Brooklyn Heights

Debris blows from roof of Brooklyn Heights Library, worrying neighbors

November 21, 2016 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A passerby holds a piece of metal flashing that blew off of the roof of the Brooklyn Heights Library on Sunday. Photos by Justine Swartz

Asbestos removal underway

Neighbors contacted the city’s Buildings Department on Sunday after loose construction debris blew from the roof of the former Brooklyn Heights Library.

“Thank God nobody was hurt by the heap of flying 9-foot-long metal shards,” Heights resident Justine Swartz told the Brooklyn Eagle. “The construction debris should have been bagged and dumped in a dumpster.”

Swartz took multiple photos of a pile of roof flashing, which became unsecured during Sunday’s high wind and was gradually blown into a corner of the roof and then over the edge of the building located at 280 Cadman Plaza West at Clinton and Tillary streets.

One of Swartz’ photos shows a puzzled passerby standing on the sidewalk in front of the library, holding a long piece of metal flashing.

A spokesperson for developer Hudson Companies, which is buying the site from the city, said that the contractor’s superintendent surveyed and secured the rooftop Sunday night.

“Safety is our top priority,” Hudson spokesman James Yolles told the Eagle on Monday. He added, “Several pieces of roof flashing that had been secured became loose on Sunday. Last night, all flashings were removed and our general contractor’s superintendent secured the building and surveyed the surrounding area for any loose debris.”

The Buildings Department did not issue a violation to East Coast Hazmat, the company performing preliminary demolition on the library, because no debris was observed falling off the building at the time of inspection on Monday. A second complaint was lodged on Monday.

The pile of flashing after it was blown towards a corner of the library roof.

Neighbors also said they were worried that asbestos was spewing into the neighborhood through an open window which appeared to have its plastic seal blown away.

Yolles said that the opening was part of a negative air system needed to do the abatement, and the opening was intentional. Department of Environmental Protection inspectors have visited the site seven times so far, he said.

All asbestos-containing material is double bagged and stored in clearly marked containers to be safely disposed of off-site, he said.

Major demolition set to start next month

Development of the Brooklyn Heights Library site has been a flashpoint in the neighborhood for several years now. Hudson plans to build a 36-story luxury tower with a new, smaller Heights branch at the original library site.

Despite an ongoing fight by groups including Citizens Defending Libraries and Love Brooklyn Libraries, Inc. (the Brooklyn Heights Association chose not to fight the development), the library closed its doors in late July. An interim library is housed in Our Lady of Lebanon Church, 109 Remsen St.

Interior demolition will begin in December and last approximately four to six weeks, Yolles told the Eagle last month. Exterior demo will begin in January and last approximately four to eight weeks.

Hudson has not yet closed on the site. Yolles told the Eagle last month that while the sale is not complete, it’s important to Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) to get the project started so that the new library can be open to the public as soon as possible.

BPL and Hudson signed a license agreement to allow the asbestos abatement and demolition work to start prior to closing, but only as approved and permitted by the governing regulatory agencies. Should the project cease for any reason, Hudson is required to restore the site to the pre‐demolition state (minus the asbestos) at its own cost.

DOB indicated on its website on Nov. 18 that it was processing Hudson’s application to demolish the building. DOB had not approved the demolition as of Monday.