Brooklyn Heights Library closes, interim library opens on Remsen Street
After a prolonged fight by advocacy groups to keep it open, the Brooklyn Heights Library at 280 Cadman Plaza West closed its doors at the end of the day on Tuesday and was set to open an interim site in the refurbished social room of Our Lady of Lebanon Church, 109 Remsen St., at 10 a.m. on Wednesday.
Developer Hudson Companies plans to build a 36-story luxury tower with a new, smaller Brooklyn Heights branch at the original library site.
At a press tour of the interim library on Tuesday afternoon, reporters saw a bright, air conditioned space, already stocked with many books.
A translucent Panelite wall curves around one whole side of the space and demarcates a staff office and programming room.
David Woloch, Brooklyn Public Library’s (BPL) executive vice president of external affairs, told reporters that the interim site will house about 17,000 books. The regular Brooklyn Heights branch housed roughly 70,000 books, he said.
While the interim space is much smaller than the Brooklyn Heights branch, patrons can put holds on books that are not stocked on the shelves.
“It’s a floating collection,” Woloch said. “Patrons will have access to the entire system. Books can be here in a couple of days.”
Roughly 65 percent of the books on the shelves are for children and young adults, including books required by teachers for school.
The site has 34 laptop computers for patrons’ use, about the same number of computers as the origional Heights branch. A long conference table is fully wired. The tables scattered throughout the library seat 70 patrons, and the programming room holds 35.
All current branch programs will be offered in the programming room, including children’s and baby-time presentations, adult literacy classes and performances (though the room lacks a piano).
The programming room was filled with carts full of books and construction materials on Tuesday afternoon, but Woloch was confident that it would be ready by Wednesday.
“There are a few finishing touches not yet done,” he said. Since the current Heights branch has no air conditioning, however, BPL wanted to open the interim site as soon as possible.
Concerns: Accessibility, Censorship, Safety
Woloch addressed some of the concerns that have been aired by residents worried that the interim site would not be handicapped accessible or would have other shortcomings.
Despite a story in the press that the bishop at Our Lady of Lebanon Church Bishop might balk at books that are “outrageous,” the church has not practiced any censorship, he said.
“The collection has been selected by librarians,” Woloch said.
There are two entrances to the interim library — one on Henry Street and one on Remsen Street. The Henry Street entrance, at the end of a long drive, will serve as the ADA entrance. On Tuesday it was filled with trucks, construction equipment and rubble, but Woloch said it would be cleared up by Wednesday.
He also said the library would look at the surface on the driveway to make sure there were no dangerous potholes or bumps. “We will certainly do what we can to make it as ADA-friendly as possible,” he said.
He said the library would have public safety officers on site for security.
BPL spokesperson Madeline Kaye called the interim site “a really clever space … The architects have been tremendous in making all of the activities that happen at the library every day actually feasible. We know it’s smaller, but the design is robust and kind of clever.”
The space was designed by the architecture firm Leven Betts.
“It’s interim but it needs to function,” David Leven, partner at Leven Betts, told the Brooklyn Eagle.
Coming up with a way to divide the space “but still keep the light and the feeling of spaciousness was a challenge,” Leven said. “Which led to this architectural gesture, the single [Panelite] curve that envelopes the meeting room and then moves around and creates the staff office.”
Librarian Lisa Borten was stocking the shelves with DVDs on Tuesday.
The interim site is “very clean and looks very new,” she told the Eagle. “I think the patrons will be happy once they get used to it.”
Luxury Tower to Be Built at Heights Library Site
BPL expects to begin construction on the new Brooklyn Heights Library in fall 2016. The library’s contract with Hudson Companies stipulates that the new branch be built within 3.5 years.
As part of the deal, 114 units of affordable housing will be built in Clinton Hill. The project also includes a dedicated science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education lab for the local school district and a small library branch in DUMBO.
A group that had sought to stop the development of the Brooklyn Heights Library site — Love Brooklyn Libraries, Inc., headed by Brooklyn resident Marsha Rimler — lost its case in court earlier this month when state Supreme Court Justice Justice Dawn Jiminez-Salta rejected its claims.
The interim site will be open at the following times:
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.