Adams changes tune on Heights library sale, votes to approve

Community board OKs plan to stick high-rise on Heights library, crowd goes wild
Marvel Architects

Borough President Adams shelved his objections to the $52-million sale and redevelopment of the Brooklyn Heights library branch on Tuesday night, lending his support to a crucial vote needed for the controversial deal to go ahead.

The Beep joined the majority of the borough’s Council members and community board chairs in okaying the sale 15–1 with one abstention at a charged Borough Board meeting, where protesters demanded pols halt the vote amid accusations of cronyism and cooked books.

Adams had rejected an earlier version of the Brooklyn Public Library’s plan to sell the shabby Cadman Plaza book-lending facility and allow developer Hudson Companies to build a new branch with a 36-story luxury condo tower on top — issuing a lengthy missive in September that said it offered too little space for schools, so-called affordable housing, and the library itself.

But that was before Councilman Steve Levin (D–Brooklyn Heights) cut a closed-door deal that included a bit more branch space, an entirely new outpost nearby, and some science labs in exchange for his pivotal support. And the changes were enough to win Adams over too, according to a Borough Hall spokesman.

Many of Adams’ original gripes remain unaddressed, however. Most notably, the developer is still sticking all its required below-market-rate housing far away in a separate Clinton Hill building, which locals have slammed as segregating the rich from the poor.

The Borough Board vote was the latest in a series of rubber stamps the city needs for the sale and new building to go ahead. The deal already passed its biggest hurdle when the Council approved it in December, though the sale has continued to make headlines ever since.

A New York Post report last month claimed several other developers offered far more money for the land, but Mayor DeBlasio made sure it went to Hudson, which is helmed by his old pal and former campaign donor David Kramer.

House rules: Borough President Adams voted for the sale of the Brooklyn Heights Library — and gave protesters a stern talking to.
Photo by Louise Wateridge

And this week, the paper reports that an anonymous former lawmaker has joined local anti-sale activists in accusing the library system of sitting on $100 million from previous city budgets, despite its insistence that selling the schlubby Heights branch is the only way it can afford to fix it and other crumbling outposts.

A spokeswoman for the library rejected both allegations, claiming Hudson offered the best deal — albeit with a lower price tag than others — and that the extra cash in question is already earmarked for other future construction projects and can’t be used to fund the renovations.

Activist group Citizens Defending Libraries — which has loudly opposed the sale at public meetings throughout the lengthy public approval process — continued its interjections at Tuesday’s vote, calling on the pols to stall the scheme until there can be a full investigation into the claims.

But Adams finally achieved what many before him have not, shushing the rabble rousers with a stern talking to.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation must approve the sale next, which is expected to happen sometime in the spring.

Library officials say demolition of the old branch will not get underway until an interim facility in the back of Our Lady of Lebanon Church on Remson Street is ready to go.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Every step you take, every move you make, I’ll be watching you: Anti-sale activists are still standing over Councilman Steve Levin’s shoulder months after the pol made a closed-door deal to seal the library’s fate.
Photo by Louise Wateridge