This Memo From The BPL President Says The New Brooklyn Heights Library Will Be Awesome

A BHB tipster sent us this memo from Brooklyn Public Library president Linda Johnson. In it, she says that they’ll be sharing the details from their RFP earlier this year for a new building at its current Cadman Plaza location that would house a new library (and condos) soon.

Here’s the full memo –

December 3, 2013

Dear BPL Patron,

The recent reopening of the last of our hurricane-damaged branches was a strong reminder of the critical role Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) plays in our lives, whether we live in Coney Island, Red Hook or Brooklyn Heights. Libraries today are more vital to our communities than ever, but they can only serve that role if they continue to reflect our diverse, dynamic and rapidly changing borough. Libraries must be accessible, flexible, comfortable and inspiring public spaces, and they must to be equipped with the modern resources and up-to-date technology our patrons use to access information. At the same time, our branches must also continue to offer unparalleled access to a wide array of print materials.

Unfortunately, our Brooklyn Heights branch no longer meets our standards and requires nearly $10 million in repairs just to maintain the current, less-than-adequate footprint. Many people have asked me why we haven’t repaired and modernized the branch yet. With $300 million in maintenance needs across BPL’s 60 locations, we cannot afford even the cost of installing an air conditioning system to keep the branch open all summer. Unless we do something, this situation will not change anytime soon, and will only get worse. Brooklyn Heights deserves better.

And so, as I wrote to you in April, we are embarking on an exciting project to build a new branch at the current site on Cadman Plaza to ensure we provide the best library service possible in Brooklyn Heights and throughout our 60-branch library system. At the end of June we released a Request for Proposals (RFP) to select a development partner for this project. We received a tremendous response to the RFP, confirming the property’s value and giving us confidence that we can create a better Brooklyn Heights Library, bring a world-class building to the neighborhood and generate revenue to support the needs of the system as a whole. We are reviewing the proposals now and will soon be sharing the details with the community.

Today I am making a number of promises to you about the future of your library, commitments that are included in the RFP:

• The new library will be at least a 20,000-square-foot branch, making it among the five largest branches in Brooklyn.

• We will provide uninterrupted library service to the community throughout construction, and safeguards have been put into place to ensure work moves quickly.

• The height of the new development will be similar to other buildings on Cadman Plaza West.

• The new library interior will be designed in collaboration with the community. BPL also will engage its own architect to build the new branch interior.

This is your library, and I hope you will all stay involved in the process as we move forward. Earlier this year, we launched a Community Advisory Committee (CAC) for the new library with representatives from your elected officials and many community organizations. Our CAC meetings are open to the public and we encourage you to attend. The next meeting is Thursday, December 12 at 6pm at Brooklyn Heights Library. At that time we will share information on the building proposals we have received. Click here to find updated information about this initiative.

Thank you for your continued support of Brooklyn Public Library. We look forward to working with you to deliver the best possible library for the Brooklyn Heights community and the entire borough of Brooklyn.

Very truly,

Linda E. Johnson
President & CEO

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  • HicksOnHicks

    How is this similar to Atlantic Yards? Atlantic Yards falsely claimed that the neighborhood was blighted to compel private land owners to sell via eminent domain. Forest City then went ahead and tore everything down to actually create a blighted fact on the ground.

    The fools who fell for the promise of future affordable housing if they would assist Ratner in seizing property from private owners under the false claim of blight should be held accountable (like NYS EDC, local community board and Acorn). This is nothing like BPL redeveloping their property to provide a new Heights branch and addt’l BPL revenue

  • HicksOnHicks

    Guess what? Some of us think we are already over-taxed. Actually, the amount of tax dollars that go to support parks and libraries has decreased over time as private funding sources have grown. An ever-increasing portion of our taxes are being used for safety net, social justice and redistribution rather than traditional municipal functions.

  • TMS

    They need to require new coops to build schools to accommodate the population they are bringing into the neighborhood. PS8 eliminated its Pre-K. Too many kids. Now there is no guarantee that kids will get into PS8 for Kindergarten and up because of lack of space. Would you pay millions for a luxury coop with no guarantee of a school in your neighborhood for your kids?

  • HicksOnHicks

    I agree that the City should be forecasting student populations and ensuring sufficient classroom space, but new coops to build schools? Isn’t this a function of the Dept of Education? What on Earth are our property, sales and income taxes used for?

  • marshasrimler

    The BPL project is run by the EDC and a former EDC employee . It is not BPL property it is city owned and belongs to the public. By the way it was seized
    in an urban renewal plan about 20 years ago.. Its the same old EDC ginning up properties at low cost to give to the developers

  • marshasrimler

    exactly.. this is the same dance

  • marshasrimler

    Guess what.. libraries lift folks out of poverty, help them with learning and should be invested in. How much of your taxes have been given way to developers in sweetheart deals with the city losing out-like this one. Parks and Llibraries have been starved by Bloomberg who loves developers. Look at the give away in the Donnell Library

  • HicksOnHicks

    I’m not opposed to libraries or the public funding of them. I just think that we’ve been taxed enough, we’ve borrowed enough and if we want to spend more on libraries then we need to spend less elsewhere.

    I’d also be more supportive if BPL could make itself more relevant in 2013. When the Heights branch first opened, BPL catered to a much wider swath of the population. Today, many of us conduct BPL library research from laptops and get our books at B&N and Amazon.

  • marshasrimler


  • ltap917

    Those who can afford to pay millions for a coop or condo in the Heights will most likely be sending their children to private schools.

  • Reggie

    The BPL isn’t pushing this forward to completion, just selecting the developer. The land use review won’t take place until next year, giving the new mayor and borough president opportunity to kill the project if they oppose it. The world doesn’t stop for six months while out-going commissioners wait to submit their resignations and the new folks get up to speed.

  • Klezmer O’Brien

    “Privatization of public assets” is incendiary talk but the economic future of the city depends on having taxpayers who have the means to fund generous pensions for public workers as well as maintenance and improvement of infrastructure. Assuming the condos are reasonably designed and properly built (and doesn’t mess up the sun), it’s hard to see how the public is harmed by additional taxpayers and a modern, state-of-the-art library. If anything, it seems like everybody benefits.

    New York may not be Detroit – but fifty years ago Detroit was one of the most vibrant economies to have ever existed on the planet.

  • Klezmer O’Brien

    I don’t understand the logic either. If you allow rich guys to build condos on top of a new library to help pay the cost of the new library, that’s bad. But if you sell bonds to rich guys to fund the building of a new library and pay the rich guys a lot of interest for decades to come, that’s good. Either way, the rich guys make more money in return for funding a new library. It seems morally equivalent.

  • ernest

    Public assets belong to the public. They shouldn’t be dealt to rich people who don’t need them, but just want them.

  • Klezmer O’Brien

    Your inflammatory rhetoric is naive and uninformed.

    The NY public library system is a wreck. The buildings are old, outdated, irresponsibly wasteful of energy and incredibly expensive to maintain. Yet they serve immigrants and kids and people from all walks of life including people who can’t afford computers and internet access. They have one of the great public missions of helping people improve themselves – and yet, they don’t have the money to keep the creaky old infrastructure up to contemporary needs.

    So what’s wrong with building a bunch of condos on top, selling them to middle and upper middle class people and using the proceeds to fund a modern, state-of-the art library? (Leaving aside the shade/sun discussion for the moment.)

    I mean, look at Brooklyn Bridge Park? It’s really nice, right? Nicer than a bunch of crappy dangerous warehouses and rusting old piers.

    Do you use it? If so, you don’t pay for the privilege. It’s funded by condos and a hotel…but it’s still public.

    Who do you think built the great public museums of New York anyway? The AFL-CIO? The transit workers? No, it was the worst of the robber barons (or great public benefactors, depending on whose flaming rhetoric you want to embrace.)

    There are plenty of wealthy people who do a disproportionate amount of good for the world – sometimes through philanthropy and sometimes through inventing things that make people’s lives better. And sometimes by saying, hey, if we built some condos over the library it would pay for a new library. Because the public either doesn’t have the dough to fund it – or doesn’t care enough.

    Brooklyn Heights is an historic district and hopefully if they build something it will be respectful of the neighborhoods around it.

  • marshasrimler

    Klezemer.. Josh.. Jordon
    The public is harmed by the giving away of our assists.. forever

  • Klezmer O’Brien

    What public asset has been given away?

    There is a library on a busy street in Brooklyn Heights.

    It’s not a historic building. It’s not in a charming spot. It’s practically next to a freeway.

    The building is old, expensive to maintain, decades out of date.

    What if it gets replaced with one that is new, technologically current, energy efficient?

    And the cost to the public is the airspace above a crummy old building that no one gets any benefit out of in a part of the Heights that has no historic relevance.

    You assume that I’m in the real estate business or some kind of plant for vested real estate interests – but you’re wrong.

    I’m just a guy who thinks a modern, comfortable, energy-efficient digitally current library would be better than a dated old library from the 1940s?

    I don’t see it as a give away – I see it as a trade. You build me a great new library for free, I lose…what? What do I lose?

    And who are you, anyway? Somebody who’s afraid of losing her view and invokes the “public” as a shield for your own private interest?

  • marshasrimler

    First no need to start the insults Klezmer.. I have no private interest in this view to protect etc.
    The city is giving away an appreciating asset the building and the view.
    The developer is getting an appreciating asset. The public asset is shrinking . the private assets is appreciating.
    The privatization of public assets is just plain wrong
    If you truly believe she you say tell us who you are

  • Klezmer O’Brien

    Oversimplified and naive.

    The city has an asset it can’t afford to maintain. It doesn’t have the money.

    The property may be appreciating – but the building itself is a liability. It is a money-sucking dinosaur, inefficient and wasteful, as are most of the city’s library branches.

    They were built for a different time, have not held up well, and do not adequately serve a public that otherwise lives in a digital era.

    The city also has another asset that most people wouldn’t think of as an asset – air. Specifically, the air above the building.

    Is the public getting any value out of that asset right now? No. You can’t read it. You can’t study in it. It doesn’t generate tax revenue. It’s just…air.

    So the city has the chance to dramatically improve an asset it cannot afford to improve or maintain by trading air. Oh, and it will also get tens of millions of dollars in new tax revenues.

    A lot of people would see that as a bargain.

    You make big rhetorical declarations but you don’t address the core issues of the discussion – what’s the better choice for the public? And the alternative you propose is to have the public take on huge amounts of debt and pay decades of interest to the same rich people you castigate in your scathing remarks.

  • marshasrimler

    so who are you?
    I like rich people i just do not like giveaways
    Since you are on the verge of getting nasty I will not respond further goodbye

  • Klezmer O’Brien

    I’m not being nasty – I’m being pointed.

    Who I am is irrelevant. The question is whether it’s a good deal for the public or not.

    You can’t muster a thoughful counter argument, so you insult the arguer.

    You call it a “giveaway.”

    But the public wouldn’t be giving anything away – it would mostly be getting: a brand new and infinitely better library built for a digital age, plus tens of millions of dollars in new tax revenues.

    And in return the public would trade…air.

    Not a bad deal for the public.

    Now, you could argue it’s a landmark building that should be saved for its historical value – but it isn’t.

    Or you could argue the property could be turned into something else that would benefit the public – a park, say. But it’s a crappy little lot at the intersection of three busy streets. And there are already bigger, better parks across the street.

    Instead, you argue the public should take on hundreds of million dollars in long term debt to rehab an inefficient, architecturally irrelevant building.

    Your rhetoric is populist but in your scenario the public gets screwed.

  • Klezmer O’Brien

    She doesn’t want to understand how anything works. She just wants to say “oh, you’re a tool of special interests” or “you’re advocating giveaways so you must be a fat cat.”

    The more common sense you make, the more she slanders you – and not your logic. Then she says, “oh, this is getting nasty so I’m not going to participate…”

  • Arch Stanton

    For me, the main issue I have with the proposed “giveaway” are the lies being perpetrated.
    1. it would cost 5 million dollars just to replace the air conditioning system.
    Total BS. I am in the construction industry and have renovated buildings twice that size, I estimate $1-1.5 million tops for the AC system.
    2. The implication that the building as a whole is inefficient. Nonsense, the structure of the building is in fine shape and is not “inefficient”. Replace the AC , lighting systems and maybe the windows and some insulation. it would be as efficient as any new building. Also. it being as it is now, a small single use building, would make it a good candidate for a solar energy system to be incorporated. All this can be done for about half of the inflated $10 million price tag.
    3. The building is not “historical”. This raises the question of what is considered “historical” and when does a building become historical.
    Clearly, if allowed to stand, at some point in the future the Library building will be considered historical. The building is a quite unique example of mid 20th century architecture. Who now can tell future generations, the building has no historic value?
    That being said, I am not dead set against new development or even demolishing old buildings. However there is an ethical question how and when it is done properly.

  • Klezmer O’Brien

    1. If what you say is true, then you have a point. (I’m not in the construction industry.) However…
    2. Officials of NYPL have stated repeatedly that part of their problem is the inefficiency of and cost of upgrading dated buildings. The building was built to house a physical collection of books and periodicals – but books and periodicals are increasingly digital. And the library’s purpose now includes giving computer and digital information access to constituencies that don’t have it…a very different purpose than what the building was designed for.
    3. Landmarks commission and city actually do have authority to declare a property historically worthy and to protect it. And they should ask the question.

  • ernest

    Our government is supposed to be “of the people, by the people, for the people”

    Not, of the rich, by the rich, for the rich.

    You need to get your priorities straight. Mr. KO’B.

  • Arch Stanton

    If there is less need for physical books and more need for computer stations, it is a simple matter to remove bookcases and install desks and computers. Space is space, if it needs to be divided up differently it is a simple matter of removing and adding partition walls. No need to rebuild the entire building. If there is an excess of space then the BPL could rent it out to help reduce its operating costs.

  • marshasrimler

    so why does the head of the BPL make more then the mayor?? does this make sense

  • Klezmer O’Brien

    You should spend a little more time in the library, Ernest.

    That phrase you quote is from Lincoln’s speech at Gettysburg…not from any legislative documents that provide the legal basis for the United States of America.

    The founding fathers who wrote The Constitution of the United States were all male, all white, and mostly well-to-do.

    Jefferson had slaves. Washington was obsessed with money. The framers of our constitution denied women, black people and native Americans the vote.

    “All Men Are Created Equal” referred to white males. When the library in BH was built, Jim Crow laws were still in force throughout the south.

    My priority is for Brooklyn Heights to have a world class, state-of-the-art library.

    There will always be Lee Harvey Oswald-class pseudo socialists out there to spout out shallow clichés and watch Nancy Grace.

    A great library would help the truly inquisitive in their quest for truth.

  • Klezmer O’Brien


  • ernest

    Yo, KO’B

    I have been to THE Brooklyn Heights PUBLIC library many times. And I am not a homeless porn-surfer, nor an illegal nanny working for your rich friends.

    If you were at Gettysburg a 150-years ago, I could only hope that some other racist SOB would have shot you between your eyes for being a bigot… and spared the rest of us for your being the real-estate whore that you seem to be today.

    You have exposed yourself for being what you are KO’B. A developer SO’B.