DUMBO Leader Tweaks Raw Nerve in Brooklyn Heights Library Re-development Dispute

In Thursday’s Brooklyn Daily Eagle, community advocate Doreen Gallo tweaked the raw nerve that is the proposed sale of the Brooklyn Heights and Pacific branches of the Brooklyn Public Library. The BPL’s controversial plan to sell the two properties—eliminating costly repairs and maintenance in exchange for new much reduced libraries rebuilt by developers—has been roundly criticized by many in the Brooklyn Heights community, including Citizens Defending Libraries, an advocacy group spearheaded by Michael D.D. White, a long-time Brooklyn Heights’ resident, and his wife, Carolyn McIntyre.

In an open letter to Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, published on the Eagle’s website, Ms. Gallo—executive director of the DUMBO Neighborhood Alliance who also sits on the Brooklyn Public Library Community Advisory Council—urged the newly-elected Beep to block consideration of the recent proposals to remake the Brooklyn Heights branch’s triangular lot at the intersction of Clinton and Cadman Plaza West into a high-rise residential tower housing a much smaller library.

Ms. Gallo also requested that Mr. Adams consider supporting a proposal to landmark all 21 of our borough’s Carnegie grant libraries, including the Pacific branch, which was the first of the Carnegie libraries constructed in Brooklyn.

Asked about his position on this thorny issue, Mr. Adams responded with an invitation to an upcoming reporters’ roundtable, where the Brooklyn Heights Blog will be represented and raise this and other local issues.

Perhaps most pertinent to any discussion about local libraries is the fiscal health of the parent organization, the Brooklyn Public Library. As a result of drastic cuts in City funding, the BPL has struggled in recent years to maintain reasonable levels of service. In an exclusive article dated February 28 of this year the Eagle reported that the BPL, now in the midst of its annual $500,000 spring appeal, “has amassed almost $300 millions worth of deferred repairs.” In the same article, the Eagle said that New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer will conduct a top-to-bottom audit of the non-profit organization, addressing a “broad range of fiscal issues.”

In publishing her anti-development viewpoint, Ms. Gallo is taking on the Brooklyn Heights Association (BHA), the venerable civic association that conditionally supports the BPL’s plan to eliminate a branch whose maintenance costs, according to BPL, have skyrocketed in recent years. According to a January 2013 statement on the BHA’s website, the Association gave its approval of a new, state-of-the-art branch in exchange for the proposed sale on the conditions that the BPL must maintain continuous library service to the community during demolition and construction, the replacement branch is of adequate size, and proceeds from the sale of the property go to the Brooklyn Public Library rather than to city coffers.

In putting herself on the same side as Mr. White, who on his website describes himself as an “attorney, urban planner and former government public finance and development official,” Ms. Gallo is tapping into a powerful strain of grass-roots advocacy that has created strong feelings on both sides of the debate. Mr. White and Ms McIntyre, along with others, expressed loud displeasure during last month’s annual BHA meeting at BHA President Alexandra Bowie’s discussion of the organization’s stance in the dispute.

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  • marshasrimler

    Kudos to Doreen Gallo for her well presented position, The BHA is simply wrong on this issue. The way forward is to support and pass Assembly bill 9241 and Senate bill 6931 which includes the
    Brooklyn Public Library among those eligible for the financing of projects through the Dormitory Authority. Just recently introduced the bill is sponsored by Lentol, Brennan, Cymbrowitz,Abate, Brook-Krasny, Camara, Colton, Davila, Jacobs, Mosely, Perry, Robinson, Weinstein and our own Joan Millman. In the Senate sponsored by Golden so far.
    Next we need new leadership at BPL so we can put this fiasco behind us and begin refurbishing our libraries.

  • WK Montague

    This is ridiculous…While I respect their right to have a difference of opinion, anyone who has been in that branch knows that its not only completely obsolete for how people use libraries these days, but is also a dark and quite frankly unwelcoming place. The world changes, and here is an incredible opportunity to bring a state of the art facility, much needed funds, affordable housing, additional tax revenue and new activity to that sleepy part of Cadman Plaza. We need to make sure the Library drives a very hard bargain and squeezes the developers for every last penny and benefit. But we should NOT prevent the sale just for the sake of NIMBYism which is what this is clearly about. I’m all in favor of landmarking important buildings but what people don’t get is that the more you landmark the more expensive it gets to build things, which in turn drives prices up even more. That’s great if you own your townhouse on Monroe Place…

  • Justine Swartz

    “Asked about his position on this thorny issue, Mr. Adams responded with an invitation to an upcoming reporters’ roundtable, where the Brooklyn Heights Blog will be represented and raise this and other local issues.”
    I despair! BHB is not impartial on the selling off of the Brooklyn Heights Library.

  • Martin L Schneider

    He and you probably both are referring to our own BHA, the Association not the blog.

  • marshasrimler

    mr. montague.. this is about giving way public assets and a land grab.. nothing else at all

  • Carlotta

    It’s interesting for WK Montague to say he/she “respects their right to a difference of opinion”, while he/she says “This is ridiculous” hmmm. At any rate, yes, we all agree, the BH Library needs a 21st century update. The building needs renovation and that’s what the BPL should be doing. Perhaps this bill that Marsharimmler speaks of will give us the money to do the renovation/updating. Won’t that be wonderful? A really fabulous modern, bright, stocked, wi-fied, etc, etc. library that we in the Brooklyn Heights community and those outside the community can be proud of, instead of another luxury high rise – and don’t be fooled, there will be no affordable housing in any of the proposed buildings. I walk that “sleepy part of Cadman Plaza” just about five times a week. Not only is it not “sleepy”, it is always busy but never as overwhelmingly busy as Court St. Is that what you want, WK? more traffic, more crush? And, where will the kids living in that building go to school? In this very tough city, we need to protect what is good – selling our property, our public property, to real estate developers is not good for the public. These developers have not kept most of their promises to other projects, why would they start now? Bravo Ms. Gallo and the DUMBO Neighborhood Alliance!!

  • ClaudeScales

    He is correct in stating that the Blog will be represented at the roundtable, which is specifically for the press.

  • HicksOnHicks

    Marsha – You’re very consistent on the issue of limitless gov’t funding for your pet projects. Your points of view consistently come across as the rantings of a socialist troll.

  • marshasrimler

    thanks for being so polite and a good neighbor. Last time I checked libraries were part of the social contract between the government and the people ..
    Socialist troll. is name calling

  • bethman14

    Oh Marsha Marsha Marsha they aren’t “giving away assets” they’re SELLING air rights, making a ton of money and using it to upgrade other buildings!! The PUBLIC will STILL OWN THE LIBRARY. When will you and your CDL buddies stop lying to everyone?

  • WillowTownJulian

    Let me get this straight…someone sponsored a bill in the State Assembly (one of literally thousands that get introduced every year and go nowhere) that gives DASNY the ability to maybe at some point sometime somewhere in the future provide some funding to the BPL. And its being sponsored by our very own Joan Millman, who has done a whole lot of absolutly nothing for our poor local library since she joined the assemlby in what, 1820? This is makes the proverbial thin reed resemble an oak tree.

  • bethman14

    HAHA right on man, right on. Watch your wallet around these guys.

  • progressiveonmyrtle

    So sad to see shortsighted NIMBYism triumph yet again. What about my library, the Walt Whitman library? its a beautiful old building serving a very poor and needed community….needs huge amounts of work. Its depressing, cold in winter and hot in summer. I’m all for making some rich developer fork over millions to help the Brooklyn Library upgrade my branch…..and SHAME on all your gazzilionaire in Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO who don’t want ” more traffic.” get over yourselves. There are about 2.5 million Brooklynites who DONT live in Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO. What about their libraries????

  • marshasrimler

    this bill will pass..you do not get it

  • marshasrimler

    oh beth.. beth.. if you believe the developers. you are just a believer in lies..they are not selling air rights they are selling the site

  • brklynmind

    This Branch is only 20 years old so not sure how it can be so obsolete (considering it has to be one of the newest branches in the whole system). That being said, this is an ideal spot for development and if the sale of this land an create a substantial endowment to facilitate improvements ans sustainability across the system then it should be pursued.
    Of course I am aware that most of the opposition will come from people who never use the library but simply dont want tall buildings or their own personal view blocked.

  • marshasrimler

    This is exactly the divide and conquer approach that was used in Atlantic Yards. We are not all
    gazzilionaires . The BPL needs to do needed work on all its libraries and the ability to bond is the way to do itl . You are being used and believe me the $ will never go where they
    say it will.

  • marshasrimler

    Wrong.. this is a case of BPL acting as slumlord,letting the property decline and then replacing it with condos for the very wealthy.
    Across the system repairs need to be done and bonding may be the way. The opposition you describe is just not true. We do not believe in destroying public assests to save them. period

  • marshasrimler

    I personally heard Eric Adams say he opposes the sale of public assests while he ran for office. he needs to reaffirm that now and take the lead in solving this issue for ALL of Brooklyn

  • marshasrimler

    the developers

  • brklynmind

    How are they replacing it?? The plan as I understand it, is to build a new library with apartments (presumably with some affordable component) above. Therefore you are utilizing space that was not used (air space) and not ‘replacing’ anything.

    If the end result is a replacement library, new housing and millions of dollars to help support libraries around the boro, how is this a bad thing?

  • bethman14

    well said

  • bethman14

    See this is my problem Marsha. You’re an anti-development fanatic. You’re just like the tea party. A 100% fanatic with all this “you can’t trust developers” “they’re all evil” nonsense. Lets get real and deal with real world problems. Sorry I just have ZERO patience for fanaticism.

  • marshasrimler

    The proposed replacement takes the business library out of vital and accessible downtown and hides It in park slope stacks..not sure how this helps those needing retraining and jobs and downsizes the current heights branch (which serves Dumbo) by
    13.However you try
    Justify it this is a land grab

  • bethman14

    Right Marsha, lets put our faith in Albany politicians and are state government, world renowned for its efficiency, progressivenes and integrity. I can’t possibly imagine what could ever go wrong with that strategy. Good grief.

  • marshasrimler

    ok Beth.. lets put our faith in the BPL Board which let the libraries fall into disrepair and the developers and the developers like Brucie Ratner

  • marshasrimler

    wrong.. why are you nasty and calling names. because you know..you have no argument

  • f.wood

    Actually most of the BH building is used as storage, the project calls for INCREASING the size of the neighborhood library on the second floor….and I believe they’re moving the biz library to the Central branch, which is huge and massively well used…how that qualifies as “hiding it in park slope” I have no idea. Why don’t you argue on the facts instead of making stuff up to scare people?

  • bethman14

    …or in the same politicians who have failed to adequatly fund our libraries for 30 years?? C’mon Marsha, lets get real here. You don’t want to see new people moving into Brooklyn Heights, you are an anti-development fanatic pursuing a political agenda at the expense of our struggling local library. Its pretty sad.

  • David on Middagh

    Lots of strange names coming out of the woodwork to argue for a development project…