Library bookmarks Brooklyn Heights branch plans

Library bookmarks Brooklyn Heights branch plans
Brooklyn Public Library

The Brooklyn Public Library has picked seven possible designs for the new building that will house the Brooklyn Heights branch as part of a controversial redevelopment plan forcing the book repository to share space with apartments and possibly retail outlets, library honchos announced on Thursday.

The proposals all include about a third of a football field for a library but otherwise range wildly, including buildings from 20 to 40 stories and featuring touches such as a rooftop park (in two designs) and a permanent branch of the hipster foodie bazaar Smorgasburg (in one). As for the reading rooms, they will be modern and built to last, according to library higher-ups.

“The basic goal of this project is to create a spectacular new library to be used for the next 100 years,” said library system spokesman Joshua Nachowitz.

The scheme would allow a developer to scoop up the valuable Cadman Plaza West property on which the branch sits, build a high-rise on the site, and allocate space for a new branch on the ground floor, minus the current business library, which would move to the Central Library at Grand Army Plaza.

The biblio-big-wigs received the proposals on Sept. 20 but kept them secret until last night, when they were unveiled at a public meeting.

One pitch changes the building entrance from Cadman Plaza West to Tillary Street. Another includes a permanent home for Smorgasburg, culinary counterpart to the Brooklyn Flea, a party room, and a cafe attached to the library.

Some designs have retail stores sharing the ground floor with the library. Others employ large glass walls, which Nachowitz said would be equipped with big shades to keep books from getting damaged.

High Heights: A rooftop park adorns this shiny building proposed for the site of the Brooklyn Heights library branch.
Brooklyn Public Library

Several of the proposals incorporate the original bas-relief that currently graces the library’s entrance and is a favorite of patrons.

Library officials did not disclose who the developer-suitors are, though Nachowitz said a controversial company with the initials “F.C.” was not involved, a likely reference to Forrest City Ratner. The spokesman would also not reveal the plans’ price-tags, saying only that they were “competitive.”

The process has been open from the beginning, according to Nachowitz, despite criticism from opponents of the redevelopment who say the whole thing has been opaque from start to finish.

“We don’t want to do what the city usually does — which is going to a community board meeting with a contract in hand,” he said.

The library plans to sign a contract with one of the seven developers within the first three months of 2014, at which point it will hire an architect to take community input and design an interior for the space, Nachowitz said. Under the redevelopment, the library will own its section of the building the way a condominium owner does.

The library claims it is replacing the existing branch building because of a broken air conditioning system it says would cost millions to fix.

The complex will be the first in Brooklyn to include both a library and housing, Nachowitz said. The library says it is aiming to keep the new branch open seven days a week, but the extra day would be contingent on money from an ever-shrinking citywide library budget.

Bas-tion of books: Some developers say they would save the bas-relief art at the entrance of the Brooklyn Heights branch library.
CNG / Danielle Furfaro

Reach reporter Jaime Lutz at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow her on Twitter @jaime_lutz.