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History lesson: Library takes Pacific branch off block

The Brooklyn Paper
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The Brooklyn Public Library has put controversial plans to sell an historic branch on hold, claiming that it will now try to figure out a way to continue using the aging structure after a replacement library is built nearby.

Library trustees originally planned to sell-off Park Slope’s beloved Pacific branch on Fourth Avenue to a private developer and use that cash to move into a new, more modern facility nearby, rather than shell out $11 million to fix up the 109-year-old edifice.

Treating the borough’s first Carnegie branch as a sacrificial lamb would let the Brooklyn Public Library focus on services and programming at its other 59 branches, which, including the Pacific branch, are in need of $300 million in overdue repairs, trustees said.

Soon after news of the plan was reported, residents started rallying around the old building, which many claimed was a monument that needed to be preserved.

Now officials say that the old library, just steps away from the Barclays Center, will be spared from a sale and bulldozer — at least for the time being.

“It has become clear that the neighborhood highly values that branch and its historic building,” Brooklyn Public Library spokesman Jeremy Soffin said in a statement.

The Library claims it will work with elected officials and community stakeholders to develop a plan for the Classical Revival-style building through a yet-to-be-decided “open process,” said Soffin.

“This plan could include maintaining some or all of the Pacific Street building and continuing to provide library service and programming for children in the community.” he said. “At the same time, we will continue to work with our partners to address the Library’s urgent funding needs.”

Book lovers pushing to landmark the building say the new plan as a big win in the fight to save the branch.

“The fact that the [Brooklyn Public Library] has begun to openly acknowledge the depth of community opposition to [its] plan is a huge victory for the people who love the Pacific branch,” said Park Slope resident S.J. Avery, who added that even though officials made a “vague” promise about an open community process, the fight is not over.

“This is the time to step up our activities, not to turn down the volume of the expressed opposition to their original plan,” she said.

The reprieve of the Pacific branch came as the City Council voted Monday to approve a developer’s plan to build a massive 32-story tower in the BAM Cultural District in Fort Greene that will include a new library within it.

Library trustees originally intended to replace the Pacific branch with that brand new, “technology-rich” facility in the mixed-use skyscraper for nearly no construction cost, due to a longstanding deal with Two Trees Management Co., the development firm that will build the tower on what’s currently a parking lot bounded by Flatbush Avenue, Lafayette Avenue, and Ashland Place.

The council voted 46 to 1 to approve the $135-million development. Developers intend to break ground in early 2014, said Two Tree’s David Lombino.

As part of the deals struck between the city and the developer, Councilwoman Tish James (D–Crown Heights), whose district includes the site of the tower, negotiated an agreement between the Bloomberg Administration and the Library to maintain the Pacific branch.

“I have always supported Two Trees’ vision for the project, and I believe it was important to ensure the project included significant community benefits such as increased affordable housing, maintaining the Pacific Street library, a commitment that cultural organizations utilizing the space will reflect the diversity of this community, and assurance that future utilization of the open space includes the input of all stakeholde­rs,” said the public advocate candidate in a statement.

That said, Soffin noted that a selling-off the property is still in cards for the Library.

Library officials did not offer any details on how they planned to include the public when making decisions about the Pacific branch.

But Pacific branch proponents say they know exactly what the needs to be done.

“A truly open community process would be to have representation from elected officials, the local civic organizations, community board members, and the users,” said Peter Bray of the Park Slope Civic Council. “In that way, BPL can’t cherry pick who is involved.”

When completed, the new Two Trees building is expected to include 50,000-square-feet of “cultural” space that will include the library branch, movie theaters, and a rehearsal space managed by the dance troupe 651 Arts. There will also be commercial space and a public plaza.

Sixty of the 300 apartments in the tower will be rented at so-called “affordable” rates.

Reach reporter Natalie Musumeci at nmusumeci@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her at twitter.com/souleddout.
Updated 10:12 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Dan M. from Boerum Hill says:
From a practicality standpoint, the library system could use the money from the sale to save other libraries. My fear is that this process of selling off historic branches will just be displaced to another site where there isn't an opportunity to relocate at no cost.
June 19, 2013, 5:37 am
BrooklynRed from 4th Ave says:
As the article above indicates, the struggle to keep the library is far from over. To help in this effort, go to www.savethepacificlibrary.org
June 19, 2013, 7:22 am
Paul from Boerum Hill says:
I think this is great news and I'm glad that Tish was able to broker a deal. But nobody should trust the Brooklyn Public Library to turn on a dime and try to force through a fast one. Vigilance! Vigilance! And thank you notes! Thank you notes!
June 19, 2013, 10:50 am
Marsha from Adams st. says:
BPL needs to start looking at other ways to finance their capital improvements. My answer is be creative and thing big. We will not let you Donnell us.
Think bonds bonds bonds.
BPL is out of step with its community. It is a non-profit that has missed the boat and needs to be
reconfigured
June 19, 2013, 7:18 pm
Seth Kaplan from Prospect Lefferts Gardens says:
I applaud that BPL has been thoughtful and sensitive to community concerns while also trying to address serious budget shortfalls.

This is a fine example of how public institutions can work with their patrons -- as both partners and participants in the planning process.
June 19, 2013, 8:06 pm
Thomas Lawrence from Brooklyn Heights says:
Is Barclay Center a stakeholder? Why not? Is Two Trees a stakeholder? I doubt it. They're building for profit. How about Ratner? He talks like he's a stakeholder, but his actions don't say so. And, oh no! Not more "affordable" housing. For who? Oh yeah, those who can afford it. Where's the money cme from to fix up the Carnegie library in Park Slope at Ninth and 6th Ave? Surely there's no room for "public benefit" from an historical icon. No, only profit for private enterprise.
June 19, 2013, 8:49 pm
Jim Laybenthal says:
Uhm, Marsha, you need to have a source of revenue, taxes or tolls or what-have-you, to be able to sell bonds. A bond issue backed by overdue fines ain't gonna cut it.
June 20, 2013, 9:16 am
Mark from Q says:
The problem with the current system is that, unbelievably, the Brooklyn Public Library (lust like all the libraries in New York City) is a private not-for-profit! They are governed by a private board, which just happens to have a significant number of real estate developers on it just now, and don't have to answer for their actions to anyone! They get a significant amount of their operating and capital budgets from the city, which makes them dependent on the largesse of the mayor (and this one just loves giving things like public land to his developer pals!), and any other local electeds who have the money, mainly the City Council. Marty has never given one thin dime, while Queens Boro President Helen Marshall strongly financed that library system. And now when they need the money, is Marty cracking that piggy bank? He is not! But he also likes doing favors for real estate developers. Just ask Ratner.

Why the libraries are not viewed as essential parts of NYC services, like water and the fire department, is one of the more shameful mysteries of this town!
June 20, 2013, 10:58 am
The Library Now Says from This Library is NOT Saved! says:
At last night's meeting of the Independent Neighborhood Democrats, Josh Nachowitz (the BPL government liaison) was asked about the articles saying the Pacific Street branch was saved. He said the articles were nonsense, he didn't know where anybody got that information, and the plans for Pacific Street being sold were unchanged!

Then a followup questions was asked: "How much money would it take to save that library?" He said $10,000,000.

So maybe BP Markowitz would like to see an historic opportunity to have the original Carnegie library named after him, instead of another music festival!

But I wish that reporters would ask the BPL about this...!
June 21, 2013, 11:27 am

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