The Brooklyn Public Library wants to close the book on its $20,000-a-month lease on its McKinley Park branch — by having the city seize the building through eminent domain.
“It’s costing us almost $250,000 a year. That’s not chump change,” said the library’s executive vice president David Woloch, noting that amount could pay the salaries of three additional librarians.
The city will hold hearings next month on taking the building away from the Arizona-based bank that owns it, claiming that having to lease the branch at the corner of 68th Street and Fort Hamilton Parkway puts an unfair burden on the library and is preventing necessary repairs on the facility.
Woloch said that almost all of the library’s 60 branches are in buildings owned by the city, which pays for utilities and lets the library use tem rent-free. But seven — including McKinley — are rented from private landlords who require the library to pay for utilities, as well as all maintenance and repairs.
The library has been putting off more than $5 million in needed plumbing work, roof repairs, window replacement and other basic repairs at McKinley for years to avoid investing scarce resources in a facility it does not own.
With the lease at the Dyker Heights branch expiring this summer, the library would rather have the city seize the building from the owner, a branch of BMO Harris Bank in Scottsdale, Ariz., than sign another long-term rental commitment.
The library first offered to buy the building for $2.4 million, but the bank turned it down and made no counter offer, so the library began the eminent domain process, which allows the city to take over private property to use for the public good.
“At this point the landlord has indicated an unwillingness to sell, and it serves the public interest for the library to own the building,” Woloch said.
McKinley would be the first building the library has had seized through eminent domain, according to Woloch, but it began the process to take over the Ulmer Park branch building in Bath Beach last year, at which point the owner agreed to sell.
Woloch said the library is not worried that fear of losing their property would cause the owners of the other six leased branches would try to push them out, or would make landlords reluctant to rent to it in the future.
“I don’t think it changes the playing field for us to our disadvantage at all,” said Woloch, adding that the library would likely seek to acquire all of the rental spaces. “I would not be surprised if we pursued a similar path down the road for some of the others.”
A spokesman for the bank declined to comment.