NY Times: ‘Saving Libraries By Giving Up Land They Sit On’

Monday’s New York Times published a major expose on the critical issue of Brooklyn libraries shuttering with an eye on cashing in on property real estate values—with major focus on Brooklyn Heights’ Cadman Plaza branch.

The piece begins, “The Brooklyn Heights library is neither the oldest nor the most dilapidated branch of the Brooklyn Public Library system. But the 52-year-old limestone building… sits on land that developers crave. So the library system, desperate for money to pay for $230 million in repairs for its 60 branches, has embraced a novel financing model that is increasingly being used around New York City as a way to pay for government services: The library, on Cadman Plaza, would be sold to developers, torn down and rebuilt at no public expense on the ground floor of a new apartment tower.”

Joshua Nachowitz, Brooklyn Public Library’s VP for government & community relations, tells the Times: We would deliver libraries for essentially no cost to the library system. It’s a win-win.” Times: “The Brooklyn Heights branch was closed for 30 days last summer because its central AC kept failing; replacing it would cost $3 million. But the city gives the entire Brooklyn system only $15 million a year for repairs and construction, Nachowitz said, with the rest of its financing coming from private donations and other sources.”

Note that the Brooklyn Heights branch, to be rebuilt in the same spot, would close during 2-3 years of construction, according to the Times…

BHB readers, please continue to weigh in this essential community issue in Comments.

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  • Eric

    The library is being forced to sell its building, then will become a tenant in some replacement building. It will never own the asset (the building) again. If the building and land are worth another $20 million in 20 years, congrats to the new owner – but the library gets $0.

    Through our tax money and contributions, we paid for the building and its maintenance and built up a financial asset through its appreciation over time. We are being forced to sell it so that a private party can reap future profit off of our tax expenditures. Privatization is robbing us blind.

  • David on Middagh

    Wait, what is the history of this plot? It’s a 1962 building. Was this land taken from someone via eminent domain for “urban renewal”? Am I wrong about this? If the land was appropriated thus, is it morally right to now sell it, a couple of generations down the line, to some other private entity?

  • Lori

    How do we know it will ever be built? Where is the middle school that was promised in Dumbo?

  • cat

    More apartments, no infrastructure, no schools. Same thing happened in Soho, Tribeca, lower Manhattan. Greedy short-sighted thinking.

  • Moni

    Beware of any privatization scheme that claims to include genuine concern for the public interest. There aint no such animal, and profiteers will stay up nights figuring out how to screw us.

  • Reggie

    The answer to Lori’s question is, the intermediate school is under construction. Construction was delayed, at least in part, by legal action opposing the building it will be located in.

    Eric, the library isn’t being forced to sell its building. Wrong-headed or not, it has chosen to do so. And if the plan proceeds as announced, the branch library will not be a tenant, but will own its space as a condominium unit. I understand the opposition to the proposal, but let’s get the facts straight.

  • Wiley E.

    The public has been sold out.

  • HenryLoL

    This is a win for the hood — especially CPW, which will get more foot traffic and be safer at night. We’ll also get a new, smaller and better library that will hopefully attract parents from the hood.

  • martinlbrooklyn

    NYTimes piece tells almost the whole, dirty story. It poiints out that
    the developers are cheering on the great sell off. And, it points up
    the potential deprivation of current users. But, it doesn’t tell how
    the Brooklyn system starved the branches into disrepair. And, it
    doesn’t raise the issue of low-ball annual budgeting depriving the
    branches of the ability to maintain order and a pleasant learning
    environment. The Heights branch has been allowed to deteriorate into a
    kind of daytime housing shelter for the cold and tired. Thus, turning
    the neighborhood against the facility. The Brooklyn library has
    abandoned its principles for a quick money fix.