Council approves Brooklyn Heights library sale

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

Book it in.

Council members voted on Wednesday to approve the controversial sale and redevelopment of the Brooklyn Heights library.

Members voted 45–1 with three abstentions to sell the city-owned land to developer Hudson Companies, which plans to bulldoze the facility and build a 36-story luxury residential tower on top with a new library at the bottom.

The Council’s land-use committee approved the plan last Thursday after local member Steve Levin (D–Boerum Hill) cut a last-minute deal with the book-borrowing institution, developer Hudson Companies, and the city that included a larger library space, a new mini-library in Dumbo, and below-market housing for lower-income households than was previously planned.

The library system claims the $52 million sale is necessary to help it pay to fix dilapidated buildings around the borough, and pols supporting the deal say the sale is a pragmatic way to make that happen in the short-term.

“The reality is our public libraries and underfunded and have been for decades,” said Councilman David Greenfield (D–Borough Park), the land-use committee’s head honcho. “Libraries across Brooklyn are crumbling and they need the resource to pay for it and cannot expect those resources to fall from the sky.”

Councilman Jumaane Williams (D–Flatbush) abstained from the vote after rejecting the plan in committee because he said that the project’s below-market housing component should be slated for lower-income households than it will be.

“If we’re going to sell assets from the city, I think we have even more burden to get housing deeper,” said Williams.

Councilman Robert Cornegy (D–Bedford-Stuyvesant) and Councilwoman Rosie Mendez (D–Manhattan) also abstained, and Councilman Chaim Deutsch (D–Sheepshead Bay) was the lone no vote — he said the deal would set a precedent for more library high-rises, which he claimed would clog traffic in residential areas.

But most Brooklyn Council members offered enthusiastic support for a plan they said would benefit all Brooklyn branches.

“I believe that as a result of this deal, the branches around the borough will be more able to be places for reading, accessing technology, ESL classes, finding jobs, and much more for generations to come,” said Brad Lander (D–Park Slope).

The proposal now moves to Mayor DeBlasio’s desk, and Hizzoner says he will sign off on it.

“We are delighted to partner with Councilman Levin and the Brooklyn Public Library on an extraordinary project for this borough,” he said.

The Comptroller’s office has urged DeBlasio to scrutinize lingering questions about the sale before signing off — claiming the price tag may be too low for the desirable Brooklyn Heights real estate, and that the city and library system needs to come up with a more sustainable way to fund its operation than just selling off property.

Reach deputy editor Ruth Brown at rbrown@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–9309. Follow her at twitter.com/rbbrown.