Baby It’s Hot In This Library

With splashy promotional pieces touting its 2014 summer reading campaign, the Brooklyn Public Library is enticing thousands of local school children, many of whose academic year ends this week, to patronize its 60 branches located throughout the vast borough.

The kids just shouldn’t be surprised if the air conditioning at their local branch is on the fritz.

With the onset of summer, public libraries have traditionally offered all ages a refreshing respite from the heat. However—as a result of massive capital deficits now totaling $308 million dollars—in the past few years BPL has struggled with HVAC problems during the dog days of summer.

According to a document on its website titled Brooklyn Public Library’s Overall Estimated Capital Construction Needs, 28—count ‘em, 28—BPL branches are estimated to require HVAC repairs of $750,000 or more. At the suggestion of a sharp-eyed Brooklyn Heights Blog reader, BHB conducted a quick telephone survey of these HVAC-challenged branches.

According to the local librarians, almost none of these branches were affected by a recent heat spell. Responding to a follow-up question about what to expect this summer, most respondents gave a cautious outlook on how their building’s air conditioning will hold up. At the Windsor Terrace branch, which BPL lists as needing $4.7 million dollars in repairs, including $750,000 in HVAC upgrades along with $2 million in interior renovation, the response was “We’re cool right now!”

The librarian at the Walt Whitman branch in Fort Greene, one of 18 BPL branches built in the early 20th century with funds donated by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, admitted that air conditioning issues have cropped up “from time to time,” but that all was currently well at present.

The librarian who spoke for the Pacific branch, the subject of much recent speculation due to enormous—$9,950,000—costs in impending capital improvements, was sanguine regarding the fragile state of the building’s HVAC system: “Sometimes it’s not working – but so far so good.”

At BPL’s Central Library at Grand Army Plaza – which has an estimate of $9,500,000 for HVAC issues as part of a whopping $67,750,000 renovation estimate—the A/C was fine, though the librarian who answered the phone expressed surprise about any inquiry regarding the building’s summer fitness.

Many librarians who responded to BHB’s informal survey assumed any call about air conditioning problems reflected concern about the Brooklyn Heights branch, where hours of operation have been cut to 8am – 1pm due to $3,600,000 in desperately needed HVAC repairs, just part of overall costs of $9,225,000 in upgrades required for the popular branch to be fully operational year round.

Of course, BPL’s plan for this particular library is to forgo repairs and simply replace the entire building as part of a sell-off of the branch to a developer who will build a brand new 20,000 square feet library in a 40-plus story residential tower.

Presumably, whatever temporary location that will serve the community during construction will have state-of-the-art HVAC systems. An announcement of whom BPL will select to develop the site may be announced in the next few weeks—just in time for August swelter.

Photo: Brooklyn Heights Branch Library with summer hours posted.

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  • DIBS

    Third world incompetent management

  • Bartmann_van_Ghent

    I went to the Brooklyn Heights library a couple of times, but now I just get my ebooks from Amazon or my favorite, Project Gutenberg:

    I think libraries are quickly losing their utility. Which is ultimately a good thing because the amount of online content is growing exponentially and running libraries is expensive for taxpayers.

  • Lori

    I would support the Bklyn Bugle’s fundraising effort, but when I check in the only option is $100.

  • brooklynheightsblog

    Incorrect. The level to claim a “perk” is $100 – folks can donate any amount.

  • lauren

    As a writer, voracious reader and student, I am grateful that we can access so many books online. But, after spending 12+ hour per day staring at technology, there is nothing I look forward to more than turning the pages of a good book while holding it in my hands at the end of the day.

  • marshasrimler

    what is a perk

  • marshasrimler

    Incompetent management needs to be held accountable. I bet if the offices of the executives at the Central Library lost air conditioning they would figure our a solution. This goes on year after year… dysfunctional management must be replaced

  • bethman14

    Uhm….they have a solution to Brooklyn Heights. A plan to build a new library and fix all their other libraries. Sadly NIMBYs like you and your friends in the Heights who don’t want to see any real estate develop or new affordable housing anywhere are working to stop it without coming up with any actual alternatives.

  • marshasrimler

    oh bethman 14.. you just do not get it. Now you bring affordable housing into the library give away plan. This plan is a copy of the Donnell library fiasco.. We can fix it -all over Brooklyn without library destruction.. AND WILL

  • marshasrimler

    i just returned home from a BPL Board to Trustees meeting and they just don’t get it. they go around the table congratulating each other on all the wonderful things they have done to raise funds, bike the branches. reaching out to lifetime donors, forming an new group for high end donors… not one word about the AIR
    ALSO the public is not allowed to speak at these meetings even though they get the majority of their funds from public monies.
    They cite “this is the way we have been doing it as the reason”
    Then they cite city law that applies to city agencies when they are not one as the reason…Linda Johnson says “its the law”
    and for this she makes more than the Mayor??

  • Andrew Porter

    Hey, you could have credited me—after all, Homer turned my name into a verb recently.

  • Michael D. D. White

    It is important to note that, going all the way back to Donnell, there has never been a library that the BPL or the NYPL wanted to sell where they didn’t say that there was an air conditioning problem was motivating them (except for the recently completed Science, Industry and Business Library at 34th Street).

    The question is whether this works in reverse?: Is evey library with an air conditioning problem going to be up for sale? For the BPL its hard to sell since their strategic plan speaks of leveraging the real estate of ALL its libraries.

    It’s very important to note that the air conditioning at the Brooklyn Heights Library only went unrepaired a few months before they were planning to unveil a rushed plan to sell it.

    This tactic apparently isn’t confined to just libraries: As we tear down the South Street Seaport there are those who would like to see the South Street Seaport Museum sent packing . . . so it was that city EDC the museum’s landlord was refusing to fix the museum’s air conditioning!

    But when the city wants to spend money to privatize and shrink space at the (already small) Red Hook Library, Voila, air conditioning gets provided! See: Spaceworks And Its Privatizing Space Grab Of The Libraries.

    The thought now isn’t exactly to shrink the Grand Army Plaza Library, but they do want to spend money on shuffling around space there, getting rid of books and materials, to shrink other libraries- So go figure it out.

    But most people know they themselves wouldn’t sell there homes because their air conditioner wasn’t working and that’s a good analogy to think sensibly about these things.