Brooklyn Public Library officials reportedly said this week that their efforts to raise money for an iconic, $135-million glass-walled performing arts branch have failed — and that the project can’t go forward at this point.
Crain’s New York Business reported that a “library insider” made it clear that “the project will be saved only if a partner comes along to finance the building.”
Readers of The Brooklyn Paper are well aware of the library’s ongoing inability to get donors jazzed up over the Enrique Norten–designed Visual and Performing Arts Library, a bow-shaped structure that would be built on a city-owned triangle bounded by Flatbush Avenue, St. Felix Street and Lafayette Avenue.
But this is the first time that the library has publicly stated that the project cannot be done without a private partner.
“We don’t have the funding right now and are looking [to other organizations],” said library spokeswoman Stefanie Arck.
The arts library is a main feature of the city’s plan to surround the Brooklyn Academy of Music with a Lincoln Center–style campus that includes new housing and cultural institutions.
Arck said that the BPL would consider sharing the Fort Greene lot with a partner.
“We are open to considering all kinds of partnerships at this point,” she said.
Last year, The Brooklyn Paper reported that library trustees approached developer Bruce Ratner, a longtime BAM trustee, about funding the facility, which would be located just a few blocks from his $4-billion Atlantic Yards mega-project.
But those talks apparently went nowhere.
When the library design was unveiled in 2002, officials predicted the building would cost $75 million and open in 2005. Last year, the price tag ballooned to $135 million, and groundbreaking was pushed back to 2009.
The call for partners has again put that groundbreaking on hold — but Arck emphasized that the library has not “scrapped” the project.
Councilwoman Letitia James (D–Fort Greene) remains a critic of the project, no matter who is funding it.
“There are many existing libraries that need air-conditioning, computers, more books and more staff to keep them open seven days a week,” James said. “Until resources are given to make those improvements, we should not build a new library that will only serve the needs of a few.”