BHA Speaks Out on Brooklyn Heights Library with “Concern and Cautious Optimism”

The Brooklyn Heights Association has responded to the Brooklyn Public Library’s redevelopment of its Brooklyn Heights Branch.

Last month, the BPL announced that Marvel Architects and Hudson Companies were its development team of choice for the library site.

Here’s the BHA’s response:

The BHA is responding with concern and cautious optimism to the Brooklyn Public Library’s (“BPL”) selection of Hudson Companies/Marvel Architects for redevelopment of the Brooklyn Heights Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library.

We believe that the project, as outlined in the original Request for Proposals, has the potential to make a significant contribution–if the developers and BPL trustees will take the time to re-evaluate their design, and engage in an open process with the broader library and civic center community. The current design gives no indication that the building houses an important civic institution – the 21st century descendant of the legendary Carnegie Libraries. Instead, what we are seeing is a clunky condominium sitting atop generic retail space. We want to see a distinctive and welcoming public building that provides a graceful transition from the civic buildings on Cadman Plaza to the residences of Brooklyn Heights – a library that is a visual gateway to the neighborhood.

Moreover, the project can and should address broader community priorities. The decision to assign considerable square footage to an exclusive private school gymnasium does not reflect the inclusive mission of our public library system. Community or public school space is called for in lieu of a private school gym.

Our optimism stems from the knowledge that these two firms are local businesses whose partners are well acquainted with our neighborhood: Jonathan Marvel has the ability to design a new building which truly addresses the complexities of this project on such an important site. Hudson Companies has an established track record for project completion –including affordable housing components.

We are pleased by Hudson/Marvel’s commitment to provide interim service during construction of the new library, which was a clear requirement in the RFP. The off-site affordable housing, which must be within Community District 2 boundaries, will allow for a less bulky building on this constricted site. It is an important BPL condition that the condominium certificate of occupancy be tied to the completion of the affordable housing component.

BPL trustees have said, “This is the beginning.” That is indeed true in the sense that the city’s public land use review process (ULURP) has not yet begun. Going forward, we expect our Brooklyn Heights Association members and all library neighbors and users to comment constructively towards the goal of housing a light-filled, welcoming library, in an exceptionally well designed new building. We’ll need everyone’s help to get us there.

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  • stuart

    I will start, This is one of the dumbest, most insipid, unintelligible, piss-everyone-off public statements I have ever read. What is the matter with the BHA? Which of the local vets did the neutering? Either come out in favor of the project or against the project. This comment is disgraceful. It basically says, we want to oppose it, but our friends are involved so we want to be cautiously optimistic while not really being pessimistic, or for that matter decisive in any way. Bravo BHA! True double talk and meaningless circular blather learned in the finest schools in the northeast I’m certain.

  • Fritz

    Are we arguing about the library or development? Let’s compare books on the shelves, computer work stations, patron seats, literary meeting space. librarian contact, whatever, before and after.

  • marshasrimler

    well said. The BHA statement basically says nothing..because they want to be in favor of the development but they are not too pleased with the design elements.. They miss the big picture and focus on details. Of course they like the fact that the affordable housing is offsite.. that is not a surprise

  • Justine Swartz

    If affordable housing is warehoused offsite then
    the developer does not have to deal with the issue of Poor Doors.

  • Mary

    Can ‘affordable housing’ be off-site and still allow the developers/owners to benefit from 80/20 tax benefits? If anyone knows if this is part of the deal, please inform. Also, I agree that the design to date is wrong. It needs masonry to be in context with surrounding buildings.

  • Slyone

    What is this about the building housing a private school gymnasium? How does that benefit the public?

  • martinlschneider

    We need to know what it is that the Heights and its neighbors are going to get so that we can responsibly comment.
    Right now, the plan is not at all clear. Which of the apparently only two renderings available is correct? The one with the 1970’s front of the library facing on Court Street? Or, the one featuring the glassy exterior facing Court and the sun-blocking wall about twenty stories high, facing Clinton?
    Is there a public discussion scheduled for next Tuesday, Oct. 7 as previously announced?
    The aspirations expressed by the CAC were nice but are they reflected in the current plan? Can’t tell so far. Need many critical details including: entry to the library; plans for community space; size of library; shadow studies of new building; distribution of studio, one, two and three bedroom apartments, and so on.
    Without such details, realistically, there can be no responsible discussion.

  • marshasrimler

    Tuesdays Community Meeting. The first BPL has had since picking David Kramer’s Hudson Companies as the Developer should prove interesting. Mr. Kramer is a former President of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation. Mr. Ashkenasy who was on the BPL Developer Selection Committee also sits on the BBPDC Board. Anyway it is at 6pm at Borough Hall. Lets have a good community crowd there.. Lets insist on asking questions.
    Several people will be live tweeting and although I have not done it before I will try to do so.

  • Banet

    St. Anne’s made a deal to purchase space in the building for a gym for their students.

    I suspect the developer sold them this space at fair market value. If the city’s School Construction Authority wants to cut such a deal I’m sure the developer would welcome it.

  • Banet


    Once again, your incorrect statements undermine my anility to believe anything you say to be accurate.

    David Kramer was never “President of the BBPDC” as you state — he was the Chairman of the Board of the Park *Conservancy*… You know, re organization the advocated to get the 80 acres of waterfront turned into a park.

    They’re two different organizations with different purposes. Please try to keep the facts straight.

  • marshasrimler

    The two organizations work hand and glove and both are dominated by Heights elites. Offensends of Donnell library destruction fame etc. etc and of course you

  • marshasrimler

    I would hope the BPL would make a presentation and answer your questions. I do believe that if this building goes up (which it will not) all of Court st. to atlantic ave and perhaps further will eventually be high-rises

  • bethman14

    ?!? All of Court Street IS highrises!! In fact, most of Court Street is part of a new SKYSCRAPER HISTORIC DISTRICT! Marsha, you’re loosing your battle against reality.

  • bethman14

    A valiant attempt to inject sanity and honesty into one of Marsha’s famously inaccurate and inarticulate rants! Cheers to you!

  • bethman14

    Ohhhh the Great BHA-Offensend Conspiracy theory surfaces again!! Who else is involved Marsha? The pope? The Queen?

  • bethman14

    Lets hope the community can have a real, honest and constructive conversation. Unfortunatly Marsha and her CDL Co-Chair Mike White dominate these meetings with outrageous behviour, which includes heckling speakers, shouting down anyone who dares disagree with them, hissing and booing, etc. I really do hope we can actualy have a constructive dialogue and drown out the small Rimmler-White anti-everything minority.

  • bethman14

    To be clear Marsha, you care about development and the awful threat of people who aren’t you being able to live in the Heights. The Library, which you have consistently advocated against, is a far second to your anti-development, anti-affordable housing, anti-building of anything anywhere near you crusade. Lets just all be clear here.

  • Banet

    Thank you for the compliment. It’s sad that Marsha’s only response to my pointing out her error is to claim that her error doesn’t matter. If this is the future of citizen journalism I’m scared for my children.

    (Though personally, I am excited for my children to enjoy a brand new library. It may be a bit painful to get there but I think the end result will be great.)

  • BrooklynBugle

    Marsha is a commenter, not a “citizen journalist”.

  • marshasrimler

    I know all about the skyscraper district. I am talking about the area beyond it towards atlantic ave. and beyond

  • marshasrimler

    the last thing I am is anti affordable housing. You do not know me.. who i support and what i believe in. I am advocating for a refurbished library and public assests remaining public

  • marshasrimler

    We are the majority and reveal our names because we are proud of our position . Why don’t you do the same.
    The BHA is the minority with outsized influence due to its pedigree and $$$

  • marshasrimler

    gee.. so hostile and sour are u

  • marshasrimler

    this will not happen.. wither through the political or judicial process I assure you

  • marshasrimler

    gee. so hostile and sour. It is a fact that David Offensend who then worked for the New York Public Library was central to the plan to replace the Donnell Library with a private luxury development

  • Slyone

    I think it’s different: if a developer is building new residences in a school zone with an already overcrowded public school, I would hope that part of that developer’s responsibility (or the community officials’ responsibility in deciding whether and with what conditions to approve the development) is to ensure that the new construction takes into account the public services that will be required to service it.

  • marshasrimler

    i am not the co-chair of citizens defending libraries.. that is Carolyn Macintyre

  • marshasrimler

    and Banet what is your name. If you believe in your cause.. use it

  • Banet

    Oh, I completely understand that she’s not affiliated with your (excellent) blog in any way. But a free blog can only do so much to fill the shoes that used to filled by ad-supported, paid-subscription newspapers. You rely on user comments to flesh out details and intelligently add to the conversation.

    So, my point is only that I’m sad for the future of citizen journalism when it can be degraded by frequently repetitive, often off-topic comments that are factually incorrect and/or gramatically incorrect.

    In my opinion, Marsha adds nothing of value to the conversation. I wish you would ban her account.

    Banning her from commenting on this blog is no different than ejecting someone from a movie theater for talking on their cellphone or asking someone to leave a restaurant if their argument with their companion is disturbing other patrons.

    For those who would cry “censorship!”, remember that Marsha is welcome
    to start her own blog, build her own following and say whatever she
    wants whenever she wants.

    But that’s just my opinion. Maybe you should create a post specifically to discuss this very topic so I too am not guilty of hijacking a post.

  • marshasrimler

    gee you are so hateful.. when the truth is spoken. i also have a twitter account. check it out