Brooklyn Public Library to sell off Boerum Hill’s Carnegie branch

The Brooklyn Paper
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The Brooklyn Public Library wants to sell-off the beloved, Carnegie-era Pacific Street branch to escape $9-million in repair costs.

“It’s not completely dilapidated, but it’s a building that has more capital needs than the average branch in the Brooklyn Public Library system. It would take a lot of resources to bring the infrastructure up to where it needs to be,” said Brooklyn Public Library official Josh Nachowitz. “Selling the Pacific Street library will get us out from under the significant capital costs from that building.”

It’s the same tactic the library is using with the Brooklyn Heights branch, which is also on the block due to a hefty repair bill.

As part of that money-saving plan, library officials will replace the Pacific Street branch — built in 1903 as the first library in Brooklyn funded by steel magnate Andrew Carnegie — with a new location inside a mixed-use skyscraper slated to be developed just blocks away in the BAM Cultural District in Fort Greene for little to no cost, said Nachowitz.

Two Trees Management Co., the development firm that plans to build a 32-story tower on the site bounded by Flatbush Avenue, Lafayette Avenue, and Ashland Place, has offered up 16,500-square-feet of street level space for the new library branch. Nachowitz said that the opportunity to sell the Pacific branch and replace it with a brand new “technology-rich” one that will be 1,000-square-feet larger for nearly no cost is a rare circumstance that the library cannot pass up.

“By doing this we are able to provide a brand new state-of-the-art facility for the Boerum Hill, Park Slope, Fort Greene community and at the same time we’ll be able to use our limited capital resources to better maintain our branches where we don’t have these opportunit­ies,” he said.

The sale proceeds of the city-owned Pacific branch will be used to pay for the interior build-out of the new branch, said Nachowitz. Any extra money will go back into the system and be put towards the library’s 60 branch buildings that are in need of a whopping $230-million in repairs.

The Pacific branch’s grand building on Fourth Avenue, which also houses a public community meeting room separate from the main library, needs roof work, boiler repairs, and window replacements, as well as “exterior and interior renovation” that the library cannot afford on its annual maintenance budget of about $15-million, library officials said. Brooklyn’s first Carnegie library will be sold to a developer once the new facility is completed likely in 2017.

Locals fear that a private developer will buy up the property and demolish the iconic, yet un-landmarked building.

“This is a historic public property and the beautiful library building should be restored, landmarked, and most importantly remain public,” said Gowanus resident and Pacific Street branch patron Sabine Aronowsky. “There is no substitute for a beautiful space and connection to history that a Carnegie-era library brings.”

“We desperately need to preserve this historic building that forms the edge of our community, embraces our unique history and is important in securing our identity as an historic neighborhood that has been here since before the Civil War,” said longtime Boerum Hill resident Nancy Steinson Ehrlich.

The sale requires the approval of the City Council — a process that would not begin until late 2013 or 2014, said library officials.

Reach reporter Natalie Musumeci at or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her at
Updated 5:40 pm, July 9, 2018: Thanks to commenter Paul from Park Slope for pointing out the Pacific Street branch's historical significance as the first Carnegie library built in Brooklyn. Hat tip!
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Reasonable discourse

Lisa from Bay Ridge says:
This is absurd, with all the recourses of NYC and the taxes collected the city cannot maintain and keep this wonderful building? IMHO it looks pretty good to me.Why wasn't this included in the Billion dollar transformation plan for "Barclays terminal" aka Atlantic Ave station. Lets not see Penn station happen again to Brooklyn. Save our heritage, save our buildings.
Feb. 12, 2013, 8:51 am
BunnynSunny from Clinton Hill says:
I wish our neighborhood had a beautiful library like that. We have a tiny little one-room space with no air-conditioning in a building that looks completely out of place with the rest of the buildings on the street.
Feb. 12, 2013, 9:23 am
BenF from CH says:
If we sell our libraries, raze our historic structures, sell off our hospitals and sell out our parks-- all so that more "luxury condos" can be built-- will this still be Brooklyn and will people still want to live here?
Feb. 12, 2013, 9:53 am
Paul from Park Slope says:
This has the stink of Ratner all over it. That building underwent extensive renovation less than 5 years ago, so what's the real story here? And this is not just a library "...built with Carnegie money." This is the first Carnegie library built in Brooklyn, in the classic Carnegie style. Why has Landmarks never considered correctly designating it?

And why is the city so anxious to sell off land in order to pay rent to Two Trees? Do you really think we're not paying attention?
Feb. 12, 2013, 10:28 am
Scott from Park Slope says:
$9 million to put in new windows and a wifi node is a little high, don't they think? Sounds like the same gang that took 4 years and millions of dollars to put a wheelchair ramp (without even making the interior doors handicapped accessible) and coat of paint on the Park Slope branch. Can we get somebody in the BPL administration who understands what construction ought to cost and who is not so profligate with public funds? Barring that, how about getting the neighbors together to paint and renovate the building a la Habitat for Humanity?
Feb. 12, 2013, 10:48 am
Bob Marvin from Prospect Lefferts Gardens says:
Vandalism. pure and simple. An historic building, like a Carnegie library is a trust to be held for generations to come.
Feb. 12, 2013, 10:56 am
Marsha from brooklyn heights says:
The plan by the library to destroy 2 branches is awful
awful. Who other than developers and those that work,lobby and expect patronage from them would be for it. It needs to go back to the drawing boards.. fast or those that came up with it need to go.
Feb. 12, 2013, 11:18 am
Homey from Crooklyn says:
Nine million my ass...pure corruption.
Feb. 12, 2013, Noon
Ambrosia from Brooklyn, Heights says:
Why not sell off ALL OUR LIBRARIES. Who needs light, air,
Beautiful Structures. No, no no! Let's pack the people in like Rats. Let's build Condos instead of hospitals. More money, more money, more money.
Feb. 12, 2013, 12:06 pm
Michael D.D. White from Brooklyn Heights says:
This has to be looked at in terms of what is happening system-wide.

The recently upgraded 42nd Street research library stacks are being ripped out.

The Brooklyn Heights branch has a $700K HVAC issue to deal with that has been exaggerated by the BPL into a supposedly $3 million repair, misreported in a Brooklyn Paper as a $9 million repair so that the Brooklyn Paper gave the impression that that Library Repairs total at the Heights Branch would be well in excess of that ($12 Million? $15 million?).--

At the same time the system is being shrunk and the libraries underfunded with our wealthy city making cuts in funding when usage is up 40% for programs and 60% for circulation. The focus is on selling of the system assets to create real estate deals.

For more, see Noticing New York: Libraries That Are Now Supposedly “Dilapidated” Were Just Renovated: And Are Developers’ Real Estate Deals More Important Than Bryant Park?
Feb. 12, 2013, 12:34 pm
Preserve Public Libraries from NYC says:
Sign the petition here:
Feb. 15, 2013, 11:41 am

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