The project has been mired in community debate since its inception, with many arguing against the decision to sell to a private development firm, an option that has gained traction in recent years within the cash-strapped Brooklyn library system, currently bogged down with $300 million in deferred maintenance across its 60-branch system.
The system stands to make $52 million from the sale, which proponents say would serve to better libraries throughout the borough. As part of the plan, the developers have also committed to building 114 affordable housing units off-site, which they announced on Monday would be located at 911-917 Atlantic Avenue and 1041-1047 Fulton Street in Clinton Hill.
However community members have raised a number of concerns about the project, of which the library itself now comprises only a small part. Developer Hudson Companies current plan calls for demolition of the 62,000-square-foot Cadman Plaza branch, and the construction of a 30-story mixed-use building in its place.
The new building will house a library on the ground floor, 130 luxury condominiums, a multi-purpose satellite space for private school St. Ann’s, and two retailers, a Brooklyn Coffee Roasters and a pop-up culinary space curated by Brooklyn foodie fest Smorgasburg.
“You start mixing high-rent apartments with public facilities and you’re courting problems,” said Mike Jankowitz, a former Brooklyn Heights resident who attended the meeting.
Among the concerns voiced at Monday’s meeting was the square footage of the new library, which would decrease by about one-third to roughly 21,000 square feet under the current plan.
Locals voiced oft-repeated reservations about the decision to raze the current site only to be left with a smaller library, instead of renovating the current building.
“There’s something great about this place,” said Doreen Gallo, who sits on the Community Advisory Committee, a group that meets with the developers and local library officials every six months. “I’m not saying it couldn’t use a couple more floors, but luxury housing doesn’t have to pay for it.”
The project's chief architect, Jonathan Marvel, said the current building was unusable as a base, and the library system estimated that renovations on the existing library would cost upwards of $9 million.
“It’s going to be a 21st century library that represents the larger interests of the community,” Marvel said.
“We’re taking a very high burden upon ourselves to say we think this is a really special project,” said David Kramer of Hudson Properties. “Because it’s a high-profile site, we’re saying this has to be a great project. I want it to be a great project.”
Local residents also voiced concerns about the adverse impacts the new housing could have on their community, citing both the influx of new residents and the impact of the physical building.
“Noise and shadows are an extraordinarily big problem,” said Toba Potosky, president of the board of directors of nearby Cadman Towers on Clinton Street. “You’re constantly hearing sounds, and the glass tower will amplify that and cast shadows.”
Kramer said the developers had already prepared an initial shadow study analysis as part of the ULURP process, which would be available to the public.
Linda Johnson, CEO and president of the Brooklyn Public Library system, announced with the developers on Monday that the library would hold a series of workshops for community members, in which they would be able to review phases of the construction plans and make suggestions to architects, developers and library officials. Community members will also be able to make suggestions online, and in person at the library.
“This is a difficult one,” said Councilman Stephen Levin at the meeting’s end. “On one hand you have a library that doesn’t have a functional air conditioning system, on the other hand what they’re proposing is smaller. But there is a need for funds. I’m trying to hear every side of the argument, but this is a hard one.”