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Brooklyn Library Details $3M Plan for 'Family-Centric' Museum Branch

By Rachel Holliday Smith | February 17, 2017 4:40pm | Updated on February 20, 2017 7:38am
 The Brooklyn Public Library announced a plan this week to move the Brower Park Library to the Brooklyn Children's Museum in Crown Heights.
The Brooklyn Public Library announced a plan this week to move the Brower Park Library to the Brooklyn Children's Museum in Crown Heights.
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DNAinfo/Rachel Holliday Smith

CROWN HEIGHTS — Brooklyn Public Library officials Thursday revealed more details about a $3 million plan to move a Crown Heights library branch into a “family-centric” facility within the Brooklyn Children's Museum rather than spend $8 million to keep the current Brower Park branch open.

“The comparison for us and, I think, for the city, is $3 million versus the $8 million it would take to stay where we are,” David Woloch, the Executive Vice President of External Affairs at Brooklyn Public Library told Brooklyn Community Board 8 at its Thursday night meeting.

The new library will use between 6,000 and 6,500 square feet of museum administrative space, according to Woloch. That space is "comparable" to the Brower Park Library's current location at 725 St. Marks Ave, he said.

Brooklyn Public Library will pay about $230,000 a year in rent to the museum, he said.

Constructing the new space will cost $3 million, paid for in as-of-yet-unallocated city capital funds — much less than the more than $5 million in repairs officials say is needed at the library’s current building and the $3 million it would cost to buy the St. Marks Avenue building outright.

The city constructed the one-story brick library building in 1963 but it doesn't own the land itself, Woloch said. The Brower Park Library is located about a block and a half away from the Children's Museum and a 1.4-mile walk from the Brooklyn Central Library, which also has a youth wing.

Though it will be located inside the museum building, the new branch will have a separate entrance and be physically apart from the museum’s exhibit and programming space, Children's Museum President Stephanie Wilchfort said during the CB8 meeting.

Several board members and a handful of residents asked questions of the pair, including for how long the new library would stay at the museum. Wilchfort assured locals that because the Children’s Museum is a public institution on city-held land, the new library, once complete, won’t move anytime soon.

“Once the library comes to us, the library will be with us forever,” she said.

Both officials also stressed the opportunity the relocation affords to build a state-of-the-art, “family-centric” facility with child-focused programming and resources.

But that aspect of the project didn’t excite at least one attendee of Thursday’s meeting, a neighbor of the St. Marks Avenue library for 35 years who said she is “disappointed” about the move, which she considers too focused on kids and their parents.

The woman, who declined to give her name, said she uses the library for research and sees “plenty of adults” like her there every day.

“Why make it a family library, as opposed to making sure it’s a library that not only serves the Brooklyn Children’s Museum and the people who tend to go there with their kids … but it also serves the adults in the broader Crown Heights community, the adults of color that come there and use it?” she asked.

In response, CB8 board chair, Nizjoni Granville, paused the conversation to make clear the board didn't have time for all questions on the relocation but would host another, more comprehensive meeting about the library in about six weeks.

“What we’re going to do is set up a meeting in April … specifically just to talk about the library because we understand it’s a very emotional issue,” she said.

Woloch stressed that the library project is “not a done deal.” Funding for the relocation has not yet been secured in the city budget, he said, and the details of the new branch’s layout and programming are not set in stone.

“We’re in the process of speaking to as many people as we can,” he said.

CB8 will hold a second meeting about the library project on April 4, hosted by the board’s Youth and Education Committee. Those with questions or comments on the relocation are invited to attend at 7 p.m. at the CNR Health Care Center at 727 Classon Ave. in Crown Heights.