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New Deal For Brooklyn Library Proposal Includes More Space, New Library

By Nikhita Venugopal | December 10, 2015 5:13pm
 A rendering of the proposed building by Marvel Architects.
A rendering of the proposed building by Marvel Architects.
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Marvel Architects via CB2

BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — In a newly-negotiated deal involving the embattled Brooklyn Heights public library, the developer has promised a bigger library than was previously proposed and a new separate branch built on another site, officials said Thursday afternoon.

Councilman Stephen Levin announced his support for the controversial deal after last-minute tense discussions involving elected officials, Brooklyn Public Library leaders and developer Hudson Companies. 

"I always said I would not vote in favor of a project that did not meet my standards," Levin said.

The plan to sell the city-owned Brooklyn Heights Library site for $52 million to developer Hudson Companies was approved by the City Council's Land Use Committee after an almost three-house delay due to closed-door deliberations. 

Levin's backing is crucial to the proposal as the City Council will likely support his decision.

Hudson, in partnership with Marvel Architects, has proposed building a 36-story condo tower at 280 Cadman Plaza West with space for a new library. Although the library will be much smaller than the branch currently in operation, it will be larger than proposed in earlier plans. 

Under the new proposal, the size of the new library would increase from 21,500 square-feet to 26,620 square-feet, Levin said. 

A brand new 5,000-square-foot library has also been promised near DUMBO and Vinegar Hill although a site for it has not yet been determined. 

The developer will also build 114 off-site affordable units in Clinton Hill, for residents earning 80 percent and 125 percent of the area median income.

Within the new Cadman Plaza building, the Department of Education will be given space for Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) education labs for students in local District 13 schools. Brooklyn Public Library has also agreed to maintaining a 3,000 square-foot "Technology and Businesses Services Center" in lieu of a Business and Career Library, Levin said.

Responding to criticism that the city was selling the valuable Brooklyn Heights land for far less than its worth, the developer has agreed to give the city 25 percent of its internal profits over 19 percent — "one quarter for every dollar," Levin said. 

"If the developer does very well, then the public does very well," he added.

Out of the $52 million, $40 million will be used for capital repairs at Brooklyn Public Library's Pacific, Washington Irving, Walt Whitman and Sunset Park branches. BPL has said it has roughly $300 million in deferred maintenance within the system.

"On behalf of all Brooklynites who care about the future of their libraries, we are grateful to Council Member Steve Levin and the entire City Council Land Use Committee for their leadership in supporting BPL's plan for a new Brooklyn Heights branch," Library President and CEO Linda Johnson said in a statement. 

"We are one step closer to bringing a new, inspiring, state-of-the art library to Brooklyn Heights and a $40 million investment to libraries throughout the borough, including a new library in Dumbo/Vinegar Hill/Farragut."

Opponents of the sale continued to criticize the plan, which they say is a bad deal for the community and would leave them with a drastically shrunken library. 

Some interrupted and heckled Levin as he spoke at the City Council meeting. One woman yelled "Sell out!" once the councilman voiced his support for the redevelopment. 

Even the new 5,000 square-foot library for DUMBO and Vinegar Hill would be "unacceptably small," said Michael White, co-founder of Citizens Defending Libraries.

"This is much worse than we thought even when we were expecting a compromise would be done dramatically at the last minute," he said. 

The plan has previously been backed by the City Planning Commission and Community Board 2. Borough President Eric Adams conditionally disapproved the proposal and provided a slew of recommendations. 

The City Council is scheduled to vote on Dec. 16.