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Brooklyn Heights Library Designs Revealed

By Janet Upadhye | December 13, 2013 11:48am
 Library officials presented the community with design proposals from seven developers.
Brooklyn Heights Library renderings
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BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — The Brooklyn Public Library has released a series of renderings for the controversial Brooklyn Heights Library redevelopment plan — with proposed amenities including an outdoor cafe and amphitheater.

Brooklyn Public Library officials revealed seven developers' competing proposals to tear down the current library branch at 280 Cadman Plaza, which is in desperate need of repairs, and replace it with a new library topped with condos.

The proposed developments range in height from 285 to 551 feet, each with at least 20,000 square feet of library space and condos. Highlights included a glass atrium, retail space and a "party room."

"Please keep in mind this is the beginning of the process," Josh Nachowitz, vice president for government relations for the library, told residents as he showed the designs Thursday night. "These are conceptual."

Nachowitz would not name any of the development teams or architects but did say, in response to inquiries, that Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner was not involved in the project.

Many residents have spoken out against selling the library to private developers, and they continued to voice their concerns Thursday.

"You speak of this as if it were already a done deal. We don’t want that at all," said resident Marilyn Berkon. "Why is it that we cannot simply refurbish what we already have? What this really is, is a business deal to make rich people richer."

But some saw logic in selling valuable Brooklyn Heights real estate to fund infrastructure upgrades in the entire Brooklyn library system, including the Brooklyn Heights branch itself.

"What I like about this plan is that it gives us a better library — we do need a new library in fact," resident Quinn Raymond said. "And people in Bushwick and Canarsie and Fort Greene, they also need new libraries and the truth is there's no other revenue for that."

The Brooklyn Heights library building is in need of serious repairs totaling more than $9 million, Nachowitz said. Fixing the air conditioning system alone will cost about $3.5 million, he said.

He added that all 60 Brooklyn Public Library branches need repairs totaling $230 million.

The Brooklyn Public Library plans to choose a developer for the Brooklyn Heights project this winter but has not yet determined a timeline for construction. The new development would have to go through the city's uniform land use review procedure.