Last evening’s meeting of the Community Advisory Committee for the Brooklyn Heights Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library had few surprises. The final design of the proposed structure is far from complete, although it has been decided that it will be “taller and skinnier” than earlier renderings showed. The footprint of the library space within the building has at least tentatively been fixed, but the specifics of what goes into it and where remain for discussion with the community; a schedule of future events to which the community is invited, beginning with a Program Workshop at the Brooklyn Heights Branch auditorium on Monday, March 23 at 6:00 p.m. The scheduling, much of it tentative, is shown on this page of the BPL website (you’ll have to scroll down to find it; there’s lots of other information there, including the tentative floor designs for the library and the locations of the affordable housing components of the plan: 911 Atlantic Avenue and 1041 Fulton Street). If all goes according to schedule, according to architect Jonathan Marvel (in the background in the photo above; in the center is BPL President Linda Johnson and in the foreground, on the right, is Brooklyn Heights Association President Alexandra Bowie) construction of the building that will include the new library should begin in 2018.
The total square footage of library space in the new structure is planned to be 21,500 square feet. This compares to 18,954 square feet of the existing building allocated to the Brooklyn Heights Branch, as opposed to the Business and Commercial Library, which is to be moved to the Central Library at Grand Army Plaza. Committee member Robert Perris, Administrator of Community Board 2, noting that the new Sunset Park Branch will have 20,000 square feet, said, “If Sunset Park gets 20,000, I want 30,000.”
Asked why, with the increase in tech-oriented businesses in this area, the Business and Commercial Library is being moved away, Ms. Johnson said that surveys show these businesses do not use the library, but instead rely on on-line resources. The principal users of the Business and Commercial Library, she said, are would-be entrepreneurs and job seekers, and these are distributed throughout Brooklyn.
Several attendees expressed concerns about the interim facility that will serve the community during the demolition of the old library and the construction of the new one. This will be in the Social Hall of Our Lady of Lebanon Church, at Henry and Remsen streets and with entrance–which according to Ms. Johnson will be accessible under ADA requirements–on Remsen. This is a 7,000 square foot space; much smaller than the corresponding space in the present library. Special concerns were raised about programs for children during the interim period.
Committee member Doreen Gallo asked if Marvel Architects had any experience designing libraries. Mr. Marvel said they had designed the Mulberry Street Branch of the New York Public Library. He also said the firm had a team of three architects, whom he pointed out sitting in the audience, who all had library design experience. Asked if the design of the Mulberry Street Branch had involved community consultation, he said no. The parameters of the design had already been fixed by NYPL.
A resident of Clinton Street, first noting that frequent garbage pickups from One Pierrepont Plaza were already disrupting the neighborhood, asked where such pickups would be made from the new building. David Kramer, of developer Hudson Companies, said that had not yet been determined.
Toba Potosky, a resident of Concord Village, expressed concern about the shadow the building would cast on that location. Mr. Kramer said a shadow impact study would be conducted. He noted that making the building taller and thinner would reduce the area the shadow affected.
Several attendees expressed concern about the impact of the new residences on the already overcrowded PS 8 and other schools in Subdistrict 2. Ansley Samson, of the PS 8 PTA, noted that the projected 132 residential units are expected to add about seventy school age children to the neighborhood.
Michael D.D. White, of Citizens Defending Libraries, asked if the new building would receive any subsidies and if it would be subject to the controversial 421a abatement. Mr. Kramer said it would not.
At the close of the meeting, Carolyn McIntyre, also of CDL, began her remarks by saying the number of books at the Brooklyn Heights Branch had decreased in recent years, and that estimates of the cost of repairing the building, including the HVAC system, were greatly inflated. She said BPL has a policy of shutting down branches and turning over the sites to developers, who would include smaller libraries in the new buildings, and congratulated Ms. Johnson on her acumen as a real estate agent.
No date has been set for the next Community Advisory Committee meeting, but it is expected to be sometime in May.