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Community board OKs plan to stick high-rise on Heights library, crowd goes wild

Library stacks: Renderings of the proposed wedge-shaped 36-story tower a developer wants to build on the Brooklyn Heights Library.
The Brooklyn Paper
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It was one for the books.

A Brooklyn Heights panel okayed the controversial plan to knock down the neighborhood’s library and build a high-rise at a heated meeting on Wednesday night that frequently descended into disorder.

Members of Community Board 2 voted 25–14 with four abstentions to approve real-estate firm Hudson Companies’ bid to buy the library’s Brooklyn Heights branch for $52-million and erect a 36-story tower of luxury housing in its place, despite loud protests from anti-sale activists who accused the board of capitulating to corporate interests.

“These people are a bunch of pigs,” said Patricia Rhatigan, a Park Slope resident who repeatedly attempted to shout-down board members during the meeting. “All the money is just going straight into the pockets of developers.”

The Brooklyn Public Library claims its existing outlet at 280 Cadman Plaza West is in rough shape and is in need of $9 million in repairs that it cannot afford. Hudson plans to tear down the ageing two-story art deco library and build a new branch of the bibliotheca on the bottom floor of a wedge-shaped skyscraper containing 139 units of housing.

Proponents of the sale say the brand-new branch would better serve the community while the system could use the extra cash to fix several other languishing local outlets, and board members voting “yea” urged their colleagues to have faith that the borough’s book-lending service knows what is best for its users.

“This will improve their ability to provide library services within our community,” said board member John Dew, who voted in favor of the sale. “This is something that the public library system in Brooklyn has asked us to approve. For me that is very important.”

But vocal group of local activists have opposed the plan to sell the branch every step of the way, arguing that the library should not be pawning off its property to private interests.

Members of the group Citizens Defending Libraries packed into the Founders Hall in St. Francis College for Wednesday’s meeting, derailing discussions and booing when board members spoke in favor of the sale. The debate became so fiery at times that board chair Shirley McRae paused several times to threaten activists with expulsion.

“You are not going to commandeer this meeting,” McRae said at one point. “If you don’t allow the board to continue without the catcalling and the disrespect, you will be removed.”

Library honchos already inked a tentative sale with Hudson last fall, but the plan remains subject to several approvals. Borough President Adams will need to give his blessing next, and then the city will have to agree to rezone the land to allow for the tower.

The library and developer ultimately do not need the community board’s approval for their scheme — the panels are largely toothless outfits comprising volunteers with limited power — but the board submits recommendations to the city that the planning department may take under consideration.

The panel tacked on several recommendations to its approval — it wants the developer to come up with a floor-plan for the new library that includes as much “usable space” as the current building, and the library to set aside $2 million for future repairs and other construction at the branch.

It is also demanding that Hudson honor is pledge to build below-market-rate housing as part of the project, which the developer says it will do — albeit in two of its other developments in Clinton Hill, rather than in the Heights tower itself.

Borough President Adams will host a public hearing on the plan at Borough Hall on Aug. 18.

Reach reporter Noah Hurowitz at nhurowitz@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–4505. Follow him on Twitter @noahhurowitz
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

sue from booklyn says:
The meeting was a disgrace.The Chair Ms McCrae and her partner in crime Mr. Perris both never met a huge development that did not like. Ms McCrae needs to be retired and Mr. Perris needs another Job. We hear he is trying and perhaps Hudson will hire him.
It was clear that at least 2 board members received handsome payouts from david Kramer
Committee Boards need term limits and new leadership. Time for Mr. McCrae who instructed the board at the last executive committee, Mr. Perris and their stooge John (full of himself) Quint
to step aside
July 16, 2015, 4:48 am
b from gp says:
Brooklyn is undergoing a transformative nightmare, a parody of urban renewal. The sustainable argument for high density is questionable, particularly if it is poorly situated threatening the destruction of a marvelous library.
July 16, 2015, 6:34 am
library user from Fort Greene says:
What a tragedy.
July 16, 2015, 6:47 am
Brad from Cobble Hill says:
This is an excellent way to infuse badly needed funds into the library system.
July 16, 2015, 7:10 am
Me from Bay Ridge says:
It boggles the mind that the BPL cannot afford repairs when increasingly patrons are required to check out their own materials and check them back in. Soon we will be re-shelving also.
I've been in the Heights building many times and always thought it an attractive building. The one pictured looks like a too tall monstrosity.
On a side note, when a DVD with a cracked and battered case is circulating it might be nice if the library staff would put it in a new one.
July 16, 2015, 7:13 am
Tyler from pps says:
Well, "g from gp," good thing that this proposed building is not "poorly situated." Did you think before you wrote that?

This is in Cadman Plaza. This spot is adjacent to about 6 bus routes, the N, R, 2, 3 trains... and a very short walk to the 4, 5, A, C, E. It's walking distance to all of downtown Brooklyn, DUMBO, fulton ferry, etc.

Oh, and it'll have a brand new lovely 21,000 sq ft branch library on the ground level!

Are people really this attached to this specimen of early-60s architecture that is reminiscent of countless middle school gymnasiums?

I swear most people in this town just suffer from change aversion... they don't actually give a crap about the functioning of the library system (or even this branch). Oh NO! Building a building that's the same size/scale as the one next to it! AACK! No! Replacing the decaying facility with a brand new one. AAACK! No! How can that be a good thing for the library!? Selling the unused airspace for a massive amount of money so they can improve library services and pay for renovations at other branches. AACK! How can they do this to us!? Think of the children!!

It's so absurd.
July 16, 2015, 8:47 am
Chip Barnett from Gowanus says:
Adapt or die.
July 16, 2015, 8:51 am
Miles Copeland IV says:
Sue, if community board members took bribes, you should report that to the Department of Investigation.
July 16, 2015, 9:07 am
cindy from brooklyn says:
This 36 story monster will bring a traffic nightmare to all who use clinton st. This is especially true for henry st…for those returning from Manhattan. If you think this money is ever going to go where it is promised.. think again. It will disappear
July 16, 2015, 9:43 am
S from Clinton Hill says:
You might think a group called "Citizens Defending Libraries" would be stumping for the city to increase library funding, or battling censorship, or something like that.

But no. BPL has found a smart way to get a nice chunk of money for the system, and a brand new library, all without even hitting up the taxpayers. And the "price" is that some new housing goes up, making it possible for some new arrivals to move to a historically affluent neighborhood rather than exacerbating gentrification somewhere else.

And so along comes "Citizens Defending Libraries" to scream bloody murder. It's almost like what they're "defending" is not libraries at all, but just whatever the status quo happens to be.
July 16, 2015, 9:57 am
Tyler from pps says:
Cindy -- what are you talking about? A traffic nightmare? This is your concern?? How much more self-interested can you be?

If traffic "nightmares" are so concerning to you, I'm assuming you are a big advocate for dedicated bus lanes and other alternative forms of transportation that gets more private cars off the roads. This property, as I stated above is adjacent to about 6 bus routes, the N, R, 2, 3 trains... and a very short walk to the 4, 5, A, C, E. It's walking distance to all of downtown Brooklyn, DUMBO, fulton ferry, etc.

So, a few more rich people are going to commute to Manhattan? Oh lordy! Say it ain't so!

Along with dedicated bus lanes, I assume you are also a big advocate for congestion pricing and East River bridge tolls to both reduce unneccesary car trips to and from Manhattan *and* producing much needed revenue for public transportation infrastructure. OR is it safer to assume you are coming from the "I've got mine, you can't have yours and don't mess with what I've already got" perspective. We certainly wouldn't want sweet little Cindy dealing with a "traffic nightmare" would we.
July 16, 2015, 10:34 am
PAY TAXES, SAVE LIBRARIES from gp says:
Here's to the CAD man taking over the Southside of another living place in the City (Central Park, Newtown Creek on and on; Battery Park was spared back in the day). Goodbye dappled sunlight. I suppose you think the destruction of the understated Aalto-like Alice Tully interior was acceptable, because you're a fan of Star Trek.

I would love some real change. Some design appreciation would be great.
July 16, 2015, 10:44 am
Bob from White says:
So how many of you loud mouths have actually volunteered to serve on the board, or do any other actual community work other than yelling at meetings without doing research, meetings, or other planning? Too comfortable being a lawnchair quarterback? Or are you afraid of the work or being shown your own incompetence?
July 16, 2015, 10:51 am
mary from brooklyn says:
david Kramer says John Dew and Judy Stanton did a good job? for him?
what did they get?
what did bill f get?
July 16, 2015, 11:33 am
cindy from brooklyn says:
you are a fool.. I do not own a car. the congestion will be unbelievable, and bring pollution etc. ITs Congestion at eh foot of the bridge we will all breath you fool
July 16, 2015, 11:38 am
Frank from Furter says:
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/12/nyregion/brooklyn-libraries-development-and-misdirected-fear.html?action=click&contentCollection=N.Y.%20%2F%20Region&module=RelatedCoverage&region=Marginalia&pgtype=article

as you can see from some of the posts, some of the people who opposed this have lost all sense of reason or decency. People have been accused of taking money with no basis that I have seen whatsoever. Accusations of illegal voting(a violation of the city's code of ethics) have wrongfully been made. We all agree that the libraries need more money. Bonding is not the answer as it needs to be paid back and increases costs. Reasonable people can disagree but the discourse should be civil.
July 16, 2015, 12:03 pm
acidophilus from gp says:
... says the hotdog.
July 16, 2015, 12:16 pm
Miles Copeland IV says:
mary, to expand on my advice to sue, if you have specific accusations of malfeasance, you should bring those to the Department of Investigation, the Conflicts of Interest Board, and District Attorney Thompson.
July 16, 2015, 12:21 pm
b from gp says:
And Brooklyn Heights should know this by now, those 36 will probably be turned into 37 via squeezing that hvac up to the roof, by a money goblin.

So sry for your loss.
July 16, 2015, 1:18 pm
TOM from Sunset Park says:
Now can we talk about the Sunset Park branch? No interim site as yet. Not enough funding to complete as yet.
July 16, 2015, 1:29 pm
Me from Bay Ridge says:
My dream is the old 68th precinct turned into a library and the mini-one on 51st street gone. It would not only be bigger but more equidistant between the Park Slope and Bay Ridge branches. Could only cost a fortune what with no roof and all.
July 16, 2015, 1:48 pm
Tyler from pps says:
Cindy -- You're totally irrational. How do you think a building with 136 apartment units will change the traffic in any perceptible way at all?! Thousands upon thousands of cars pass through that area every hour. What do you think an extra, say, 25 cars per hour coming from this building would do?
July 16, 2015, 3:01 pm
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn Heights says:
Half the Community Board members acted with willful blindness to the actual facts.

They approved the sale of a sale and shrinkage of a sturdy public asset (the library was expanded and fully upgraded in October 1993- so it's five years newer than the neighboring Ratner building in which Hillary Clinton has located her national headquarters) with a $120 million value to the public for a pittance. The BPL will net next to nothing on this sale possibly zero net cash or less . .

. . . the BPL could likely walk away with less cash than the PRIVATE Saint Ann's school will take home free and clear, provided the BPL sells and shrinks the PUBLIC library.

Here is Citizens Defending Libraries press release issued be for the event:

PRESS RELEASE & NEWS ADVISORY-

Forewarned and Forearmed Brooklyn Community Board 2 Votes Wednesday, July 15th On Proposed Fire Sale of Major Public Asset, Central Destination Library In Downtown Brooklyn

http://citizensdefendinglibraries.blogspot.com/2015/07/press-release-news-advisory-brooklyn.html
July 16, 2015, 3:46 pm
b from gp says:
Tyler, I will gladly respond for the youngest one on curls. The trouble is the Environmental Reviews are usually approached in such a way that they only acknowledge incremental changes. Strategic avoidance. How much can we pack in, get away with. Make more babies, use less water.
July 16, 2015, 3:49 pm
Tyler from pps says:
Michael D. D. White -- You do realize that this "press release" reads like an unhinged conspiracy theorist's blog, right? Even if the substance of the so-called "Citizens Defending Libraries" argument is spot on, you've made it REALLY easy to ignore.
July 16, 2015, 3:56 pm
b from gp says:
R.I.P. Shannan Gilbert.
July 16, 2015, 4:24 pm
samir from cobble hill says:
Does Cindy meet foot traffic or automobile traffic?
Is she talking about the residents of the proposed 139 apartments or library-goers?
July 16, 2015, 4:39 pm
MMM says:
Brooklyn doesn't need money from private developers for much needed repairs to library branches in low income neighborhoods. And it certainly doesn't need low income housing as promised in the terms of this agreement. Why should the rich of Brooklyn Heights be mildly inconvenienced with the building of a condo in their low density neighborhood when we could just increase taxes to raise money for these branches. In fact, I propose taxing the poor to pay for these branch repairs. As an added bonus, as poor people move out of the neighborhoods they made wonderful and "cool" due to the burden of the tax, spoiled white people can move into these neighborhoods and commandeer the very things previous generations did to create the "cool".

And doesn't anyone understand supply and demand. If we restrict the supply of housing in a city where there is high demand, we keep pricing affordable for everyone. Right? I think that's how it works.
July 17, 2015, 7:23 am
b from gp says:
Did someone say increase taxes, in this thread? Nope, didn't think so Mr.Ms. Subdivide and Conquer. What was that annual multibillion dollar subsidy figure? I wonder how much of that could have gone to the removal of the stalactites and stalagmites that have accumulated in the subway stations, or have you not noticed those?

Supply and demand? Hats down to REBNY.
July 17, 2015, 11:25 am
Richard Grayson from Williamsburg says:
While I disagree with the decision and agree with those opposing the proposal, the opponents have done themselves no favors by their outrageous behavior. If anyone acted that way in a branch library during hours, they would be thrown out. There is an adult way to conduct yourself in public policy debates. If anything, while I still wish the library would remain as is, I am now so turned off by the antics of the opponents that I just don't care anymore because I don't want to be associated with people who act crazy. To call people "pigs" in a public policy debate?! What self-destructive behavior from an immature person.
July 17, 2015, 11:27 am
Timothy from Brooklyn Heights says:
I completely agree with Richard Grayson. Even if every bit of the pretty ludicrous and paranoid accusations made by Michael D.D. White were true, the freak show appearance that group has puts them completely out of the believable sector.
July 17, 2015, 1:02 pm
Madeleine from gp says:
So NYC is located in the Southern hemisphere?
July 17, 2015, 3:10 pm
Charles from Bklyn says:
A public asset entrusted for the public good sold to a private (wealthy) owner to keep its publically funded library open. If this is the new public interest, then I guess we are sold too.
July 17, 2015, 10:16 pm
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn Heights says:
How Blindly Did CB2 Approve Library Sale/Shrinkage? Asked and Answered: Very!

Here is a telling two minutes that occurred at the end of the Wednesday
night meeting where the CB2 Board members documented that they were
almost all very uninformed about the library sale and shrinkage they had
just approved. .

CB2 Denied Crucial Facts Before Approving Library Sale

http://www.brooklyneagle.com/articles/2015/7/16/cb2-approves-brooklyn-heights-library-plan-and-pier-6-affordable-housing-adds#comment-2142654239
July 18, 2015, 1:31 pm
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn Heights says:
Ms. Gallo's motion was pretty spot on about what was wrong with the CB2 process-

MOTION/RESOLUTION TO HONOR AND LET STAND
AS THE FINAL APPROPRIATE OUTCOME OF THE
BROOKLYN COMMUNITY BOARD LAND USE COMMITTEE VOTES
OF JUNE 17th 2015 MEETING AND HEARING DATE

WHEREAS, Land Use Committee of Brooklyn Community Board 2 (Committee) met on June 17, 2015 to hold a hearing with respect to and consider a proposal to sell and shrink the publicly owned Brooklyn Heights Library in Downtown Brooklyn; and

WHEREAS, after presentations by the developer and the Brooklyn Public Library to sell and shrink the library and conducting the hearing where the Committee listened to the public, the Committee discussed the proposal and voted twice NOT to approve the proposal: The first vote on (all three pieces of the proposal) failed by 6:6 (6 yes - 4 no votes and 2 abstentions); the second non-approval vote (only two pieces, leaving out modification of the agreement with Ratner) was a more profound defeat for the proposal 5:7 (5 yes, 5 no and 2 abstentions); and

WHEREAS, also as part of its decisions at its June 17th meeting the Committee voted twice NOT to meet again to consider the this matter: The first 4:7 (four to meet and 7 not meet), the second vote 5:7 (five to take more time to make a decision and 7 not to take more time to make a decision); and

WHEREAS, these votes not to approve the proposal and not to meet again about approving the sale and shrinkage of the library were valid as final outcomes of the Committee’s process; and

WHEREAS, the June 17th votes could and should have been let stand as the Committee’s final action; and

WHEREAS, the Committee subsequently convened a hastily scheduled, previously uncalendared meeting on July 6, 2015, the day after the Fourth of July Weekend, where for voting and discussion purposes the Committee members were different and did not represent the same group of committee members who had participated in and benefitted from the presentations and being present to listening to the public at the hearing; and

WHEREAS, there wasn’t sufficient means by which the reconstituted version of the Committee could be as adequately and comparably informed as the Committee originally constituted when it conducted all the predicate actions to its June 17th vote, including presence at the hearing; and

WHEREAS, the CB2 Chair stated to the CB2 Executive Committee that the meeting had been convened so that the Committee would now do “what they were supposed to. . What should have taken place, what should have taken place at” the Wednesday hearing, specifically without having to listen to the public before coming to a decision; and

WHEREAS, the Committee had, according to Robert’s Rules, already properly conducted and concluded its business without having to reconvene making this instruction incorrect and therefore improper, seeming to put pressure on the reconstituted Committee for a particular vote and means to achieve it; and

WHEREAS, the outcome of the July 6, 2015 Committee meeting of reconstituted members was somewhat confused in a number of respects including with respect to provisos and caveats about the project which would be unenforceable:

WHEREAS, the Committee on June 17, 2015, as constituted the day of the presentations and hearing, thereupon adjourned its meeting, the business of the meeting and the hearing held that day completed, now therefore be it resolved:

Section 1. The votes of non-approval of the proposal passed by the Committee, as originally constituted on June 17, 2015, the day of the presentations, hearing, and ensuing discussion should be let stand as the final proper outcome and disposition of the Committee’s process.

Section 2. The subsequent vote of the Committee on July 6, 2015 should be set aside, as failing to supersede the original proper and final disposition of the June 17, 2015 non-approval votes of the Committee conducting its proceedings in connection with the approval request before it that day.
July 18, 2015, 3:06 pm
Barry from Flatbush says:
Be thankful that your corporate overlords have allowed you to keep a library space. Enjoy your crumbs.
July 18, 2015, 10:09 pm
EK from Brooklyn Heights says:
The abject stupidity of the objectors here is astounding. The library cannot afford to continue operating in its current form. The City budget is a mess (thanks de Blasio you moron) so there is not adequate capital to repair and maintain the dated structure. And a private entity is paying $52MM for the site plus delivering a replacement facility better than the current library. Everybody wins yet Citizens for ——ing and Moaning has their panties in a bunch because they cannot influence design issues on a project for which they have no ownership or economic interest. Damn you free market solutions. It isn't fair. I'm going to stomp my feet and hold my breath until I get my way, just like a petulant socialist child.

By the way, in addition to the benefits to the library system, this will add over $1MM per year to the City tax rolls, it will create some jobs and increase the local economy by driving more people into those small businesses. Yeah, what a catastrophe.
July 19, 2015, 7:30 pm
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn Heights says:
Why was crowd’s spontaneous “Shame on you” chant when CB2 voted right on target?

That and links to all the other coverage here:

Brooklyn Community Board 2 Votes To Sell and Shrink Brooklyn Heights Library, Largely In the Dark, With Much Manipulation And Strong-Arming In Background- Developer’s Says He’s “Super-duper Excited” And Thankful

http://citizensdefendinglibraries.blogspot.com/2015/07/brooklyn-community-board-2-votes-to.html
July 22, 2015, 1:51 pm
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn Heights says:
More about the upcoming Eric Adams Brooklyn Borough President hearing- details here:

http://citizensdefendinglibraries.blogspot.com/2015/07/brooklyn-borough-president-eric-adams.html
July 22, 2015, 1:52 pm
b from gp says:
so it's not necessarily magnificent and North at noon seems to have shifted?
Aug. 4, 2015, 11:21 am
b from gp says:
duh, the meridian. damn clock. point is the later half of the day Cadman Plaza would be in shadow, though this no longer seems to be a concern to those who should care.
Aug. 7, 2015, 1:15 pm

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