NYC approves demolition of Brooklyn Heights Library, paving way for luxury tower
Interior demolition to start next week
The city’s Department of Buildings (DOB) gave its official approval on Friday to the much-contested demolition of the Brooklyn Heights Library building at 280 Cadman Plaza West.
A spokesperson for developer Hudson Companies told the Brooklyn Eagle that interior demolition is scheduled to start next week, and exterior demolition is scheduled to start the last week in March. (Some minor interior demolition, including asbestos abatement, has already been carried out.) Demolition will take about 12 weeks.
Demolition must be completed before Hudson can pull a new building permit, which will allow it to begin construction of a 36-story luxury residential tower on the site.
Opponents have expressed dismay over the pending demolition. Preserving the existing low-rise library had been the focus of an often-emotional crusade by several advocacy groups including Citizens Defending Libraries and Love Brooklyn Libraries, Inc.
The new tower will house a modernized 26,620-square-foot library, 133 condominium units, two retail spaces on Clinton Street, and a STEM lab to be operated by the NYC Department of Education. While the new library will be smaller than the current one, the city says its functional area will be increased.
In addition, as part of the project, 114 units of affordable housing — a priority of the de Blasio administration — will be built on Fulton Street and Atlantic Avenue in Clinton Hill.
The new library will have its main entrance on Cadman Plaza West and will be located on the ground floor, a mezzanine and below grade. The residential entry will be located on Clinton Street.
In December, DOB approved Marvel Architects’ plans for 34 floors of apartments — including two penthouse floors — with exercise rooms, a screening room and other amenities.
Hudson has not yet closed on the site, but expects to in the coming weeks, according to the spokesperson. Demolition can go forward regardless of closing status, he said.
If, for some reason, Hudson failed to close, the developer would have to restore the property to its pre-demolition form, and would be responsible for all associated costs.
Completion of the project is anticipated for spring 2020, according to Hudson.
The $52 million acquisition price for the city-owned property will enable Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) to fit out the new Brooklyn Heights branch and fund roughly $40 million of BPL’s capital repair needs, estimated to be $300 million, according to BPL.
Library sale generated opposition, lawsuits
The library’s sale was approved by the City Council in December 2015 and the Brooklyn Borough Board in March 2016 after three years of vocal community opposition and a series of raucous ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure) hearings.
As one of a succession of new developments going up in the area, the project inflamed concerns about overcrowded local schools, increased traffic, the shrinkage of public library space and the off-siting of the affordable housing component. It was, however, unopposed by the Brooklyn Heights Association.
Love Brooklyn Libraries, Inc., headed by Downtown Brooklyn resident Marsha Rimler, alleges violation of the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA). The group lost its court case in court in July. An appeal filed in January was dismissed on procedural grounds, including failure to file by the deadline, and in refutation of the group’s SEQRA claims. The group has refiled its appeal, and their second request for a preliminary injunction is pending, according to the city’s law department.
Advocates have also expressed concern about the fate of the classic stone friezes on the library façade by sculptor Clemente Spampinato.
Hudson’s spokesperson told the Eagle in December that the company will carefully remove the reliefs and store them for the duration of the construction period. The spokesperson added that BPL is committed to making sure the reliefs are preserved either at the new branch or another location, though the ultimate decision for the reuse will be made by BPL.
The library closed its doors in late July and has been operating out of an interim space housed in Our Lady of Lebanon Church, 95 Remsen St.
The Business & Career Library, which shared the building with the Brooklyn Heights branch, was moved to the Central Library in Prospect Heights, but its permanent home there won’t be ready until 2017.