On Tuesday the New York Daily News reported that the Brooklyn Public Library’s Central Library, located at Grand Army Plaza, is in desperate need of repairs. According to reporters Marco Poggio and Reuven Blau, BPL’s majestic headquarters— the most heavily used library in Brooklyn—is falling apart.
Current estimates are that $100 million dollars in repairs are needed so that the Central Library can continue serving approximately one million patrons annually. This new amount greatly exceeds a $67 million dollar estimate from 2013.
According to the Daily News, among the Central Library’s most pressing repairs are: a wrecked roof, cracked windows, creaky elevators, faulty air conditioning and absolutely disgusting bathrooms.
This must sound all too familiar to users of the Brooklyn Heights Library branch, which is now open from 8am to 1pm Monday through Friday and 9am to 1pm Saturday due to broken air conditioning (with no repair in sight).
One wonders which of the two buildings’ bathrooms are worse: the ones at the Central Library, where, as the News reported, “the smell in there can sometimes kill you,” or those in Brooklyn Heights where stinky patrons take up residence and may actually try and kill you.
“BPL’s iconic Central Branch is one of the most heavily used libraries in NYC,” said library spokesperson Emma Woods. “At roughly 25 times the size of an average library branch in our system, this building has nearly $67 million in unfunded capital needs, including interior and exterior rehabilitation, infrastructure, HVAC and electrical work.”
“We are grateful to have received about $18 million in capital funds from the City this year, but unfortunately our systemwide need is much larger and continues to grow as buildings deteriorate.”
In case anyone is missing it, these enormous repair bills are why BPL is looking to sell the Brooklyn Heights library building. In a bold proposal that will put a 40-plus story residential tower—and a new 20,000 square foot library branch with clean bathrooms—on the Cadman Plaza branch’s triangular plot, BPL leadership hopes the sale will generate desperately needed capital funds to repair multiple branches throughout Brooklyn.
The reality is that it will take more than a single—albeit blockbuster—real estate deal in Brooklyn Heights to stem decades of infrastructure decay at BPL’s branches.
Missing from the BPL’s capital funding equation is support from the very politicians who look to the Library to provide necessary social services that have been gradually shrinking over the previous 12 years.