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Advocates Sue City Over Sale of Brooklyn Heights Library to Developer

 A rendering of the project by Marvel Architects.
A rendering of the project by Marvel Architects.
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Marvel Architects via CB2

BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — A local advocacy group is suing the city and the Brooklyn Public Library in a final attempt to block the controversial sale of the Brooklyn Heights branch to a developer.

Love Brooklyn Libraries, led by Brooklyn Heights resident Marsha Rimler, claims the city didn’t conduct a thorough study on how the new development would impact the neighborhood, the lawsuit says.

The branch was sold for $52 million to Hudson Companies, which plans to build a 36-story luxury tower at the site, with a smaller library on the ground and cellar floors.

The group alleges that approval of the project violated the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR), which requires the lead agency on the project, in this case the mayor’s office, to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS).

The SEQR requires the agency to draft an EIS only if it determines a project could negatively impact the environment.

A spokesman for the mayor's office said the city’s 2015 environmental assessment of the project determined there would be no adverse environmental impacts on the surrounding neighborhood and that an EIS was unnecessary.

"The project passed a full ULURP [Uniform Land Use Review Procedure] and environmental assessment,” said spokesman Austin Finan.

The 271-page assessment was prepared according to standards set in City Environmental Quality Review Technical Manual, according to city documents.

Activists are concerned the new development would increase traffic and change the character of the neighborhood, as well as casting shadows on various local parks and historic structures for up to five hours a day, the suit states. 

However, the city’s environmental assessment says the project would not cause enough new vehicle trips to warrant further traffic analysis. Instead, traffic to the new tower would be distributed among nearby subway lines, the assessment says.

Additionally, the assessment says the new building’s shadow would fall over Cadman Plaza Park, the
Korean War Veterans’ Plaza, the Brooklyn General Post Office building’s west façade, and three Greenstreets medians during multiple seasons, but that the shadow would not have a negative impact on parks.

Love Brooklyn Libraries is also calling on the city to grant the Francis Keally-designed building landmark status, even though the Landmarks and Preservations Commission has already voted against it, the suit says. 

The filing — which also names the city’s Economic Development Corporation, the Department of Citywide Services, Saint Ann’s School, Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Church, the Brooklyn Borough Board and Cadman Associates LLC — went before State Supreme Court Justice Dawn Jimenez-Salta Friday, according to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.  

Jimenez-Salta will review the papers over the next several weeks and write a decision within 60 days, the Daily Eagle said.

“We’re very pleased that our case was not dismissed,” Rimler told DNAinfo Tuesday. “We’re moving forward. We have an excellent lawyer and we’re going to win.”

Love Brooklyn Libraries is being represented by attorney Richard Lippes, of Lippes & Lippes.

The Brooklyn Heights branch will open an interim location at Our Lady of Lebanon Church, 113 Remsen St., this July before construction begins.