Levin votes to sell Brooklyn Heights library

Okay by Levin: Councilman Steve Levin is voting in favor of this development at the Brooklyn heights library branch.
The Brooklyn Paper
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Councilman Steve Levin (D–Brooklyn Heights) is supporting the controversial sale and redevelopment of the Brooklyn Heights library, after the book-lending system and developer agreed to build a larger replacement branch and open a second new library nearby.

The pol said these and other concessions he secured in last-minute negotiations were enough to win his approval for the deal in a committee vote on Thursday.

“I believe ultimately this is an improvement and it is something we should be proud of,” said Levin.

With Levin’s okay, the Council’s land-use committee approved the plan to sell the library for $52 million to developer Hudson Companies — which will build a 36-story tower of luxury housing in its place with a new branch at the bottom — 17–2 with one abstention.

The two dissenting committee members at Thursday’s meeting were Councilman Jumaane Williams (D–Flatbush) and Councilwoman Inez Barron (D–East New York) — both of whom thought the sale set a bad precedent for more local branches to be sold off to cover the system’s mounting repair bills.

The full Council will vote on the plan on Dec. 16, but members typically defer to the wishes of the local member, so Levin’s approval means it is likely to succeed.

The sale has long divided the neighborhood — Community Board 2 voted 25–14 in favor, while Borough President Adams disapproved — and the new deal addresses many of the critics’ gripes.

Some slammed the original scheme for replacing the current 32,000 square-foot library with a smaller 21,500 square feet branch. The bibliotheca will now be 26,620 square feet.

• The library will also open a second, 5,000-square-foot facility in nearby Dumbo or Vinegar Hill, though Levin said it hasn’t found a site yet.

• Space in the new Heights building will be fitted out with science and technology labs for use by the local school district — which stretches out to Bedford-Stuyvesant — following complaints that the new building will add dozens of new families to the neighborhood but do nothing to appease local school overcrowding.

• The below-market housing associated with the residential building will still be located off-site in Clinton Hill — a plan that angered many locals, who said it unfairly segregated the rich and poor — but will now go to people with lower incomes than previously planned. A household income of around $97,125 for a family of three will now be the highest wage bracket eligible, versus $128,205 previously.

• The branch’s business library will still make the unpopular move to the Central branch in Prospect Heights, but the new Brooklyn Heights library will now have a so-called “business services center” that includes work spaces and meeting rooms.

Some believe the city is selling the desirable Brooklyn Heights land for less than it is worth. The price tag hasn’t gone up, but the developer will now give the library system 25 percent of any profits it makes on condo sales if the rate of return is more than 19 percent.

But naysayers say the new deal does not address their major objection — that they will forever lose a major public asset to a private company that doesn’t have the community’s best interest at heart.

“When this new library is put in it will be non-expandable, it will be stuck as it is inside a privately-owned building,” said Mike Jankowitz, who is a part of activist group Citizens Defending Libraries, which has fought fiercely against the sale. “You can’t bring it back from the dead.”

Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018: Updated with more details and qutoes.
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Reasonable discourse

steve sandler from heights says:
Dec. 11, 2015, 2:03 am
Goody from Brooklyn Heights says:
Oh, goody.
Dec. 11, 2015, 10:17 am
Marsha Rimler from brooklyn heights says:
All of the spin control by Brad Lander and David Greenfield on this deal will not work. Stephen is a failure as a true representative of his district . Over 90% of the public opposed it. Look at the money.
Look at the payday for David Kramer and St. Ann.s
Look at the segregated affordable housing. Look at Stephen Levin as he delivers his decision repeating the BPL talking points. He has lost all appearances of being a person who believes in himself. His political career ended yesterday. A group formed last week to begin the process of defeating him. If you are interested in joining us contact me. The truth is I know Stephen well and this is exactly what I expected.
Dec. 11, 2015, 10:21 am
Elizabeth from Prospect Heights says:
Kiss your political career goodbye, you Judas. Even if the CC were to vote against this, your constituents will never forget this, nor will they ever forgive you.
Dec. 11, 2015, 10:25 am
Charles from Bklyn says:
If the developer made these consessions, it means they are still getting the better deal. The counselman sold out his poorer neighbors for newer and richer ones for a few dollars more ... the middle class is doomed when our own representatives cannot hold the line on selling public assets. Mr. Levin should be ashamed of himself.
Dec. 11, 2015, 11:04 am
like from wow says:
Marsha, was there a poll? Where did you get that 90% figure from and why is it different from the 95% that you wrote in the Brooklyn Eagle? Oh! The numbers vary because they are made up. Got it! And Elizabeth, I predict that Levin gets re-elected and it isn't even a close race. As for Charles, his logic seems to be the only deal that should be acceptable to the public is the deal the developer refuses to agree to, in which case it isn't a deal. It's over folks. O-ver.
Dec. 11, 2015, 12:12 pm
Mustache Pete from Windsor Terrace says:
The fix was in on this a long time ago. Levin is like every other political weasel. He was just going through the motions.

Most voters are sheep. They aren't passionate about this issue or see it as a 1st World problem and vote for the incumbent or their registered party.
Dec. 11, 2015, 12:41 pm
Henry Remsen from Brooklyn Heights says:
Actually, that 95 percent figure comes straight from Levin himself. That's his estimate of the proportion of his constituents who were opposed to the selling off of the Pacific and Brooklyn Heights libraries when he ran for reelection in 2013.

See his statement in this video: "Will Steve Levin Save the Brooklyn Heights Library?"
Dec. 11, 2015, 12:51 pm
Marsha Rimler from brooklyn Heights says:
I said over 90% . I think that includes 95% and it came from the councilman's own mouth.
We will see what happens in 2017. It will be for talking out of both sides of his mouth Stephen to overcome this vote. He may revert to nice guy-sweet Stephen but that its over. His political future ended yesterday.
The library destruction plan is NOT over. There are other levels of government. This is just the local level and then there are the courts.
It is just the beginning of ACT 2 and its a 3 Act Opera
Dec. 11, 2015, 12:54 pm
Peter Engel from Downtown Brooklyn says:
This deal will be done and won't be stopped.

What we've learned is that "progressives" in City Hall are just as willing to sell off public land as Bloomberg, only the deals they make aren't as good for the public.
Dec. 11, 2015, 1:17 pm
like from wow says:
Thank you for the clarification, Henry. Of course, that is a cohort that self-selected to approach Levin but as we say in Brooklyn, not for nothin'. I don't see grounds for a lawsuit but Brooklyn Heights has in recent years proven itself affluent enough to sue without much regard for the likelihood of prevailing.
Dec. 11, 2015, 2:01 pm
Pedro Angel says:
Peter, maybe what we learned is even progressives will do what needs to be done in the absence of preferable alternatives.
Dec. 11, 2015, 2:21 pm
Arnold M. from Cobble Hill says:
A City Council Member selling out his constituents is par for the Council. Steve Levin was different, not condescending like Brad Lander, not craven like David Greenfield, not crude like Melissa Mark-Viverito, not stupid like Laurie Cumbo. He was fresh, honest, smart and independent. I think he's been brought down to Council level. Now he's getting along to get ahead. He understands Hudson Companies will remember him generously at reelection time. So will 2Trees, Walentas Bros., Ratner Co., J. Rosen and the rest. He's their boy now. We thought he was growing before our eyes into a man of unusual integrity. We were wrong. Hudson Companies were right.
Dec. 11, 2015, 10:54 pm
Charles from Bklyn says:
That's right ... any developer consessions are just a tactic to give political cover for the politicans who now work for developers and the very rich. Large developments in the city are now just corruption by any other name, and those who believe otherwise are fools. Time to vote democratic progressives out of office and put the activists in. What other choice is left?????
Dec. 13, 2015, 12:04 pm
Shirley from Cobble Hill says:
NYers had better wake up. We elect Progressive after Progressive. Stephen Levin is a member of the Council Progressive Caucus. What difference at this point does it make, as another NY Progressive now running for President says? That Progressive and her Progressive husband have become a multimillionaires pretending to represent the lower and the middle class, now shrinking under the burden of Progressive government. The Mayor, Public Advocate, Comptroller and Council speaker took time out to hold an anti-Trump rally recently. They screamed that he should not be allowed to run for president because he's unfit. Being a sleaze bag blowhard makes you unfit to run? That would disqualify most candidates, certainly including most in NY as well as the incumbent President. Hillary's congenital lying doesn't bother them. They're all supporting her. You can make the connection that Progressives approve of lying. They approve of the sale of the Brooklyn Heights library, which is based on a mountain range of lies that stretches from BPL President Linda Johnson, the realtor-loaded BPL board, to the developer, to St Ann's school, the Brooklyn Heights Association, CB2, the Council land use committee, and finally, tragically, Stephen Levin. All the lies about repairing the a/c at the Heights branch went unchallenged. Also unchallenged was the fire sale price, which will probably leave the BPL further in the hole after all the costs of the miniature replacement library are counted. Progressives are okay with cheating the public, this sale makes clear. Not only are they okay with cheating the public and fronting for developer giveaways of top public properties, they're proud of doing so. Young Mr. Levin certainly is. His glowing words on this seminal ripoff are proof of that. Donald Trump had nothing to do with this people's bilking, nor did any Republican. This robbery, as Atlantic Yards, as the Donnell Library, has been carried out entirely by Progressives. Why are we putting these luxury developers in office?
Dec. 14, 2015, 2:17 am
parent from Clinton Hill says:
Can someone enlighten me as to how a science center will alleviate school overcrowding?
Dec. 14, 2015, 7:38 am
Luisa from Sunset Park says:
Hey, Steve- Can you answer "Parent from Sunset Park" ?

Next steps for NYC/BPL: sell the Sunset Park Library property to a private developer in a back room, no-bid deal; build residential above it that prevents future expansion, if needed. This in a neighborhood with serious school overcrowding, beginning with pre-k, where what's needed is special needs pre-k, kinder and 1st grade. But no, no collaboration with Dept. Of Ed. or Human Resources Administration or Admin. For Children Services. All this rhetoric about ending, or at least reducing, the homeless population, while City Hall is creating future homeless populations by not providing children with an excellent and needs-appropriate education.

Spend the money at the start of a human being's life and we won't need to subsidize them for the rest of their lives, or is it that we are choosing who will be successful and who will fail at the outset by how many and where quality schools are built. It certainly looks that way.
Dec. 19, 2015, 7:28 pm
Luisa from Sunset Park says:
Steve- meant "Parent from Cobble Hill"
Dec. 19, 2015, 7:29 pm
Williedynamite from Park Slope. says:
"Lets get rid of the Library and build more luxury condos!"

I'll believe there's a new library when I see it. Just like I'll believe there is low-income housing over by the Barclays Center (as was promised by the developer) when I see that.
Dec. 21, 2015, 9:56 pm

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