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Community Angered by Plan to Sell Brooklyn Heights Library Building

By Janet Upadhye | January 30, 2013 9:29am | Updated on January 30, 2013 9:41am

BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — Brooklyn Public Library officials plan to sell the Brooklyn Heights branch to the highest private bidder — unless the community can do something to stop them.

BPL representative Joshua L. Nachowitz told a room full of local residents Tuesday night that the library building is in need of serious repairs, most notably, the entire air conditioning system is kaput and would cost $3.5 million to fix. The entirety of repairs needed to restore the 1962 building would cost upwards of $9 million.

Nachowitz added that all 60 BPL branches need repairs totaling $230 million.

But unlike other branches, the Brooklyn Heights Library is sitting on a real estate gold mine. And the BPL plans to cash in.

“We are not in the real estate business, we are in the library business,” he said. “But this is a creative solution to our financial problems.”

The BPL is in “the beginning stages” of plans to sell the public building to a private developer who would use the bottom floor for a new “state of the art” public library and the top floors would most likely be used for high-rise condos. The Business & Career Library, also located at the Brooklyn Heights branch, would be relocated to the central branch at Grand Army Plaza.

The sale could move forward as early as next year.

But according to Nachowitz, the BPL will need public approval to move forward in the process.

“We cannot make a sale of a public property unilaterally,” he said.

Locals who attended the public meeting were not happy with the plan and vowed to organize against it.

“The BPL has made a tragic decision to sell this building,” said resident Carolyn McIntyre. “They are selling off public land to private hands with no regard to the surrounding community — in Brooklyn Heights we are tired of selling off our land.”

Others added that the broken air conditioner was just a timely excuse to sell off the property.

Lincoln Restler, leader of New Kings Democrats, agreed, saying that the BPL was “making a great deal of money on the back of this community and this branch.”

But unless the millions needed to maintain the library are fundraised from the within the community, the BPL sees no other alternative than to sell the building.

“Open up your wallets,” Nachowitz said. "Just remember we need $9 million."