Checking out: Developer may fold Red Hook library privatization plans

Library hours get oversized
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Books aren’t the only thing being shelved at the Red Hook library.

The unpopular plan to cede part of the branch to a private organization may be sunk. Spaceworks, an enterprise that builds arts spaces around New York, planned to lease a portion of the boxy bibliotheque and turn it into dance and theater studios, but the company now says it will likely back down in the face of local opposition.

“It is not an absolute yet, but we are certainly not going to move forward with a project the community doesn’t endorse,” said Spaceworks executive director Paul Parkhill.

The library system last year announced plans to lease about half of the Wolcott Street building to Spaceworks for an undisclosed amount, which the company would then spend $650,000 transforming into two rehearsal studios it could rent out to performance artists. The renovations were supposed to be integrated into a broader $1.8 million makeover of the library, which took a beating during Hurricane Sandy.

But locals panned the privatization plan, claiming that the library had little room to spare, and the library and Spaceworks delayed the scheme to allow for more community consultation.

The library says the meetings are still in progress, but locals have made their feelings clear.

“We are seeing that there are other priorities there,” said Brooklyn Public Library vice president David Woloch.

Opponents of the say they’re thrilled to hear that the company may be closing the book on its plans.

“I think that’s very good news — it means they listened,” said Sheryl Nash-Chisholm, who works with community group the Red Hook Initiative.

The area councilman, who did not stake out a position on the plan during community meetings last year, said Spaceworks is making the right choice in listening to Red Hookers’ voices.

“Spaceworks does admirable work, but the residents of Red Hook decided their library should not be divided to create artists’ workspace,” said Councilman Carlos Menchaca (D–Red Hook).

A similar plan at the Williamsburg Library was not met with the same public outcry, and Spaceworks opened its space there on Monday.

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at mjaeger@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.
Not in my library: Red Hook resident Sheryl Nash-Chisholm railed against the proposal to carve out a hefty portion of the Red Hook library for private dance studios at a meeting last year.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini