Book ’em! Historic courthouse, police office could be Sunset Park’s new temporary library

Book ’em! Historic courthouse, police office could be Sunset Park’s new temporary library
Community News Group / Dennis Lynch

They’re taking the library to court!

Sunset Parkers will rent books from the landmarked former courthouse on Fourth Avenue and 42nd Street for at least two years starting next spring if the city signs off on a plan to sell the neighborhood’s aging 51st Street branch and let developers rebuild it with apartments on top, officials announced on May 9. The temporary space would be smaller than the current atheneum — and book lenders won’t eliminate programs they currently run, but they will have to scale them back, a spokesman said.

“Obviously there will be fewer shelves, but we’ll be able to have a decent-sized collection,” said Brooklyn Public Library’s David Woloch. “We will still have a community facility set apart from the rest of the library, children’s programming, computers — so we’ll be to provide the community with basic library service.”

The current literary repository is 9,000 square feet — roughly the size of two basketball courts — and offers Internet access, English classes, citizenship test prep, and even Chinese calligraphy lessons, in addition to paperbacks.

The temporary one would be about half the size, but could be larger if library honchos can hammer out an agreement with the police department, which uses the building for administrative work, Woloch said. Community Board 7’s office is also there.

The system won’t pay any rent in the city-owned building, but it must furnish and equip the temporary space, which will cost a “few hundred thousand” dollars, Woloch said.

Developer the Fifth Avenue Committee plans to buy the existing library at Fourth Avenue and 51st Street from the city and replace it with an eight-story building, setting aside the basement, first floor, and parts of the second floor for a new book-lending outfit that officials say will be twice the current one’s size.

The rest of the building would consist of 49 permanently below-market-rate apartments with monthly rents ranging from $480 to $1,685. The developer plans to set aside half of the units for Community Board 7 residents and reserve nine for domestic violence victims, according to documents.

The Fifth Avenue Committee would foot the construction cost, but the library system needs $10 million for books and computers, officials said.

The Brooklyn Heights branch’s controversial pending sale would contribute $8 million, and the library system would kick in the other $2 million, according to plans.

The sale and redevelopment still require public review.

Reach reporter Dennis Lynch at (718) 260–2508 or e-mail him at dlynch@cnglocal.com.