Sunset clause: Activists sue to stop shadow-casting Heights Library tower

Sunset clause: Activists sue to stop shadow-casting Heights Library tower

The Brooklyn Heights Library sale was a shadowy deal, a new lawsuit alleges — but not in the way you think!

Activists are suing to stop the demolition of the branch, arguing the city didn’t do an adequate study into how the new library — and the luxury apartment tower above it — would impact the neighborhood before it agreed to sell the site to a developer last year.

Amongst other issues, the suit charges, it only considered how the building’s shadow will affect vegetation in local parks, but not how it will disturb parkgoers’ quest for sunshine.

“The fact that when these shadows occur a citizen of New York might be able to sit in the sunshine by going to a different park or moving around with shadows to other parts of the park belies the effects of the shadow on park users,” reads the lawsuit filed by anti-library-sale group Love Brooklyn Libraries, which will go before a judge on Friday.

The Mayor’s Office of Sustainability’s environmental review concluded that the proposed 36-story tower at Cadman Plaza West would not significantly affect the surrounding area, and therefore it didn’t need to do a longer study — a so-called environmental impact statement — which would have included a public input period.

But the activists’ suit claims the city ignored several ways the community would suffer, and now they’re demanding the court halt the work — set to begin in fall — for a more rigorous study.

The city disregarded not only how shadows would affect residents, but also the extra traffic construction trucks and new citizens would bring, the suit alleges.

Additionally, the assessment didn’t consider that the new branch inside the tower won’t have room for the old business library section, and disabled residents and seniors will have trouble reaching its new location in Prospect Heights’ Central Library, as it’s not near any handicap-friendly subway stops, the activists allege.

Finally, the city did not seriously explore whether the branch’s existing facade — a mid-century Beaux Arts number designed by Italian sculptor Clemente Spampinato and architect Francis Keally — is eligible for state and federal landmark status, the lawsuit claims.

By way of response, a City Hall rep pointed back to the 2015 assessment, which indeed states that the shadows won’t upset the flowers, but does not mention the vitamin D-starved humans.

It claims the building’s shadow will largely encroach on the Korean War Veterans’ Plaza in front of the post office, which has “low usage rates.”

It also claims the new building and library will only account for around 67 car trips coming in and out a day — while the overwhelming majority of residents and visitors will come and go via the subway — and the construction trucks won’t add a significant burden to the streets.

And, it says, the city did study whether the library was eligible for state or federal landmarking — name-checking both Spampinato and Keally — but found it wasn’t.

The assessment does not discuss the how moving the business library would impact seniors.

Local library lovers fought the city for years to save the book-lending depot as it is, but City Council ultimately okay the sale in December, after local member Councilman Steve Levin (D–Brooklyn Heights) negotiated some concessions and gave his blessing.

Now, the activists say, this lawsuit may be their last hope to preserve their beloved branch and keep parks shadow-free.

“This library should have been preserved and upgraded, not downgraded for demolition,” said Marsha Rimler, who is the president of Love Brooklyn Libraries. “This is the only way to stop it now.”

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill

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