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Community Board OKs Sale of Brooklyn Heights Library to Condo Developer

By Nikhita Venugopal | July 16, 2015 10:22am | Updated on July 16, 2015 11:03am
 Renderings from Marvel Architects of the proposed Brooklyn Heights Library and the condo tower that would be built atop it. 
BPL's Brooklyn Heights Branch
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BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — Community Board 2 approved the sale of the Brooklyn Public Library’s Brooklyn Heights branch Wednesday evening in a charged meeting packed with detractors of the project.

The general board conditionally OK’d the proposed $52 million sale of the city-owned property at 280 Cadman Plaza West to Hudson Companies in a motion that passed with 25 members in favor, 14 opposed and four abstentions.

The private developer in partnership with Marvel Architects seeks to demolish the existing structure and redevelop it into a 36-story tower with a 21,500 square-foot library to replace the old one and 139 condo units on top.

Hudson Companies has also promised 114 off-site affordable housing units in Clinton Hill, the board said.

"We appreciate Community Board 2's support of this exciting project and look forward to the next step in the public review process," a spokeswoman for the developer told DNAinfo on  Thursday morning.  

The general board vote at St. Francis College in Brooklyn Heights came after two meetings in recent weeks from CB2’s land use committee regarding the proposal.

The committee failed to make a recommendation during the first meeting and public hearing on June 17 but eventually approved the sale with conditions July 6, committee chair Carlton Gordon said.  

Those conditions included setting aside a reserve fund of $2 million after the completion of the library for capital repairs that might arise in the future, that the new branch would have the same usable floor space as the existing branch and a memorandum of understanding and community benefits agreement signed as part of the project.

But despite ultimate support for the proposal, board members voiced concerns with the project’s residential component that would bring thousands of new residents to an already congested area.

Some members pushed for a new school to be added to the project to address severe overcrowding in existing schools.

But given the Brooklyn Public Library system’s dire need for capital funds to repair its branches, board members who voted in favor of the deal said the new branch would be beneficial.

“The library is not functioning the way it should be functioning,” board member William Flounoy said.

“This is not about schools at the moment. It’s about a library,” he said. “The bottom-line is we’re doing the best that we can do with what we have.”

The BPL will use about $40 million of the $52 million for repairs at the Pacific, Walt Whitman, Sunset Park and Washington Irving branches. Most of the remaining funds will be used to design and outfit its new Brooklyn Heights branch at Cadman Plaza West, library officials said previously

But opponents of the sale heckled, protested and repeatedly interrupted community board members as they spoke. The general board meeting does not allow for a public hearing, which typically takes place at committee meetings.

 

CB2 meeting on Brooklyn Heights Library sale.

A video posted by Nikhita Venugopal (@nkvenugopal) on

At one point, the audience chanted, “not for sale, not for sale.”

“The majority of residents do not want their libraries to be sold to private developers,” said Carolyn McIntyre, co-founder of Citizens Defending Libraries, who lives in Brooklyn Heights.

Soon after the vote, a small kerfuffle broke out between Park Slope resident Patricia Rhatigan and another attendee when Rhatigan yelled out, “move to another country.”

“It’s all about money,” Rhatigan said. “It’s all money to go to the developer’s pockets.”

The Brooklyn Public Library thanked the community board for its support in a statement. Next month, the proposal will go through a public hearing process by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, followed by the City Planning Commission and City Council.

"The community agrees — building a new Brooklyn Heights Library will provide residents with the world-class library they need and deserve, while also ensuring that branches throughout the borough receive much-needed repairs and renovations,” the Brooklyn Public Library said in a statement.

Adams was not immediately available to comment Thursday morning.