More than a half-dozen book lovers demanded that a Brooklyn Heights civic group denounce a plan to tear down the neighborhood’s art deco library and build a tower in its place.
Members of the group Citizens Defending Libraries who showed up at the annual meeting of the Brooklyn Heights Association Thursday night ordered the century-old group’s leadership to condemn the Brooklyn Public Library’s plan to sell its building to a skyscraper developer and relegate a new library to the lower floors, claiming only it has the power to stop the project before it starts.
“If the BHA stood up against this plan it would be dead,” said Michael White, a 25-year Heights Association member and co-founder of Citizens Defending Libraries.
The outburst came during a question-and-answer session with audience members near the end of the meeting. Attendees had been asked to write their questions on note cards prior to the meeting, and when the bookworms realized their questions were being skipped over, things got heated.
“I would like my question addressed,” shouted Justine Swartz, another member of the group.
But Heights Association president Alexandra Bowie then abruptly ended the meeting, angering the library lovers even further.
The Brooklyn Public Library claims the Heights branch, on Cadman Plaza West between Clinton and Pierrepont streets, needs $9 million in capital repairs, more than the system can afford to shoulder. It would use the money garnered from hawking the development rights of the property to build a smaller branch in the new tower.
The plan, which was conceived under the Bloomberg Administration, is part of a grander scheme to fill Library coffers while selling of some of its more expensive real estate. The new money would then be used to improve Library services, according to Library officials. Another Library building targeted by the plan was the historic Pacific Branch on Fourth Avenue at Pacific Street, the first Library building constructed using funds provided by 19th-century steel magnate Andrew Carnegie. That proposal was put on hold after residents rallied against it.
But even though Brooklyn Heights Association leadership chose not to denounce the plan on Thursday, that doesn’t mean it has ruled out being involved in the local branch’s future.
“If it’s going to happen, then we might as well negotiate,” said Association first vice president Patrick Killackey after the meeting. “We think our best interests are served by working with the Library.”