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Landmarks Preservation Commission okays installation of modern signage at Brooklyn’s landmarked Carnegie libraries

April 25, 2017 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Brooklyn Public Library plans to install digital-display signs and perpendicular banners on landmarked branches including the DeKalb Library in Bushwick. Composite photos by LVCK LLC via the Landmarks Preservation Commission
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Should modern digital-display signs be allowed to stand outside Brooklyn’s landmarked libraries?

This is not a theoretical question.

LVCK LLC, a design firm hired by the Brooklyn Public Library, has come up with a plan to install electronic signs outside five genteel century-old buildings whose construction was funded by famed philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.

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The glowing digital displays outside the landmarked Carnegie libraries will alert passersby to info such as their hours of operation and calendars of events.

The installation of the new signs at these branches requires the approval of the city Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) — which the Brooklyn Public Library sought at public hearings held Tuesday.  

“Dynamic digital signage is actually becoming the norm in our streetscape,” Laura Varacchi, a partner at LVCK, said at the hearings, which were held at the preservation agency’s Lower Manhattan headquarters.

The digital-display signs are part of a package of new signage her firm designed for the entire Brooklyn Public Library branch system. The new signage also includes banners that will be attached to the library buildings and hang perpendicular to their facades.

The banners have their respective libraries’ names on them — or their partial names, really.

For instance, instead of saying “DeKalb Library,” which is a Carnegie library located in Bushwick, the banners to be installed on that building will have only the word “DeKalb” on them plus a small Brooklyn Public Library logo.

The idea of affixing black cloth banners to the distinguished brick and stone Carnegie libraries turned out to be the most objectionable aspect of LVCK’s signage-design package for some commissioners.

Commissioner Michael Goldblum said that “the banners muck up the architecture” of the Carnegie libraries without effectively identifying them.

Commissioner Michael Devonshire said the banners look like advertising.      

Commissioner Adi Shamir-Baron objected to them as well.

However, as the commissioners were reminded during the hearings, the LPC does not have the authority to pass judgment on the actual design of the library’s new signs. That job belongs to the city Public Design Commission.

Instead, the Landmarks Preservation Commission only has jurisdiction over where the signs can be placed on landmarked properties.

After lengthy debates, the LPC approved the installation of the new signage at the Carnegie branches by majority votes.

The landmarked Brooklyn branches funded by Carnegie — who at one time was the richest man in the world — were built at the beginning of the 20th century.

They include Classical Revival-style DeKalb Library at 790 Bushwick Ave. and Jacobean Revival-style Stone Avenue Library at 581 Mother Gaston Blvd. in Brownsville. Both branches were designed by Brooklyn architect William Tubby.

Brooklyn’s other landmarked Carnegie libraries are the Beaux Arts-style Macon Library at 361 Lewis Ave. in Bedford-Stuyvesant, the Beaux Arts-style Williamsburgh Library at 240 Division Ave. in Williamsburg and the Classical-style Park Slope Library at 431 Sixth Ave. in Park Slope.

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