HVAC Miseries Point to BPL’s Fateful Decision Regarding Brooklyn Heights Library Branch

Deferred Capital Needs = Millions in Repair Costs
In Brooklyn Public Library’s Overall Estimated Capital Construction Needs, BPL’s 2013 capital funding wish list, three facilities represent almost a third of total capital needs. The iconic Grand Army Plaza location weighs in at $67,750,000, a princely sum unlikely to be found anytime soon (although the Daily News reports that a $1.4 million roof repair project for the building’s Flatbush Avenue wing will soon begin).

The other two branches on BPL’s urgent care list, significantly smaller, include the Pacific branch, the second oldest of the city’s prized Carnegie libraries, requiring approximately $9,000,000 in fixes to make it ADA-compliant, and, at $10,000,000 plus, the Brooklyn Heights branch.

In addition to soliciting dedicated funds from office-holders’ budgets—the Library’s time-honored approach to capital shortfalls—BPL President Linda E. Johnson has taken a different tack. In 2013, BPL put both the Brooklyn Heights and Pacific branches on the auction block, though Ms. Johnson recently stated that instead of a sale BPL is seeking partnerships with private entities to finance repairs at the Pacific branch.

These proposals are controversial, and some have suggested that BPL capital funding costs have been inflated to help drive public opinion. In 2008, when Ms. Johnson’s predecessor, Dionne Mack-Harvin, sought capital funds for the Library, the total requested was $115,983,000, and repairs for the Central Library amounted to $6,300,000. In BPL’s latest calculations, overall capital needs have almost tripled, and BPL officials have consistently ruled out the possibility of securing further taxpayer dollars to refurbish Brooklyn Heights and Pacific.

[BPL spokesperson Emma Woods contacted BHB with the following clarification: “Overall capital needs have not tripled; in fact, the need today is very similar to what it was in 2008. The $115M figure does not represent the entirety of BPL’s capital need in 2008. Rather, it was a funding request for priority capital projects (similar to the current figure of $82M needed for emergency capital repairs). Similarly, the $6M ask for Central represents one piece of the overall need for the branch in 2008.”]


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  • Michael D. D. White

    Plans to sell the libraries with mayoral (i.e. Bloomberg) approval go back at least to the summer of 2007. Since those plans intertwine with an intentional defunding of the libraries and effort to drive these capital assets into the ground- because how else would anyone fathom explaining the selling and shrinking libraries to the public expecting the public to countenance such a proposition?- So it, of course, makes sense that the Bloomberg administration with its twelve years in office has manufactured this situation.

    But capital assets by their very nature last and are attended to long-term, with long-term plans, and long-term solutions. There should be no false urgencies that deny that we have time to address this problem no matter how long Bloomberg spent working to create it.

    In the bigger, long-term, scheme of things, it really isn’t that long ago that Guiliani was in office executing expansion plans for these same capital assets.

    We must also mull over Ms. Johnson’s noted abject failure as a fundraiser. As Bloomberg wanted the system drained of funds would she (a Lauder brother’s* girlfriend) really have been considered a loyal executioner of plans had she truly succeeded in raising funds?

    When it comes confronting those who arrogantly want to sell any of our public assets, be it LICH, other hospitals, parks, public housing, schools or whatever, we cannot let it be that all it takes for these few privileged individuals to win is the temporary denial of funds and plundering of resources.

    (* Lauder’s current net worth is $8.3 billion. And in the twelve years that Bloomberg was denying libraries of the small amount of funds they need to continue Bloomberg increased his own personal wealth by nearly $30 billion. Nearly the entirety of Bloomberg’s current wealth was acquired while in office as mayor.)

  • Michael D. D. White

    However much Bloomberg built up the current BPL capital deficit over his twelve years in office, the entirety of it (probably overstated as it is- per the evidence) at $308,000,000 it is just 01.140% of the amount by which Bloomberg increased his own net personal wealth (acquiring most of what he now has) during those same twelve years in office.

    Why is this important to mention here?: It’s important when we are selling libraries like Donnell for far less than it would coast to replace them and people are getting very rich in the process.

  • marshasrimler

    i say it is past time to replace Linda Johnson and a board that cannot accomplish results for the public. Lets have a town hall with the BPL trustees on a stage before the community.

  • Roberto

    Bravissimo al signor Randazzo! I recall the CBS report that showed Randazzo giving flowers to an opera singer. His reporting on our beseiged library deserves un sacco di fiori. Randazzo’s piece on the policy to allow the Brooklyn Heights library to rot and lose value is reminiscent of SUNY’s playbook for the dissolution of Long Island College Hospital. In the face of a crying need for LICH, SUNY cited the fact that it was losing money, even as SUNY turned away paying patients.

  • marshasrimler

    political implications are important. Brad Lander who described the destruction of our library as “creative” and is a Linda Johnson cheerleader is strongly behind Peter Sikora for assembly.. Is this progressive?

  • Michael D. D. White

    Talk about your “tin hats”: how about BPL spokesperson Josh Nachowitz espousing publicly, on the record, in the CAC meetings that insurmountable engineering impediments exist to fixing the air conditioners, posed by virtue of the fact that 2013 vintage computers and iPads are generating too much new additional heat to handle?

    No, we don’t “think” that the Bloomberg administration was obsessed by just “one little piece of property”- We actually know, as documented in the NYPL minutes (plus a story in The Nation) that in the summer of 2007 (right before sale of the Donnell Library) Bloomberg and his First Deputy Mayor Patti Harris (in charge of real estate, libraries, political strategy and dispensing “charitable” donations) was reviewing and blessing a number of library sales and shrinkages. And we know that in that same summer of 2007 the administration had a long list of Brooklyn libraries it was furnishing to the development community for similar propositions.