Red Hook library privatization plan panned

Space-worked: This rendering of the planned Red Hook library branch downplays the dance studio in the back.
The Brooklyn Paper
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A scheme to rent out a big chunk of the Red Hook library branch to an arts group is a sweetheart deal that sells out everyday bookworms, residents argued at a packed community board meeting inside the branch on Thursday.

Dozens turned out to the evening meeting of Community Board 6’s land use committee concerning the fate of the library, most to condemn the privatization plan.

“Taking away the library would be killing parents who need it for their kids,” said Lydia Bellahcene, a Sunset Park resident who said she lived her entire life in Red Hook before Hurricane Sandy displaced her.

The committee ultimately decided to postpone voting on the issue till August, saying it did not have enough information to go on. The committee let it be known that if before the next meeting the library moves forward with the push, which entails carving up three- or four-tenths of the prose dispensary to allow the real estate organization Spaceworks to rent it out to performance artists at supposedly affordable rates, it is opposed.

Construction on the dance- and theater-studio space would coincide with other needed repairs, according to library officials. The whole project will run $1.8 million, with Spaceworks pitching in $650,000 to build its studios, library officials said. Both the library system and Spaceworks have refused to disclose how much the arts group will pay in rent.

The library was shuttered for months following Hurricane Sandy after the storm wreaked $750,000 in damage, a library honcho said. The renovations will close the library for at least eight months, the executive said, stressing the need for the branch to get fixed up regardless of the Spaceworks plan.

“We can’t solve everything, and we need to work with partners,” said David Wolloch, executive vice president of the Brooklyn Public Library.

Thursday was not the first time the proposal came before the board’s land use committee. The group okayed the plan at its June meeting, but revisited it after the panel’s executive board ruled there had not been enough public discussion. At the latest meeting, some committee members criticized the library and Spaceworks for leaving out key details of the plan. The partners’ presentation included renderings, but lacked a floor plan and a breakdown of which renovations the library could afford without the $650,000 from Spaceworks.

“Seven thousand five hundred square feet cut in half is not a big library,” said board member Jerry Armer, referring to the building’s total floor area. “This presentation is lacking and you want us to make a decision tonight? That’s crazy.”

Not everyone opposed the subdividing scheme. Cora Dance, a local dance group that would partner with Spaceworks to run the studios in the library, had several supporters in the crowd.

“This program would help us tremendous­ly,” said Solomon Goodwin, a college student from Red Hook who said he studied at Cora Dance and has also worked there as a teacher. “We’re here to help kids grow.”

Carlos Menchaca (D–Sunset Park) attended the meeting, but told this paper he is waiting to hear from more residents before taking a position on the plan.

Reach reporter Noah Hurowitz at or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow him on Twitter @noahhurowitz
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

da editah says:
"...three- or four-tenths of the prose depot...." That is some bad writing.
July 25, 2014, 7:57 am
notonmywatch from brooklyn says:
the executive committee pushed it back because there was NO NOTICE to the public before the last land use / landmarks committee meeting which would lead to no discussion.
July 25, 2014, 8:45 am
notonmywatch from brooklyn says:
Article failed to point out that State Senator Velmanette Montgomery spoke and was present the entire evening and Department of Cultural Affairs commissioner - Tom Finkelpearl spoke and was present for at least half an hour after speaking.

Eyes and ears on this process seem to be growing.
July 25, 2014, 1:53 pm
Mrs Wilson from Brooklyn says:
The only way I could support art or dance curriculum programs in public libraries would be if the program were created and run by the NYPL, and if it were free.
July 25, 2014, 2:40 pm
passionate library user from Fort Greene says:
This is Bloomberg-style privatization and if unchecked will eventually spread to all NYC libraries. Kill it off and let Spaceworks find its own site.
July 26, 2014, 12:43 pm
Sean from SoHo says:
Privitization is what's going to pay for the upkeep and repairs of this place. Oppose it if you want to be further indebted as a taxpayer. I'd rather see the space go to more efficient use than in the hands of bureaucrats.
July 27, 2014, 12:47 am
notonmywatch from brooklyn says:

You have indirectly hit the nail on the head.

A library has been traditionally funded.

Somehow, somewhere, someone got the bright idea in their head to decrease the library funding and increase their pet project funding.

If this goes through, mark my words, library funding will decrease anyways as they aren't using all the space traditionally supported by the city and state.

The trustees should be ashamed. And removed.
July 27, 2014, 9:34 am
K. from Arkady says:
If communists are people who steal from private property owners, what do we call people who steal from the commons? Think hard, now...

Thieves are thieves, regardless of political labeling.
July 27, 2014, 12:49 pm
K. from Arkady says:
Also: bonus evil points for putting a loud bumping dance studio inside a library. I mean, you can't make this stuff up.
July 27, 2014, 12:59 pm
Ian from Williamsburg says:
Libraries are becoming obsolete. Access to all the books is available in the palm of your hand. Let it go.
July 27, 2014, 1:31 pm
Mike from Maspeth says:
So Ian, you think that information should only be available to those who can afford smart phones, service contracts, etc? So screw the poor, huh?

Library use is up almost 50% in the past few years, and a lot of that is people coming to use computers they can't afford at home.

So unless you believe in the best government that money can buy, you better think again.
July 28, 2014, 11:01 am

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