He is carrying the weight of a 36-story tower on his shoulders.
Councilman Stephen Levin (D–Brooklyn Heights) expects to have the decisive vote on a controversial plan to sell the Brooklyn Heights library branch to a housing developer after the City Planning Commission approved the scheme on Monday — but he is keeping mum on which way that vote will go.
The commission voted 10–0 with two abstentions in favor of the city’s proposal to sell the Cadman Plaza West site to developer Hudson Companies for $52 million and allow it to build a residential skyscraper and new library in its place, which means the Council will now make its decision.
Members typically follow the lead of the local representative when voting on land-use issues — in this case, Levin — but the councilman refuses to say which direction he might steer them until the proposal officially comes before the Council, a spokesman said.
“We’re not making a public statement on the Brooklyn Heights library project because it hasn’t come before the Council yet,” said Levin’s deputy chief of staff Casey Adams, adding the team does believe his boss’s opinion will be crucial. “Traditionally, Council members defer to the member in whose district a land use project is located and we expect that will continue to be the case.”
Some — including many members of the local community board, which approved the plan in July — back the Brooklyn Public Library’s claim that selling off the valuable land is the only way the borough’s cash-strapped book-borrowing system can fix the shabby-looking Heights branch and other run-down outposts.
But critics — notably Borough President Adams, who rejected the plan in September — have slammed the proposal, arguing Hudson’s design will shrink the current library space, add even more kids to already overcrowded local schools, and unfairly segregate the rich from the poor by siting all below-market-rate housing associated with the project several neighborhoods away in Clinton Hill.
The community board’s and Beep’s opinions are ultimately only advisory, however — the Council vote is the one that really matters.
“We are looking at how this project affects the amount and type of library space available to the community and how it fits in with other pressing concerns in the neighborhood, like the overcrowding at PS 8,” said Casey Adams.
The Council doesn’t always fall into line with local members’ wishes — in 2009, members overruled Levin’s predecessor David Yassky to support rezoning land in Dumbo for a 17-story tower.
The Council now has 50 days to vote on the plan following the planning commission’s thumbs up on Monday. Mayor DeBlasio can then veto its decision, but Council members can also overrule him if two-thirds of the pols join forces to do so.