Brooklyn Public Library to sell off Boerum Hill’s Carnegie branch

Brooklyn Public Library to sell off Boerum Hill’s Carnegie branch
Community Newspaper Group / Natalie Musumeci

The Brooklyn Public Library wants to sell-off the beloved, Carnegie-era Pacific Street branch to escape $9-million in repair costs.

“It’s not completely dilapidated, but it’s a building that has more capital needs than the average branch in the Brooklyn Public Library system. It would take a lot of resources to bring the infrastructure up to where it needs to be,” said Brooklyn Public Library official Josh Nachowitz. “Selling the Pacific Street library will get us out from under the significant capital costs from that building.”

It’s the same tactic the library is using with the Brooklyn Heights branch, which is also on the block due to a hefty repair bill.

As part of that money-saving plan, library officials will replace the Pacific Street branch — built in 1903 as the first library in Brooklyn funded by steel magnate Andrew Carnegie — with a new location inside a mixed-use skyscraper slated to be developed just blocks away in the BAM Cultural District in Fort Greene for little to no cost, said Nachowitz.

Two Trees Management Co., the development firm that plans to build a 32-story tower on the site bounded by Flatbush Avenue, Lafayette Avenue, and Ashland Place, has offered up 16,500-square-feet of street level space for the new library branch. Nachowitz said that the opportunity to sell the Pacific branch and replace it with a brand new “technology-rich” one that will be 1,000-square-feet larger for nearly no cost is a rare circumstance that the library cannot pass up.

“By doing this we are able to provide a brand new state-of-the-art facility for the Boerum Hill, Park Slope, Fort Greene community and at the same time we’ll be able to use our limited capital resources to better maintain our branches where we don’t have these opportunities,” he said.

The sale proceeds of the city-owned Pacific branch will be used to pay for the interior build-out of the new branch, said Nachowitz. Any extra money will go back into the system and be put towards the library’s 60 branch buildings that are in need of a whopping $230-million in repairs.

The Pacific branch’s grand building on Fourth Avenue, which also houses a public community meeting room separate from the main library, needs roof work, boiler repairs, and window replacements, as well as “exterior and interior renovation” that the library cannot afford on its annual maintenance budget of about $15-million, library officials said. Brooklyn’s first Carnegie library will be sold to a developer once the new facility is completed likely in 2017.

Locals fear that a private developer will buy up the property and demolish the iconic, yet un-landmarked building.

“This is a historic public property and the beautiful library building should be restored, landmarked, and most importantly remain public,” said Gowanus resident and Pacific Street branch patron Sabine Aronowsky. “There is no substitute for a beautiful space and connection to history that a Carnegie-era library brings.”

“We desperately need to preserve this historic building that forms the edge of our community, embraces our unique history and is important in securing our identity as an historic neighborhood that has been here since before the Civil War,” said longtime Boerum Hill resident Nancy Steinson Ehrlich.

The sale requires the approval of the City Council — a process that would not begin until late 2013 or 2014, said library officials.

Reach reporter Natalie Musumeci at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her at twitter.com/souleddout.