Girl Scouts troop fights to save Pacific branch library

Girl Scouts troop fights to save Pacific branch library
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

A passionate troop of Girl Scouts has taken matters into their own adorably tiny hands.

Civic-minded youngsters from Troop 2657 have joined the fight to save Park Slope’s beloved Pacific branch library from being sold off and possibly demolished by starting their very own petition to preserve the borough’s first Carnegie branch.

Library officials plan to sell the historic branch, built in 1903, and use the proceeds to create a more modern facility inside a skyscraper slated to rise nearby, rather than shell out $11 million to repair to the old structure — but not if the Girl Scout troop that meets there every week has anything to do with it.

“Me and the Girl Scouts are looking to save the library and make it a landmark. That way no one can ever knock it down,” said eight-year-old Jordan Candelario of Staten Island, who thought up the idea to start a petition after learning of the plan. “If they knock down the library then we would need to look somewhere else to hold our meetings.”

The 17-member troop — made up of homeschooled five-to-10-year-old girls from across Brooklyn, Staten Island, and Manhattan — gathers at the spacious community meeting room on the second floor of the Classical Revival-style library every Wednesday afternoon, where they meet to do badge work and partake in activities like arts and crafts.

“I love it — it’s a great place with a gigantic meeting room,” said nine-year-old Nini Kauffman-O’Hehir, who told her troop about the Brooklyn Public Library’s plan to sell off the un-landmarked branch after she heard about it from her mother, Leslie Kauffman. “I’ll be very upset if they tore down the library.”

The troop hand delivered its paper petition to Comptroller John Liu at a recent rally at City Hall where little Candelario read out loud the petition that she wrote in her own words directed towards elected officials including Liu, Mayor Bloomberg, Councilman Steve Levin (D–Boerum Hill), and Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

The petition signed by all the scouts and their parents asks that the library on Fourth Avenue be kept open for the following reasons:

•“Libraries change the world.”

•“Our Girl Scouts meetings are held there. The girl scouts need this space.”

•“The world depends on libraries for kids’ education.”

•“Office space does not help make the world a better place. Libraries and Girl Scouts does.”

•“This library is part of the neighborhood. It has been around since 1903 and our kids love it.”

Troop leader Virginia McAllister, who started the troop a year ago, said that, when looking for a space free of charge to hold the weekly meetings, she thought of the Pacific branch because of its central location that is accessible by 11 different subway lines.

“I feel really lucky to have been able to secure that location, but I don’t know that I’d be able to find another one,” said the Fort Greene resident, whose daughter Paige is one of the Girl Scouts.

“It’s a terrible plan, but it’s been an experience to see these girls grow into people,” said McAllister. “I can’t wait to see them grow up and become leaders, because that’s what the Girl Scouts is all about.”

The public meeting rooms in the Pacific branch are not only used by the Girl Scouts, but also by dozens of other community and civic groups.

Library officials say that they plan — replacing a branch that they cannot afford to repair on its annual maintenance budget of $15 million, with a brand new, slightly bigger branch inside a planned 32-story tower two blocks away across Flatbush Avenue — would be a benefit to the troop.

“The library is pursuing this plan with girls like them in mind,” said Brooklyn Public Library vice president for government and community relations Josh Nachowitz, who added that the library wants to provide users with “the best possible community space we can, and we think the best way to do that is by building a new branch that will have more flexible meeting spaces and better meeting spaces.”

The Girl Scout troop plans to deliver its petition to Councilman Steve Levin on Wednesday at the Pacific branch. Levin recently sent a letter to the Landmarks Preservation Commission asking that the Pacific branch be given landmark status so it cannot be torn down.

A sale of the branch requires the approval of the City Council, in a process that would not begin until late 2013 or 2014, officials said.

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