Library lovers slam Brooklyn Heights Association

The Brooklyn Paper
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More than a half-dozen book lovers demanded that a Brooklyn Heights civic group denounce a plan to tear down the neighborhood’s art deco library and build a tower in its place.

Members of the group Citizens Defending Libraries who showed up at the annual meeting of the Brooklyn Heights Association Thursday night ordered the century-old group’s leadership to condemn the Brooklyn Public Library’s plan to sell its building to a skyscraper developer and relegate a new library to the lower floors, claiming only it has the power to stop the project before it starts.

“If the BHA stood up against this plan it would be dead,” said Michael White, a 25-year Heights Association member and co-founder of Citizens Defending Libraries.

The outburst came during a question-and-answer session with audience members near the end of the meeting. Attendees had been asked to write their questions on note cards prior to the meeting, and when the bookworms realized their questions were being skipped over, things got heated.

“I would like my question addressed,” shouted Justine Swartz, another member of the group.

But Heights Association president Alexandra Bowie then abruptly ended the meeting, angering the library lovers even further.

The Brooklyn Public Library claims the Heights branch, on Cadman Plaza West between Clinton and Pierrepont streets, needs $9 million in capital repairs, more than the system can afford to shoulder. It would use the money garnered from hawking the development rights of the property to build a smaller branch in the new tower.

The plan, which was conceived under the Bloomberg Administration, is part of a grander scheme to fill Library coffers while selling of some of its more expensive real estate. The new money would then be used to improve Library services, according to Library officials. Another Library building targeted by the plan was the historic Pacific Branch on Fourth Avenue at Pacific Street, the first Library building constructed using funds provided by 19th-century steel magnate Andrew Carnegie. That proposal was put on hold after residents rallied against it.

But even though Brooklyn Heights Association leadership chose not to denounce the plan on Thursday, that doesn’t mean it has ruled out being involved in the local branch’s future.

“If it’s going to happen, then we might as well negotiate,” said Association first vice president Patrick Killackey after the meeting. “We think our best interests are served by working with the Library.”

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260-8310. E-mail him at Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

marsha rimler from brooklyn heights says:
It will not happen.
Bha needs to get on board
Feb. 28, 2014, 4:45 pm
Jim from Cobble Hill says:
I think a new building would be great. The outside of that branch looks nice, but inside, that place is a dump. Ugly, inefficient layout, and I don't think it has ever been less than 85 degrees in there when they have the heat on. Good for Brooklyn Heights for stopping many unnecessary demolitions, but this isn't one of them and they should dial back the knee-jerkery.

The Library itself will still exist but this time without the ancient electrical wiring and the Asbestos.
March 1, 2014, 11:21 am
public citizen from park slope brooklyn says:
The inside of the current Brooklyn Heights branch is a dump due to deferred maintenance of the building as they are letting the building go downhill to prove that a new building is needed. What is needed is for the City fathers to pony up the money needed to renovate the existing building to modern standards and make efficient use of the 63000 square feet of library that now exists. The tax paying public will never get back this asset once it is sold off and it will result in a monster office tower with a glorified almost bookless internet cafe for a library with at most one third of the existing square footage. The Brooklyn Heights Association is acting in their own self interest as property owners as their property values will rise. They need to get on board and get on board against the sell off of the Brooklyn Heights Library as it is against the public interest and do the right thing.
March 1, 2014, 6:18 pm
Mom from Clinton Hill says:
"Our best interests." Ha! Telling phrase.
March 1, 2014, 8:38 pm
pierre from East New York says:
We deserve a modern library. Some of these protesters think money grows on trees. It is us that pays for everything. Let's build a new building, get a new branch and use the rest of the money for an endowment to help improve service.

Has anyone stop to think why we need three separate Library systems. Let's consolidate the upper management and spend the money on the branches. Each duplicate library upper management including office rents and the like cost upwards of tens of millions a year in unneeded costs.
March 2, 2014, 10:58 pm
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn Heights says:
We must have been entirely too polite and well-behaved, far too quite, to have been estimated at ONLY "more than a half-dozen book lovers." By my count, those Citizens Defending Libraries troops that I can name must have been more than a score: Carolyn, Michael, Eric, Greg, Matthew, Sandy, Mary, Marilyn, Christabelle, Nidia, Gwen, Yuki, Marsha, Ruth, Justine, Ambrosia, Jonathan, Ann, Martha, Phyllis, Geoffrey. . etc.

In addition, most of the people in the room seemed to be in sympathy with us and we gained new members. People joined with us holding signs and putting "Save the NYPL" signs on the back of their chairs.

It is absurd that BHA president Alexandra Bowie says that the reason we have to sell and shrink the library is to get rid on "Phrenology"!


Is that why the art section is now empty of books on art history?

Why the children's section has vast expanses of empty shelves?
March 2, 2014, 11:53 pm
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn Heights says:
The BHA brought in a speaker for this meeting (Clay Shirky) to speak about how the internet is changing culture and he said that because of the vast holes of what is available on the internet, particularly with respect to relatively recent history, we need LIBRARIES!

Save our libraries!!

Michael D. D. White
Citizens Defending Libraries.
March 2, 2014, 11:54 pm
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn Heights says:
It is absurd that BHA president Alexandra Bowie said that the BHA had no basis (?) to endorse Mayor de Blasio in standing with Citizens Defending Libraries to call a halt to these Bloomberg library sales and shrinkages! Really? As I said, if the Brooklyn Heights Association opposed these Bloomberg library sales they'd be dead, probably throughout the city.

Michael D. D. White
Citizens Defending Libraries
March 2, 2014, 11:55 pm
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn Heights says:
The BHA says it is "negotiating" with the BPL as it supports the sale and shrinkage of the library. I submit that anyone who has gone to the so-called "Community Advisory Committee" meetings thinks quite the opposite, that the BHA is just provided eyewash to help the sale and shrinkage go through!!
March 3, 2014, 12:18 am
Paul from Carroll Gardens says:
"Pierre from East New York"...

If you're doing sarcasm with your name and your post, congratulations! You just hit "Juvenile" on the scale of communication.

If you really think your over-privileged and ignorant tirades gain credence by pretending to be from a neglected neighborhood, you just hit "SuperFail".
March 3, 2014, 11:36 am
Nathan from Brooklyn Heights says:
I cannot understand why this special interest organization is interested in the rat-hole that is the Brooklyn Heights branch library. The library will live on; the building will not, and that is quite fine. Do you really want outdated public facilities which cannot be feasibly updated? There is no money in the city's coffers to mondernize existing buildings. It is prudent for Brooklyn Public Libraries to utilize real estate wealth to protect the ultimate sustainability of the system. Now, if only the MTA could reproduce this idea at scale, we could have modern subways with proper safety equipment on platforms and expanding connectivity. Development is inevitable; let's use development resources to build wonderful public spaces!
March 3, 2014, 1:08 pm
Frank from Furter says:
I am very glad they are saving the 4th Avenue branch. But this is NY and things change. Time moves on. The Brooklyn Heights Building is nothing special in my opinion. Time for a new modern branch in a new building the alternative is no library and a building falling down.
March 3, 2014, 3:30 pm
Chris Bastian from Brooklyn Heights says:
People need to 1) distinguish between the Library as building and the Library as a resource; and 2) think about what today's (and tomorrow's) generation will be looking for. More and more people are gravitating to digital content and searchable dabases. A library built on a design of more than century ago will become as dusty an anachronism as some of it's books.
March 3, 2014, 4:38 pm
Raul from Prospect Heights says:
@Chris Bastian re "More and more people are gravitating to digital content and searchable dabases."

Circulation of physical books has been steadily climbing. There has been increasing demand for printed books in Brooklyn in the last few years. The libraries should serve real people, who use libraries to get a resource that they provide: books.

Libraries might be more dusty than your phone in 20 years, but that's because libraries have shown an enduring resource. Your phone will be thrown in the trash before it has a chance to get dusty.
March 4, 2014, 2:07 pm

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