Libraries Eyed as Ripe for Development

Monday, March 18, 2013

With land getting scarcer in New York, real estate developers are increasingly eyeing city-owned property. Parking lots in housing projects, public schools, and even local libraries are some of the places that could turn into new developments.

That’s the case for the Pacific branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. This charming red brick structure was built with Andrew Carnegie’s money in 1904, and it could soon be demolished and replaced.

"[The Brooklyn Public Library] can use the money from that deal to fund repairs in all their branches," said Joseph Berger, who wrote about the topic in The New York Times Monday. "So they see this as a win-win proposition."

To listen to Host Richard Hake’s full conversation with Joseph Berger, click the audio above.


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Comments [4]

Brooklyn Red from Brooklyn's 4th Avenue

The Brooklyn Public Library says clearly (on its website) that it intends that proceeds from the sale of the Pacific Branch will go to outfitting the new library in BAM South. Period. No money to be spent on other library system repairs. Even if the city actually gives BPL the money from the sale (and that's a big "if")it is a one time, short sighted sell off of a valuable community resource. The gentrified "replacement" library in the BAM South development is part of the BAM Cultural District - a far cry from the demographic currently served by the Pacific Branch. A library on the North side of Flatbush makes sense - especially in light of the growing population there. But not at the expense of the population on the South side of Flatbush, which is also growing. Robbing Peter to pay Paul never makes either business or ethical sense.

Mar. 20 2013 04:29 PM
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn Heights

The conversation with Joseph Berger is misleading in two ways that his Times article is also misleading.

Yes, the proposed sell-offs of libraries (like schools) is system-wide, something that Citizens Defending Libraries pointed out to Mr. Berger when he was doing research for his article a month ago.

Not pointed out: 1.) As the libraries are being sold the library system is being shrunk, and 2.) Money does not go to the library system as a result.

Going back to the debacle of the sudden closing of the (rather recently renovated) Donnell Library in 2008 all these sales are accompanied by a shrinkage of the library system. (The Donnell is supposed to be shrunk down to 1/3rd size in what will now be an enormous 50-story luxury hotel and condominium.)

The Brooklyn Heights library sell-off hews very close to Donnell disaster as it model.

The Central Library Plan?: A consolidating shrinkage of the system, to create real estate deals, ripping out the research stacks of the Central Reference Library at 42nd Street, effectively decommissioning it as the research library it was meant to be. . . . . Not long ago we closed Bryant Park for more than four years to ensure, at significant public expense, that stack system was up-to-date and state-of-the-art.

These machinations are not for public benefit. In fact, Linda Johnson the head of the BPL even admitted in the Daily News that there was no provision for money to go to the libraries as a result and that these real estate deals were conceived before working anything like that out.

Not only is this not truly a way to provide money to the library system; as a prelude to these sales the Bloomberg administration (starting right after Bloomberg procured his third term) has been intentionally financially starving the libraries as part of a “demolition by neglect” strategy to make the need for the sales theoretically plausible. Library usage is at historic highs while the mayor has depressed funding to almost unprecedented lows.

The focus is handing out real estate deals to developers which is why the BPL said that it intends to sign the Brooklyn Heights library over to a developer in a “fast trot” process before the required public reviews the last day of Bloomberg’s third term. Also, before those public reviews the BPL wants to do a more than 50% shut-down of the Brooklyn Heights library “redeploying staff.”

Citizens Defending Libraries has mobilized and generated a new petition to stop the sell-offs which has already garnered over 8,500 online and hard copy signatures.

Please visit the site, sign the petition. This needs to be stopped:

Mar. 20 2013 03:58 PM
Phyllis from Park Slope

I could not believe my ears when I heard Mr. Berger describe our treasured Beaux Arts Carnegie branch of the PUBLIC library as "quaint".

I attended an exhibition of the 100th Anniversary of Grand Central Terminal last week. While there, I witnessed the displays showing the destruction of Penn Station and the horrendous designs by Marcel Breuer to replace Grand Central.

Architectural treasures need champions!

Calling this structure quaint makes no sense. It is a beautifully balanced building.
Yes, it is in need of repairs, but the Park Slope branch was just renovated and the neighborhood is joyful.

Does this city, after the travesty of the disastrous mega development across Flatbush Avenue (I dare not say its name...I have refused to be anywhere near it...) really want to continue the destruction on the other side of the street by tearing down this architectural treasure and putting up another monstrosity? NEVER!

Mar. 18 2013 07:33 PM
landless from Brooklyn

I live near the Brooklyn Heights library and take exception that all the locals are upset. Last summer, the library was closed for thirty days because the air conditioning cannot be repaired. The place is stifling and horrible for the staff. The City refuses to provide adequate funding for the libraries; the Library has to live with their available funding. The Library is to be congratulated for taking advantage of its high-value real estate and using the funds to improve the system. For 24 months, people can take the subway to other libraries.

Mar. 18 2013 06:22 PM

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