williamsburg – Greenpoint) worked out more perks for the community, including more floor space in a rebuilt (though smaller overall) branch, a STEM lab for students and a small DUMBO branch library.

 

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