Brooklyn Public Library President Addresses Future Of Cadman Plaza Branch

Linda E. Johnson, President & CEO of the Brooklyn Public Library, sent an email to patrons Wednesday about “our efforts to create a better branch in Brooklyn Heights.”

In it, she addresses her take on “innovative solutions to help us provide the service Brooklynites deserve” by “constructing a new, modern branch in Brooklyn Heights.” The entirety of her letter follows:

As you may be aware, public service at the Brooklyn Heights branch was crippled last summer by an unexpected failure of the building’s air conditioning system, resulting in sporadic closures. In order to ensure consistent service this coming summer, starting July 1 and expected to end August 30, the Brooklyn Heights Library will be open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. After Labor Day, branch hours should return to normal.

While reduced summer hours are not a long-term solution, the schedule is designed to allow us to keep our doors open and avoid the intermittent closures that occurred last year due to problems with the HVAC system, a system that requires a $3.5 million overhaul.

Unfortunately, BPL faces a staggering $230 million in deferred maintenance across the 60 neighborhood libraries (including $9 million in capital repairs needed at Brooklyn Heights Library), but has received $15 million per year on average from the City to address these needs. The current situation is unsustainable. The time has come for innovative solutions to help us provide the service Brooklynites deserve.

To address the problems at the Brooklyn Heights Library, we hope to build a new branch on the existing site on Cadman Plaza. Our project involves selling the property and working with a private developer to build a new facility as part of a larger building, at no cost to BPL or taxpayers.

Based on our plan, we hope to:
• Construct a new, modern branch in Brooklyn Heights. The new neighborhood branch will still be a public facility, owned by the City and operated by BPL, as are most of our libraries. It will be comparable in size to the publicly accessible portion of the current branch and will remain one of the largest branches in BPL’s system. The Business & Career Library, currently located within the same building, will move to BPL’s Central Library on Grand Army Plaza.
• Take advantage of the value of property in the neighborhood to deliver a new branch in Brooklyn Heights without diverting funding from other parts of Brooklyn. We receive far too little money to properly maintain our buildings. This plan allows us to provide the library service Brooklyn Heights needs without taking money from other neighborhoods.

While we are excited about starting to work on our new Brooklyn Heights branch, we recognize there are some questions about our plans. Please understand:
• This project is a response to the serious issues facing the Brooklyn Heights building that leverages the unique value of the building’s location.
• BPL is not closing the Brooklyn Heights Library. In fact, we are developing a plan to build a new, better, more modern library of comparable size to the public portion of the current branch, so that we can serve the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood for generations to come.
• BPL does not plan to reduce hours at the Brooklyn Heights Library beyond the summer. We will implement shortened hours for the summer, running only from July 1-August 30, after which normal operations will resume.
• BPL will not eliminate service in Brooklyn Heights at any time during the project. We will remain in the existing building until construction begins, and at that time will relocate our services and staff to a temporary space in the neighborhood.

The process to develop our new Brooklyn Heights Library will be complex and take years to complete. We have formed a Community Advisory Committee comprised of key community stakeholders and local elected officials who will meet regularly. We will also present the plan at other meetings, including at the Community Board 2 meeting on April 24. Please visit our Brooklyn Heights Library webpage for continued updates.

I will send periodic emails about where we are in the public approval process and you can, of course, ask any of our branch librarians for more information. Additionally, you can email any questions or concerns to brooklynheightsproject@brooklynpubliclibrary.org.

We look forward to continuing to work with the community to provide Brooklyn Heights with the best possible library service.

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  • HenryLoL

    Sounds perfect!

  • MonroeOrange

    I feel like if they came out and said this from the beginning…there wouldn’t be so much debate on the topic…this sounds reasonable…and sounds like a new library will indeed be built in the new building (something no one believed would actually happen).

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=631255472 Quinn Raymond

    Sounds like a smart plan to me.

  • http://twitter.com/rimler marshasrimler

    Gentlemen
    If you believe this I have a Bridge I can sell you. At the BPL trustees meeting this week I concluded that Ms. Johnson is on her way to becoming the Cathie Black of Brooklyn.
    Ask your self why a fundraiser from Philadelphia who never administered a library before was hired at a salary of over ( I believe ) $300,000 by the Bloomberg run Board. Did she have a special skill that could not be found among those that administer non-profits and libraries in Brooklyn??? and or
    Manhattan, Queens, Bronx and Staten Island.. Can she even find her way around our borough on the Subway. It is clear from the report discussed at the meeting that she cannot raise funds. Queens and Manhattan Libraries have done a much better job at getting state, local and Federal funds.( This will be addressed specifically later). Several of our hard working elected officials have indicated that the library did not do the work to request grants. So now the plan to SUPRISE
    sell the land , destroy the library and put it in a partly
    underground closet under a 30-40 story high rise condo.
    I encourage Ms Johnson to come up with one idea for adequate funding that does not involve a give away of public land that was originally urban renewal land to a developer .
    Clearly the libraries have been starved and we need to come up with a way to repair the damage and move forward. In Seattle they issued Bonds to do this and it was successful. I have faith in New Yorkers and know they will buy Library Bonds. Another option is the selling of the air rights throughout the system. There are many other ways to fund with without destruction.
    If it starts it is the beginning .. more branches will be sold, moved underground, downsized or destroyed.
    This p.r piece needs much greater study over time but I can assure you promises made here will not be keep for one reason or another . (look at Atlantic Yards)
    The willful misrepresentation of the community advisory community is typical. This committee put together by the Brooklyn Public Library consists only of the BHA (1200
    members and Friends of the Library (200 members) Why are other groups and communities that are also library users not represented? Many folks in Fort Greene, Ingersall, Whitman, Dumbo ,Fulton Ferry and Vinegar Hill use this Branch. Why is only one community (very high income) on the advisory committee. Also why is the public not allowed to speak and the meetings?
    Libraries are precious and should not be tampered with by a Bloomberg front person who is not even a New Yorker.
    Finally many people that use the library do not think it is that bad given the fact that it has been neglected and run into the ground. Sure it needs to be kept cleaner,
    and renovated but that can be done. The city did great renovation jobs on the family court building and the red cross building (both less than 5 blocks away) . Everyone talks about the Air Conditioning . This is the same excuse that was used to destroy the much beloved Donnell Library. . Take a walk into the library, observe it as I have over time.. It works.. It needs fixing .. Not destruction

  • http://twitter.com/rimler marshasrimler

    Too perfect to believe

  • Call Me Skeptical

    Shorter Johnson: “Since Mayor Bloomberg deliberately underfunded our libraries, we’ll just roll over and allow him to sell the land to private developers so they can make a mint in profit, and we’ll hope for the best. Because we all know that public good nowadays don’t really exist, but are expected to rely on the kindness of strangers, especially if someone wants to use them to make moneymoneymoney.”

  • martinlbrooklyn

    You are so right in all ways, especially the rolling over for the Mayor and failure to fund raise in a Borough of millions. No imagination, no fundamental belief in public service and the civilizing, communty function of public libraries.

  • Call Me Skeptical

    And surprise! Ratner is being mentioned as the developer!! No one could have anticipated…. maybe he plans to use the space for Barclays Center parking, under his 40 story highrise. I’m sure there’s room for a library in a subbasement somewhere.

  • stuart

    so insulting that she expects us to believe that they are shutting down the branch and selling the land to a politically connected developer because the air conditioning is broken.
    This mayor is all about the dollars. He sees a public library or a public school simply as a site to put up for sale. Building public libraries and maintaining them is the city’s job. It is not something that should be foisted on the private sector.

  • Carol

    Ms. Johnson glossed over how much the library property is estimated to sell for and where that money will go – to the general coffers of the city or to the BPL, which in her words has a staggering 200 million in deferred maintenance.

  • carlotta

    Ms. Johnson is a smooth cookie. Her machinations to roll over the public in favor of the moneyed real estate developers appears to be a done deal unless we, the taxpayers, protect our assets. Bravo to all who stand against this theft.

  • HenryLoL

    This is one of the best things to happen to our neighborhood in years. Dont understand your reluctance AT ALL. You either have a hidden agenda or are just an activist for no reason and dislikes whatever the City does… WHO CARES if developers make money? CPW could use some quality housing and a new smaller library will be better for everyone. The current place is a hole.

  • http://twitter.com/rimler marshasrimler

    Henry…… clearly you do not understand the place of libraries in NYC. We will all have to educate you

  • HenryLoL

    We are getting a brand new – BETTER library.

  • Wiley E.

    Is that really you, stuart?

  • Wiley E.

    No bids?

  • Wiley E.

    No, you and the public are getting shafted.

  • Wiley E.

    Are you on commission?

  • Michael D. D. White

    Read this an then tell me this sounds “reasonable”:

    Tuesday, April 23, 2013
    A Letter from Brooklyn Public Library President, Linda E. Johnson, April 17, 2013: Examined. What Does It Really Say?
    http://noticingnewyork.blogspot.com/2013/04/a-letter-from-brooklyn-public-library.html

  • Michael D. D. White

    Noticing New York’s new article presents a point by point refutation of the disinformation that Johnson is putting out in this letter. For instance, early on NNY says:

    “Over the last few months, BPL has been sharing information”: Not mentioned is that the BPL was NOT sharing information with the public about the planned sale and shrinkage of the Brooklyn Heights Library for the very long time this was in the works. This means that the for this very extended period the BPL was NOT sharing information the public could give now feedback or otherwise react about how this was a bad idea. Now the public’s reaction can only be rushed.

    The BPL first started sharing information only at the end of January 2013. Sale of the Brooklyn Heights Library was planned at least as far back as October 2011 and the BPL has quietly been considering selling libraries at least as far back as the summer of 2007, approximately the same date that the New York Public Library was arranging the sale-for-shrinkage of Donnell Library in Manhattan, the previous transaction which the sale-for-shrinkage of the Brooklyn Heights Library most closely resembles.

    See: A Letter from Brooklyn Public Library President, Linda E. Johnson, April 17, 2013: Examined. What Does It Really Say?
    http://noticingnewyork.blogspot.com/2013/04/a-letter-from-brooklyn-public-library.html

  • Wiley E.

    Who gives away the house when the air-conditioner is broken?