New BHA President Alexandra Bowie On LICH, Library and Living In The Heights

Alexandra Bowie, the newly installed president of the Brooklyn Heights Association (and a Brooklyn Bugle contributor), talks LICH, libraries and other neighborhood issues in a lengthy 2,200+-word Q&A with Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

Among highlights:
* Mission: BHA’s “most active committees are Traffic, Landmarks and Parks. The issues we work on, traffic, trees, tour buses, rats, parks and quality of life affect everyone who lives in our neighborhood, whether they rent or own.”
* Living in the Heights: “I love this neighborhood; it’s beautiful, green, leafy and quiet and virtually the entire city is accessible by public transportation. I love that people will pick up a kid’s dropped mitten or hat or shoe and hang it on a fence, and how often I bump into friends and neighbors. The one thing I don’t like is cars and trucks speeding through the neighborhood.
* Key BHA issues: LICH, the library, completion of Brooklyn Bridge Park, trees and traffic…

Eagle: BHA shocked a lot of people when it did not oppose the sale of the Heights branch library. How does BHA feel about the impact of hundreds (or thousands) of new residents in the neighborhood as a result of the new building? For example, the need for a new school or its impact on traffic?
Bowie: “It’s important to distinguish between the branch and the building. BPL is proposing to sell the building, but to retain the branch. We feel we have a useful role to play–in getting the City and the Library to do the right thing as it builds a new branch–by participating as members of the Community Advisory Committee. We think there are three right things: ensure that the money from the sale of the building goes to the BPL; that there is continuity of service from now until the opening of the replacement branch in a new building; and that the replacement branch is of adequate size.”

Bowie on LICH: “Our voice has been very public. Take a look at our letter to Governor Cuomo and Commissioner Shah, in which we asked for a thorough review of the health policy (including community) impact of closing the hospital. We sent this letter to Governor Cuomo, Health Commissioner Shah, the media and local elected officials as well as to our members. We have been advised by the LICH Concerned Physicians, New York State Nurse’s Association and Union 1199-United Health Care Workers that getting the attention of Governor Cuomo is critical.

“Accordingly, we have asked BHA members and others in the LICH community to send letters to Governor Cuomo and Dr. Shah. In terms of commissioning a study of the health needs of the community, the issues are complicated, and it is the role of the NYS Department of Health to understand and manage health care and to determine whether the closing of a hospital is appropriate.”

Bowie on Montague Street: “We would like to see a robust mix of businesses that serve residents’ needs.”

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  • ltap917

    How about getting someone to fix the potholes. I fell 2 1/2 years ago in a pothole at the entrance of Pierrepont Playground. That pothole is still there. I fell into a pothole on Columbia Heights the other day. I have osteoporosis and I have a propensity (my doctor’s word) for developing blood clots. Why are there no maintenance crews in our neighborhood filling in potholes. No hospital, no library. What kind of neighborhood is this going to be?

  • Preservationist

    Bowie is missing one important consideration in her position on the Brooklyn Public Library branch: The height and other dimensions of any replacement building need to be restricted to a Brooklyn Heights – consistent level, i.e., no more than six floors. We don’t want the historic district to be boxed in by greedy developers looking to build new skyscrapers on every square foot of developable space adjacent to out historic district. Period. Ideally, the BPL branch would be renovated with no change to the existing space envelope at all.

  • Arch Stanton

    That block is not in the height restricted zone nor are any of the blocks on the east side of Clinton St.

  • stuart

    Ms. Bowie has been ill advised if she believes the proceeds of the sale will go to the BPL. It will not. All funds will go to the City’s general fund, where it will be a drop in the bucket. BPL is shedding the Brooklyn Heights branch because it says it is too expensive to repair the air conditioning. They wish to reduce their maintenance budget and evidently that is why they are selling off their old library buildings.The new condo building built on that site will be at least thirty stories tall. The builder will get bulk bonuses for including a new library in the building’s basement next to the garbage room. This is all about revenue production, nothing about better library service or better public amenity, Mayor Bloomberg does not believe in that and does not even like the public sector. Sad that the BHA has decided not to push back.

  • marshasrimler

    The condo (if it is ever built) will be 40 stories high.
    Stuart you have it right its not about the library its about the real estate. The BHA has taken a position that is not in the interest of the immediate community or the greater community. It does not seem to understand how precious libraries are to New Yorkers . Those of us who grew up here and went public schools -every day people-not bankers of wall streeters will prevail

  • Jorale-man

    Agreed about the potholes. Clinton Street looks like something out of the 1970s with the pockmarked pavement and constant rumbling of cars hitting the holes. I wish the city would come in and blacktop the entire thing this summer. They could do it overnights with little disruption to traffic.

  • carlotta

    Re: Cadman Plaza Library – Being on the Community Advisory Committee does not insure any one of the three things the BHA believes they will get. Surely, if any money goes to the BPL, it will be a small percentage and how will that be spent? Where will this ‘continuity of service’ be and what will go into it? And, last but not least, what is “adequate size” for a new library? The BHA thinks they can save the day. How about never reaching that day? How about speaking truth to power and preventing the greed of real estate developers from destroying public assets!!

  • Preservationist

    That’s my point. BPL should insist as a term of sale of the Brooklyn Heights Library site that the replacement building cannot exceed six stories. End of story.

  • Arch Stanton

    Why? all the buildings around the Cadman BPL are well over 6 stories.

  • Michael D. D. White

    Not only is the BHA NOT opposing the sale of the library, they are NOT opposing the intended
    shrinkage of the library that goes along with that sale. Saying that the shrunken down library should be of an indeterminate “adequate” size is simply an obfuscation that doesn’t serve the community and hides the fact that the BHA isn’t representing the community on this when it condones such shrinkage.

    It is also a disservice to the community that the BHA would adopt as a so-called condition of this sale and shrinkage the PR eyewash that was actually suggested by the real estate development people at the BPL that “the money from the sale of the building goes to the BPL [not the Brooklyn Heights library]”.
    There is absolutely no way to enforceably assure that any such thing would happen. (That’s exactly what Commissioner Benepe said of similar eyewash schemes proposed for parks.)

    These deals are being proposed to benefit private developers, not the public. The Brooklyn Heights deal is being rushed with the goal of inking a contract with a developer (the BPL says the developer may, indeed, be Forest City Ratner) before December 31, 2013, a fire sale before that end date of Mayor Bloomberg’s term. This contract with a developer (involving a design specifying shrinkage) would be put in place long before any of the required public reviews. BPL spokesman Josh Nachowitz has already communicated that it is too late to change aspects of what has already been negotiated because there was no prior public input into what was heretofore being secretively arranged.

    It should be noted that Ms. Bowie has been the BHA’s designated representative with respect to these library matters. In that capacity she chose to oppose allowing the participation of Brooklyn Heights based Citizens Defending Libraries in the ad-hoc (somewhat farcical) meetings that have been structured as the only meetings to provide public input on the sale of the Brooklyn Heights libraries. More than 9,000 individuals have signed the Citizens Defending Libraries petition that is part of a campaign that opposes the sale of the libraries, shrinkage of the system as well as the deliberate underfunding of
    the libraries beforehand that is being used as a manipulation to force their sale. Bowie’s opposition to any participation by Citizens Defending Libraries
    leaves at the table to represent the community only the BHA and the small “Friends” of the library group which share identical positions that specifically
    and fixedly allow for this rushed sale-for-shrinkage of the Heights library before the end of Bloomberg’s term.

    Are there any explanations for why a once grandly heroic organization like the BHA and Bowie would essentially be endorsing such sacrifice of the neighborhood library? One thing to note is that the sale-for-shrinkage of the Brooklyn Heights library replicates nearly exactly the sale-for-shrinkage of the
    Manhattan’s Donnell library, once a beloved main library at 53rd Street across from MOMA. The man who was largely responsible for the secretive arrangement of that much-reviled deal announced suddenly (and without professional staff input)
    in 2007 was, according to the NYPL’s own documents, David Offensend, a Heights resident and a predecessor to Bowie as president of the BHA.

    And yes, people would be right to speculate about other unflattering reasons why the BHA is taking a position that so substantially aids in ramming through
    this rushed sell-off of public assets. I could inflame such speculation by quoting Bowie’s own words and although these will ultimately be important matters for public discussion I won’t do that here or now.

    You can find and sign the Citizens Defending Libraries online, joining the campaign to oppose the sale, shrinkage and deliberate underfunding of libraries by googling up the Citizens Defending Libraries web pages.

  • Michael D. D. White

    The BHA says its decision NOT to oppose the sale and shrinkage of the Brooklyn Heights library is “supporting” the “Friends” of the library group. To learn more about what/who that means the BHA is giving `support’ to read this this article:

    Condoning The Sale
    and Shrinkage Of The Brooklyn Heights Library, Does The Brooklyn Heights
    Associations Think Of Friends Group As A Fig Leaf? It Should Think

  • Cranberry Beret

    The conspiracy theorists posting on this blog are not doing themselves any favors trying to link the library issue to cronyism on the BHA board, “elites” supporting the historical society but not the branch, etc. You look like kooks.

    BTW the BHA position is more nuanced than you give them credit for. Right now it’s not definitively known that the BPL won’t try to pursue a contract with the city that would earmark sale proceeds for the library itself. Once that deal fails to come to pass (which as you point out is the reality of these types of things), then the BHA will say one of their conditions wasn’t met and therefore they will oppose.

    Unlike you guys they don’t have the luxury of playing loose with the facts and rhetoric.