INWOOD — Dozens of local residents, along with three candidates running for office in the city, rallied in front of the Inwood Library Thursday afternoon urging the local councilman to help put a stop to the library's redevelopment, as it enters the call-for-developers phase.
The project, which is a collaboration between the New York Public Library, the city's department of Housing Preservation and Development and anti-poverty nonprofit The Robin Hood Foundation, is slated to tear down the 4790 Broadway library site and replace it with 100 percent affordable housing and a “state-of-the-art” library, officials said.
But members of Save the Inwood Library, along with along with mayoral candidate Sal Albanese, Uptown City Council candidate Josue Perez, and public advocate candidate David Eisenbach said the city and Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez aren’t listening to their pleas to build the project elsewhere.
“Our library is under threat of being demolished for housing. We all know affordable housing is really important. We’re not opposed to affordable housing. We never have been,” said Michelle Simon Kohut, member of Save the Inwood Library group. “But we live in a community where there are plenty of vacant lots and other city-owned lands that is free for redevelopment. We have the voices of children. We’ve been writing postcards today.”
It’s a plea residents have voiced for months, Kohut said, adding that the group was presenting Rodriguez with a petition of approximately 4,500 signatures against the project.
“Those signatures represent more than 10 percent of Inwood,” Kohut said.
Residents said the city was not just leaving out a large part of the community in the discussion when translation devices and interpreters weren’t available at the final meeting for Spanish-speakers — it also wasn't doing enough to find other sites.
Many have said that there are vacant lots near the current library site, including a carwash next door that went on sale shortly after the redevelopment project was announced. The project is currently working with the I.S. 52 school to use part of the parking lot for the project.
Kohut said after the city launched a request for proposals on the project on Aug. 24, the group contacted Rodriguez to no avail, and that was when members felt it was their “obligation to have this press conference to let them know where we stand.”
"Luckily, we have very strong allies… many of whom are here today," Kohut said.
Albanese said he’s proud to be campaigning with the group, adding that he was opposed to several other library redevelopment projects throughout the city.
“It’s part of pattern that’s taken a hold in the de Blasio administration, where they’re actually building in green spaces,” Albanese told DNAinfo New York. “We should not be selling off these facilities. They belong to the communities. They’ve been here for years, and the parents and children rely on it.”
Perez, who is running against Rodriguez in the primary election for the district, said the kids especially should be heard in this discussion.
“This library is a symbol. It’s a safe haven for our children. If you don’t want to listen to us, listen to our children. They’re crying out loud: save our library!”
Russell Murphy, spokesman for Rodriguez, told DNAinfo on Saturday after this article was published that the groups protesting the redevelopment were "turning their backs on real benefits to the community and spreading misinformation to residents."
When asked to further elaborate on Monday, Murphy provided the following statement Tuesday: "The Inwood community weighed in extensively on this project and their suggestions are fully apparent in the RFP released by the city: preference for a non-profit developer, no sale of public land, a brand new Pre-K program, housing affordability for the lowest-incomes, including 10% for formerly homeless individuals, and more."
"These are the undeniable facts and those that play upon the fears of our residents for political and personal gain do a disservice to our community."
The mayor's office did not respond to requests for comment.