BHA Seeks Feedback on Brooklyn Heights Library Proposals

The Brooklyn Heights Association is seeking community input on the RFPs solicited by the Brooklyn Public Library for its branch here.

And for those of you who are fans of Smorgasburg the traveling culinary feast partly owned by Brownstoner the Brooklyn Paper reports:

One pitch changes the building entrance from Cadman Plaza West to Tillary Street. Another includes a permanent home for Smorgasburg, culinary counterpart to the Brooklyn Flea, a party room, and a cafe attached to the library.

Most of the proposals would provide 20,000 square feet of library space; Proposal A’s library would have 31,192 square feet, and Proposal E’s 30,000. The proposed buildings range in height from as much as 551 feet (Proposal F, which has a possible alternative height of 455 feet, still taller than any other proposal) to a minimum of 285 feet (Proposal A). [Full report HERE]

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  • marshasrimler

    The BHA needs to redo the survey. The last question should be first. The issue is first are you in favor of this project which may not go forward and then if you are in favor to ask questions of the designs.
    Come on BHA
    Lets be fair

  • BH Neighbor

    You can’t be human (or a capitalist) and be against this project – there is so much value to be unlocked on this property that there’s no reason in the world a developer couldn’t build a state of the art library on this site (and maintain a great temporary location), build condos and still walk away with $10’s of millions

    The key is in holding them accountable for delivering – there shouldn’t be a penny in profit or a single unit occupied unless the library is delivered first and as promised (and in far less than four years)

    Most of the profits should be returned to the community, but I can’t see how this isn’t a great opportunity – leaving the current library as-is would be a travesty to the community

  • David on Middagh

    The value is a clear spot in the sky that lets sunlight fall on the neighborhood in the morning and on the park in the afternoon.

  • marshasrimler

    No one wants to leave the library as is- that is a false choice. People are busy working to refurbish the library, improve it and maintain the Brooklyn business Library where it belongs- in a booming downtown. Lets give our new city leaders a little time to work on this- public property once lost is gone forever

  • Andrew Porter

    Yes, let’s tear down all of BH and replace it with high rise towers—think of the value to be unlocked in so many single family hoses that could be replaced with enormous towers. To say nothing of the many jobs involved in demolition and the construction trades!

  • Andrew Porter

    The first question on the SurveyMonkey form is a red herring: at no point is the library contiguous with Tillary Street, which starts the other side of the intersection with Cadman Plaza West and Clinton Street.

  • Michael D. D. White


    SLOW DOWN!- None of this should be done as some sort of “Library QUICK Poll.” “QUICK” poll? Really?

    BEFORE anyone answers these questions, BEFORE the Brooklyn Heights Association even asks them, there are a number of things that should be made clear that these questions conceal rather than highlight.

    The real and most important question is Question Number 9 near the end and buried on page 3 of this “surveymonkey” push poll: “Do you support or oppose the redevelopment plan the Brooklyn Public Library has proposed?”

    The problem is that the introduction to that critical question (“The BHA has not yet taken a position on the redevelopment proposal”) is misleading: The BHA has actively pushed the redevelopment proposal forward and done so in a process that has deliberately excluded the voices in the community (the majority) opposed to the proposal. It makes no sense and is highly unfortunate that the BHA got behind the sale before the community found out anything and has been supporting that position at all the CAC meetings.

    In asking that question the following background is not supplied:

    1.) None of the proposals reflected show the buildings using ALL of the available development rights that we can expect to be used, ultimately making the buildings even BIGGER, the development rights from the Saint Ann’s School and rights the city previously transferred to and still held unused by Forest City Ratner.

    See: Monday, December 16, 2013, Tall Stories- Buildings Proposed To Shrink The Brooklyn Heights Library: Brooklyn Public Library Publishes Seven Luxury Building Proposals To Shrink Away Brooklyn Heights Library.

    2.) Those asked to answer the questions are not told that most of the development rights to the property were transferred to Forest City Ratner in1986, greatly diminishing what people could conceive would be the public value of selling the property. That also changes the equation of who is really getting the benefit of pushing this forward.

    3.) People are not told that there is no available information about what net amount of money might go to the city if the property is sold, nor are they told that the any money would go only to the CITY and there is absolutely no way to assure that the Brooklyn Public Library would benefit in exchange for giving up this asset. We do not have a good record of garnering value when libraries are sold- See: The Donnell and SIBL examples.

    4.) Nobody is told here that the Business and Career Library portion of the library is to be evicted as part of this plan, that it is likely to largely cease to exist altogether as a result.

    5.) Nor are people informed how drastic the reduction of space would be in the size of the library. The current library is 63,000 square feet so this would be less than one third. No matter what the proposal is the 20,000 square foot “replacement” library is to be less than half the current size. As library space is expected to do double (triple+?) duty, quiet areas would be eliminated. The public auditorium and theater has been cited as being superfluous, but many would disagree. Some of that existing space at that site was created to provide emergency space for the community, something the BPL is looking at doing with its new libraries like this one.

    6.) What about the fact that there will be a shift that places one fourth of the library space (or even more under some proposals) underground?

    6.) Nothing is said here about the option of fixing the existing library (that has been deliberately kept unrepaired) or that fact that BPL came of with a suspicious set of costs for making such repairs the veracity of which, in very obvious ways, needed to be challenged by those protecting the community, something the BPL failed to do.

    7.) People are not told that because of the sale that is being pushed forward the library has already been largely emptied of books and that the idea is to have far fewer books there in the future.

    What is being pushed (and this BHA poll pushes it too) is a real estate deal with little thought to what would be good for the public. If this site really has to be redeveloped why wasn’t new larger library space created in the Municipal Building so that the library could have been transferred there without disruption of service, without a generation of kids growing up inadequately served by their neighborhood library?

    Another thing to remember: The library was recently built with an urban renewal process that, as intended, reduced the density at the site.

    The process for selling this library, secretly begun in 2008, 2007 or earlier and just revealed to the public a year ago, was flawed from the start. The BHA should not be participating with these endorsements of ideas that deserve to be scrapped.

  • Carolyn McIntyre

    This library with the Business and Career Library  has served Brooklyn residents well for decades.  Selling this building to a private developer for an unpublished price and allowing the developer to shrink it continues a policy of exploitation of public assets similar to what we see happening to LICH.  Why aren’t any of the plans for a bigger library?  The inflated cost estimates to fix the air conditioning is part of why most of us don’t trust the current developer driven BPL leadership.  It makes no sense that the BHA got behind the sale before the community found out anything and has been supporting that position at all the CAC meetings.  This push poll which asks if we oppose the sale at the end is another example of voices of the library users and neighbors keep getting pushed away as the BHA pushes an agenda on us.

    This is really astro turf for building a luxury high rise that will be considerably taller than the RFPs would lead you to believe because of the already sold air rights.  This is not about what is best for the library users and the public.

    The “state of the art” libraries emerging now are noisy bookless rooms with computer terminals.  Take a look at the empty bookshelves at this and other libraries in Brooklyn.  

    I agree with Marsha Rimler, #9 should be the first question, the fact that asking if we oppose the sale after asking which RFP we like is again pushing an agenda.

  • Carlota

    I happened to skip to the end of the survey – if I had not, I would have left the comments blank. Marsha’s got it right. #9 should be #1. And because of the way this survey is written, the BHA has put itself in the position of selling the BPL’s plan, not in the neutral position it claims to have as a community organization.

  • Shaheen Rushd

    The design of the survey shows a definite bias towards the acceptance of one of the proposals for the redevelopment of the library. The question as to the rejection of any sale of the library is buried. There is a large group of people, backed by politicians, who are against the sale of the library. TH BHA should be supporting this group rather than serving as a mouthpiece for developers.

  • BrooklynBomber

    Yes, you can be against it. The public library is an expression of democracy at its finest. It is so much more than a book repository. The value of the property is in its use as a PUBLIC library, not in what you can do with its airspace. There’s no intrinsic right for someone to should “walk away with $10s of millions.”

  • Martha Rowen

    This is an outrageous and unethical form of polling. As bad as the BHA poll is, setting things up to suggest the ill advised sale of our public library to developers is a fait accompli and to give the impression of community support by putting off any possibility to indicate disapproval of the entire project until the end, at least it does give that choice. The Brooklyn Public Library’s version shows how far beyond shame the leadership of that once fine institution is. One must choose one of the proposals and there is absolutely no way to say what is the opinion of the majority of the community NONE OF THE ABOVE!

  • Marjorie Kantor

    I am against any proposal that involves selling and selling out our library.

  • Carey

    I do not want the library to be sold in the first place. I find this survey misleading as that is not presented as an option to submit. I reject all the proposals in favor of not selling the library. Public libraries are a crucial and diminishing resource.

  • David on Middagh

    I’m against another massive building that will further darken our neighborhood. But it would be easier to accept this one as a some kind of compromise with the Forces of Development (it would be on high ground—not in the flood zone; it would be in the context of other tall buildings) if our neighborhood and surrounding neighborhoods were not already being nibbled at and chomped upon; if yards and gardens and views and gaps and skyscapes weren’t already being blocked up with more *things*. This one’s a generation too late.

  • Ruth Eiss

    Ruth Eiss-BH Neighbor
    The library development plan lacks legitimacy because it flouts the will of the people.


    Opposed to having a private developer build a hi-rise. INSTEAD FUND THE EXISTING LIBRARY PROPERLY!
    Ask question #9 from the BHA survey as the first question!

  • Martha

    “You can’t be human (or a capitalist) and be against this project–there is so much value to be unlocked. . .”.
    Where to begin? I’ll leave aside the obvious discussion of whether we should equate human with capitalist, but surely one CAN be human and oppose it (and I might even go so far to say that one can be a foresighted capitalist and oppose it). In fact,being human and the spirit of humanism cry out against it.

    BH Neighbor seems to have a very blinkered idea of value and who should benefit from it. What is the value in tearing down perfectly good, structurally sound public library, one with the capacity to grow in physical size (either upward or outward toward Clinton Street), housing not only a neighborhood branch but a fine business library beyond a developer walking away with (at the very least) “$10’s of millions”? Value, it seems, is only measured in money and is for wealthy capitalists.

    He says that the developers should be held accountable, but that is exactly what
    the process and provisions do not assure and what past experience
    teaches us will absolutely not happen! Never mind that publicly owned property would be given up for private profit; never mind that the most generous proposals describe a library a fraction the size of the present one with the business library gone; never mind the years of disruption, noise, dirt and pollution; never mind ending up with a building totally out of scale with the neighborhood, blotting out sunlight, bringing traffic and housing only the very rich (good luck with actually getting any moderate or low-income apartments); never mind that the Brooklyn Public Library would not be guaranteed any of the (under market value) amount actually paid to the City for the property and private developers would receive much of the sale price (see Michael White’s excellent article on this in Noticing New York); all of this is justified because developers would “unlock” value (i.e. vast sums of money).

    But what of the value of neighbors and fellow citizens sharing a sense of community in an institution they helped build and maintain with their taxes and private contributions on public land that belongs to all, a place they can literally call their own, not a limited space grudgingly carved out in a private luxury condo built for the tiniest sliver of the very rich? What of the value of a place that is designed to house books and to make reading them a pleasant experience, that is welcoming to all, that has space where people of all sorts can comfortably (in all senses of the word) hold public meetings?

    It is here that BH Neighbor’s equating the opinion of a human with a capitalist falls apart. Perhaps the capitalist (and only the most shortsighted capitalist) would see value only in developers gaining millions, but the human would care so much more about the value “locked” in the community and in the human heart.

  • marshasrimler

    you make excellent points

  • Ruth Eiss

    Ruth Eiss

    The Cart Before the Horse

    This survey is a disingenuous show of community involvement cobbled together after the Request for Proposals had not only been let, but answered! With characteristic trickery, the survey asks “which plan do you prefer? not “DO you prefer, rendering the instrument invalid. Now let’s see how they interpret our responses. Will we be quoted, or only added to the number of respondents to buttress their cause?

  • L&V brooklyn heights

    Ugh! There is nothing wrong with our library! It’s a beautiful place. We don’t need a new one and we don’t need a high rise.

  • Anon

    I am horrified that any gleaming skyscraper or developer could be considered an alternative to the beautiful, historical library currently in existence. One that I frequently use and is still in great condition. These are apartment buildings centered toward the rich, and quite frankly I moved here years ago because this area surrounding Prospect Park still felt like old movies. It has a richness of culture that is whitewashed from so many parts of Manhattan and other neighborhoods. I see no good to any solution that sells a I library out to private commerce. I do not find that selling or covering up intent like suggested here are even alright. And despite living in a digital age a library like that is a beacon of hope to kids. It still feels accessible to all walks of life, and would not if the proposed changes were made. Please stop and consider the implications of such actions.