Readers fight to save Pacific branch library

The Brooklyn Paper
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Neighbors are fighting to halt the Brooklyn Public Library’s controversial plan to sell off the borough’s first Carnegie branch — or at least find a way to preserve the historic building.

Library officials want to replace the beloved Pacific branch, built in 1903 thanks to the philanthropy of steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, with a more modern facility inside a skyscraper slated to rise nearby rather than shell out $11 million to repair the old structure. But critics blasted that proposal at a public meeting on Tuesday, claiming such a move would be a blow to readers who rely on the aging edifice.

“It would be a real shame to sell off this branch and displace a community of readers,” said Park Sloper and library regular Kate Lattin. “It would be a real sad loss for the neighborho­od.”

Library officials said the branch on Fourth Avenue is in dire need of upkeep that they can’t afford on their annual system-wide maintenance budget of $15 million. That makes a move to a planned 32-story tower at Flatbush and Lafayette avenues all the sweeter: it would cost little to nothing due to a long-standing deal between the city and developer Two Trees Management Co.

“The physical building and the space that we have at Pacific isn’t meeting our needs. We don’t feel that it is meeting the community’s needs,” said Brooklyn Public Library official Josh Nachowitz. “It’s a beautiful building on the outside, but the interior is dumpy, let’s be honest,”

Library users disagree.

“We don’t feel like that!” shouted some angry book lovers.

Others worry that replacing the historic branch with a glitzy new site two blocks away on the other side of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues isn’t as good as it sounds because visitors from Park Slope or Boerum Hill would need to cross some of the borough’s busiest streets to get there.

“It’s across a major intersection and it is a very different neighborho­od,” said Park Slope resident S.J. Avery. “It’s very hard to see this neighborhood and the current users of the space in this neighborhood being served.”

The Brooklyn Public Library doesn’t own the Pacific branch building — the property just steps from the Barclays Center belongs to the city. But cash from a sale would cover the interior build-out of the new branch, and any leftover funds would go back to the borough’s library system, which features 60 branches — 18 of them Carnegies — in need of $230 million in repairs, Nachowitz said.

Sold in its current state, with neither restrictions on its deed nor landmark designation, the Pacific branch would be worth less than $10 million, according to Nachowitz, who claims that would be enough to cover the new branch.

But he says the library would consider preserving the structure, so long as the efforts produce enough cash to fund a move to the new building. Officials have even commissioned an appraiser to determine the value of the building if it were a landmark.

Locals fear a developer will demolish the classical revival building, which is why community groups and politicians are starting the push to turn the branch into a landmark.

“The community has identified what we would like to see and that is a preservation of the building and the services,” said Councilman Steve Levin (D–Boerum Hill). “It fits the criteria of what we ought to be preserving, particularly in a neighborhood that is overrun by development.”

A sale requires the ultimate approval of city Council, which is a process that would not begin until late 2013 or 2014, library officials said.

The Brooklyn Public Library is also planning on selling the Brooklyn Heights branch, which was not put up by Carnegie, rather than pay $9 million to fix it.

Reach reporter Natalie Musumeci at or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her at

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Reasonable discourse

Parent from Gowanus says:
This is a wonderful library, filled with everything my family needs. We go there all the time, order books to the library, and rely on it. It would be a shame to see it go.
March 7, 2013, 8:58 am
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn Heights says:
To say that funds from a sale, even some of them, would go to the library system is highly misleading.

First, because the city owns the property the funds from a sale would go to the city, NOT the library system. There is no existing enforceable agreement that any money would go to the libraries. A decision was made to sell libraries BEFORE there was any basis to say that some or how much money might be given to the libraries. That’s an embarrassment to the Bloomberg/library officials flogging these deals because it means selling the real estate is their first, likely only real priority, not doing what is best for the libraries.

Library officials are now cognizant of the of the incongruities in the story they were telling because of such things as coverage in Noticing New York. On Tuesday night they, for the very first time, stated that they had reached an agreement in principle to get some money back from the city. That agreement is still not signed (they said it would be in the form of an MOU) and not publicly released or vetted. In fact, because money is fungible (and Bloomberg officials have already decided they want to keep underfunding the libraries to create more of these real estate deals) it is impossible to structure an agreement where the city does not simply take back with one hand what it gives with other.

What I heard on Tuesday night at the community meeting organized by Councilman Steve Levin is that the city would likely flow back some identifiable funds to the library system based on what it would cost to build replacement libraries (the Brooklyn Height library and the Donnell library are both examples of how the replacement libraries are a fraction of the size of libraries being replaced) but that they don’t even know what these costs and amounts might be. Money in addition to that? I didn’t hear that it would go to the libraries. Don’t bet on it.

Bottom line: This is not about getting money for the libraries. It is about getting real estate deals out to developers. And to do that, they are actually intentionally underfunding the libraries at an unprecedented level to create plausible cover.
March 7, 2013, 3:22 pm
JAY from nyc says:
this TOTALLY sucks. 36% of adults in NYC are functional illiterate, and this move is NOT going to help reduce that shameful number. I hope something can be worked out, we need more and better libraries, not less and lower quality ones
March 7, 2013, 6:56 pm
sue from brooklyn heights says:
Lets get rid of the library board and their flunkies
March 7, 2013, 7:38 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
If people aren't using the library, then it should close. Obviously the fees the library collects from renting books are not enough to cover the cost of renting the building, and if it can't turn a profit then like other businesses it should close down. I find nothing wrong with that if that's the way the market decides for things to work out. There are bookstores and everyone has internet access at home if they want to read something that they can't read somewhere else. This is just more whining by rich gentrifiers who can't bear to realize that sometimes things change and not always the way you like them to. But we know by now that that is not the way that it happens in real world.
March 7, 2013, 10:48 pm
Guy from There says:
@ Tal Barzilai... what the heck are you talking about:

"Obviously the fees the library collects from renting books are not enough to cover the cost of renting the building, and if it can't turn a profit then like other businesses it should close down."

Libraries don't charge rental fees for books or turn profits. They lend books out for free as a public service.

That being said. I hope this library is knocked down and a huge condo complex is built in its place just to piss off those NIMBY conspiracy theorists like Michael DD White and SJ Avery. I hope the ground floor is leased to a McDonalds and only loud teens hang out on the corner.
March 8, 2013, 10:27 am
Chris from Park Slope says:
>>Obviously the fees the library collects from renting books are not enough to cover the cost of renting the building, and if it can't turn a profit then like other businesses it should close down.
March 8, 2013, 12:14 pm
Chris from Park Slope says:
Obviously the fees the library collects from renting books are not enough to cover the cost of renting the building, and if it can't turn a profit then like other businesses it should close down.

Fees? You're not very bright are you?
March 8, 2013, 12:14 pm
Charles from Bklyn says:
This is just another example of how government and developers work together to enrich themselves under the guise of working for the public good. What a low down shame.

And hey, Guy. Hating those more successful than yourself, who are protecting their homes and community, is no way to live. Who gets mad at people who want to save a library? If you had something to protect, you'd be a NIMBY too.
March 8, 2013, 4:42 pm
ty from pps says:
So... The brilliant and wonderful Tal Barzilai doesn't even know what a library is?! I'm so shocked, I tell you! Shocked!
March 8, 2013, 4:44 pm
JAY from NYC says:
I am starting to think that Tal works for the Brooklyn paper as part of a "guerrilla" marketing plan, and just makes asinine comments to stir up the posting boards and drive traffic to the website.
Another reason why I think this is that I notice alot of his "sources" (opinion pieces usually) are links to other sites that are owned by the same corporation that own the Brooklyn paper. Its a way to cross drive web-traffic from site to site and its a form of advertising as well.
In the interest of full disclosure, so that Tal does not threaten "slander" again, if I have no evidence to support this, I am merely speculating, its its only an opinion and I represent that none of this is factual. (just like most of Tal's posts)
March 8, 2013, 8:13 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
First of all, that could not have been me because my computer was not even on at all yesterday for most of the day and not between 10:40 and 10:50 which is what time it would have to have been. I suspect ty, but I am beginning to suspect it is JAY also so maybe it is both of them. You can never tell. But of course I know how a library works but that doesn't change the fact that if the library isn't generating enough money through late fees that it charges to people then it doesn't have the right to survive another day. Government institutions need to make money or go out of business since I see no reason why this shouldn't be like Barnes & Noble which is currently closing many stores. And tearing down a building here that no one is using except for reading is better than taking people out of their homes such as Daniel Goldstein when he was forced to go for Atlantic Yards. Many people would agree with me on that even if you don't, ty. So don't be shocked about something normal.
March 8, 2013, 8:44 pm
ty from pps says:
Jay, I think you might be right.
March 8, 2013, 10:34 pm
Me from Bay Ridge says:
"And tearing down a building here that no one is using except for reading." This has to be a joke... Next it will be "Let's build on the parks. No one uses them except for recreation. They don't make enough money through littering fines!"
March 9, 2013, 8:14 am
scott from park slope says:
I said all along that Tal, diehipster, swampyankee, and the usual trolls are nothing but bots. They are too tedious and repetitive to be real humans. I think it was wolfram alpha who published their AI bot a couple years ago that was able to fool users into thinking it was real for more than 20 replies. Bet this paper plugged into their API to drive traffic.
March 9, 2013, 8:35 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Give me a break JAY. If I work for the Brooklyn Paper then what about ty or you I might add? I am entitled to my opinion based on facts and if you don't like them then why aren't you a bot scott and not me?

That being said, I think the comparison to parks and littering is fine. There are plenty of parks that aren't being used all year and could sell some land to make money to cover maintenance. This is what has been proposed at Brooklyn Bridge Park and on the Hudson River park so why wouldn't it work for libraries? What is wrong with government institutions trying to make money? YOu have heard of the IRS which collects money and has to pay for things right? Libraries should be the same or I think they should be sold much like the way many people sell parts of their homes to make money.
March 9, 2013, 1:06 pm
JAY from NYC says:
No Ta I will NEVER give you a break, you make bogus statements and call people names and accuse them of things that you know are not true. You get no breaks ever.
Tal, what could you add about me? You accused me of pretending to be you, now why would I do that Tal? What would I possibly gain by that? Nothing.
Besides if I were pretending to be you everyone would know it because the posts with your name would stop being so f-ing stupid.
Facts, Tal? You have no facts, you just make crap up.
Fine Tal you want the gov to make money, good, lets start with the roads you use, from now on raise tolls to a level that gov makes 9% profit off of every single car that uses the road.
They do exactly that in China, so why not here right tal, lets all just be like the good little Chinese communists, since you use Chinese style language all the time, I can see why adopting a communist way of doing things is so appealing to you.
Lets keep going, we send billions to Isreal every year we get no profit out of that, so we need to see a return, so from now on, we get to kick Isrealis off the land and use it for our own purposes, primary military, which we will use as a police force to require Israeli citizens to pay us taxes.
Lets go further, lets require the fire department to make a profit, so from now on every single house has to under go a fire inspection which costs 5000 dollars to do. That should go a long way to making sure the fire department make a profit.
Now for the tricky one, all these people with disabilities out there that the gov provides services to, how can we make a profit off that?
Easy, lets actually make people undergo operations that they have to pay for that makes them disabled, and then bill them for all the services that they will need as a result of being disabled!!!! Billions to be made there Donald Trump could not have come up with a better idea!!!!
Now we have a problem with people having babies too, so we should have people make babies and then eat them for food and we can sell them on a derivatives market as well.
Need more Tal? Figured out yet why your post is sooo totally stupid?
March 9, 2013, 2:17 pm
Brooklyn Red from Park Slope says:
Just to get back to the library for a minute - some folks here have it backwards. If the library moves, it will be big time 'gentrified", moving into the base of luxury housing. Those of us who are trying to preserve it want it to stay in the neighborhood, serving the folks it now serves - kids from three local schools without libraries, from Gowanus houses. If you don't know the Pacific Branch, stop by and check it out. It's not used by "rich gentrifiers" - quite the opposite - and usage has gone up 60% in the last 10 years. (chech out "Branches of Opportunity" at to learn more about how library services across the board are increasing, while funding keeps going down.)
March 10, 2013, 8:58 am

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