Sunset clause: Activists sue to stop shadow-casting Heights Library tower

Brooklyn Paper
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The Brooklyn Heights Library sale was a shadowy deal, a new lawsuit alleges — but not in the way you think!

Activists are suing to stop the demolition of the branch, arguing the city didn’t do an adequate study into how the new library — and the luxury apartment tower above it — would impact the neighborhood before it agreed to sell the site to a developer last year.

Amongst other issues, the suit charges, it only considered how the building’s shadow will affect vegetation in local parks, but not how it will disturb parkgoers’ quest for sunshine.

“The fact that when these shadows occur a citizen of New York might be able to sit in the sunshine by going to a different park or moving around with shadows to other parts of the park belies the effects of the shadow on park users,” reads the lawsuit filed by anti-library-sale group Love Brooklyn Libraries, which will go before a judge on Friday.

The Mayor’s Office of Sustainabi­lity’s environmental review concluded that the proposed 36-story tower at Cadman Plaza West would not significantly affect the surrounding area, and therefore it didn’t need to do a longer study — a so-called environmental impact statement — which would have included a public input period.

But the activists’ suit claims the city ignored several ways the community would suffer, and now they’re demanding the court halt the work — set to begin in fall — for a more rigorous study.

The city disregarded not only how shadows would affect residents, but also the extra traffic construction trucks and new citizens would bring, the suit alleges.

Additionally, the assessment didn’t consider that the new branch inside the tower won’t have room for the old business library section, and disabled residents and seniors will have trouble reaching its new location in Prospect Heights’ Central Library, as it’s not near any handicap-friendly subway stops, the activists allege.

Finally, the city did not seriously explore whether the branch’s existing facade — a mid-century Beaux Arts number designed by Italian sculptor Clemente Spampinato and architect Francis Keally — is eligible for state and federal landmark status, the lawsuit claims.

By way of response, a City Hall rep pointed back to the 2015 assessment, which indeed states that the shadows won’t upset the flowers, but does not mention the vitamin D-starved humans.

It claims the building’s shadow will largely encroach on the Korean War Veterans’ Plaza in front of the post office, which has “low usage rates.”

It also claims the new building and library will only account for around 67 car trips coming in and out a day — while the overwhelming majority of residents and visitors will come and go via the subway — and the construction trucks won’t add a significant burden to the streets.

And, it says, the city did study whether the library was eligible for state or federal landmarking — name-checking both Spampinato and Keally — but found it wasn’t.

The assessment does not discuss the how moving the business library would impact seniors.

Local library lovers fought the city for years to save the book-lending depot as it is, but City Council ultimately okay the sale in December, after local member Councilman Steve Levin (D–Brooklyn Heights) negotiated some concessions and gave his blessing.

Now, the activists say, this lawsuit may be their last hope to preserve their beloved branch and keep parks shadow-free.

“This library should have been preserved and upgraded, not downgraded for demolition,” said Marsha Rimler, who is the president of Love Brooklyn Libraries. “This is the only way to stop it now.”

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

DM from Brooklyn Heights says:
NIMBY's are really grasping for straws. Cadman Plaza is already surrounded by tall buildings. In fact their shadow provides a relief from the summer heat. It would be nice to keep the library but the library's budget is tight and it's better to revamp this library and save ones in poorer neighborhoods with the money the library makes. If you are having trouble making it to Prospect Heights, you're probably not starting a business so losing the business library isn't a huge issue.
June 10, 2016, 8:15 am
Me from Bay Ridge says:
Yeah, it's not like the shadow stays in one place all day.
June 10, 2016, 9:45 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
Calling these people "activists" is what gives activism a bad name. If I ran the Brooklyn Paper, our house style guide would refer to them as "brats." (As in entitled children, not delicious sausages.)
June 10, 2016, 9:45 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
In all seriousness, these scumbags ought to move to San Francisco where such scumbags belong and have power. They have no place in a civilized decent place like Brooklyn.
June 10, 2016, 9:49 am
John Wasserman from Prospect Heights says:
Where were these people 80 years ago when they torn down most of downtown Brooklyn to make Camden Plaza? That was so true architecture.
June 10, 2016, 9:57 am
Me Neither says:
Brace yourselves for noise, crowds, garbage, destruction of parkland and sexual harassment today, in the name of cultural pride.
June 10, 2016, 11:54 am
Reggie Hammond says:
June 10, 2016, 12:02 pm
Marsha Rimler from Brooklyn Heights says:
Its about the TRAFFIC NIGHTMARE that will soon visit us at the corner or Cadman Plaza West
and Clinton St. two blocks from the Brooklyn Bridge.
June 10, 2016, 3:32 pm
Marsha Rimler from Brooklyn Heights says:
lovebrooklynlibrariesinc won in court today
Our case regarding violation of state environmental law and SEQRA was not dismissed and will go forward. Traffic and pollution are important issues.. Lets take it seriously.
visit our webisite
now on facebook
June 10, 2016, 3:38 pm
legal beagle says:
not dismissed ≠ won in court today. Okay, maybe a little bit.
June 10, 2016, 5:05 pm
Charles from Bklyn says:
The people complaining about the residents complaining are talking to themselves. Great communities protect themselves, thus why Brooklyn Heights is such a nice neighborhood. Congratulations on moving forward with your case.
June 10, 2016, 5:17 pm
marsha rimler from brooklyn heights says:
Many thanks to all our supporters who came out today. Thanks also for your fundraising dollars.
All donations are tax deductible.
Visit us at
now on face book
Round 1 lovebrooklynlibrariesinc. org 1
levin, lander, kramer ,deblasio 0
stay tuned
June 10, 2016, 8:34 pm
mpierce from brooklyn heights says: Sez:
Round 1 to David vs. Goliath.
Our one lawyer against at least 4-5 of theirs.
As we seek to force Goliath out of the shadows
and into the sunlight of full disclosure on
this shady deal.
June 10, 2016, 10:20 pm
marilyn berkon from brooklyn heights says:
The possible loss of our excellent Brooklyn Heights Library is a serious issue. There is no need to tear down this solid, strong building, when it is simply in need of air conditioner repair for the most part, something easily paid for by the city now awash in funds. There is no shortage of money in the city for repairs throughout the public library system. The 2015 budget surplus alone was over $4 billion. The library is being destroyed because de Blasio favors real estate friends in pay for play deals, and he will give this lucrative site for his friend's luxury condo. The replacement library is less than half the size. We will have 4 years of toxic construction with rats, vermin, truck and car emissions, nightmarish traffic tie ups throughout the boroughs because this is at an important intersection. How anyone could mock the impact that this will have on us and our environment is startling to me. When you are breathing in the toxins, or suffering the rats and vermin, or you are deprived of open sky and sunlight because a greedy developer decided that it's just fine to steal a beautiful library from the public, built by Francis Keally, who also designed the Grand Army Plaza, allow the public to suffer 4 years of this construction, slap them with an inferior substitute half the size, you will surely be asking why. The answer is simple. It's all for the developer to make billions of profit on this luxury condo! He and his cohorts in the city council and the mayor's office think that they can do whatever they want, that the public is stupid and powerless. We are neither. That is why we are moving ahead in the court, seeking justice for a public that would indeed be powerless without laws that exist to protect them from greedy people who are in fact trespassers and thieves. Remember that we own this library because we have been paying for it with our taxes. Be proud that we are fighting to save it.
June 11, 2016, 1:02 am
John Wasserman from Prospect Heights says:
Hello, John Wasserman here. Remember those late 90's ads for Budweiser where everyone says "WAATTTSSSS UP?!??!" I often walk into a room and say "WASSERMAN!?!?!?!" in the same style. Pretty good, eh? Pardon my interruption. John Wasserman
June 11, 2016, 7:21 am
Orangish says:
If only Jackie O were still around. She fought off shadows with success.
June 11, 2016, 2:03 pm
Orangish says:
The people of San Francisco are protecting a unique and special landscape. More power to them.
June 11, 2016, 2:07 pm
Tanya from Tooters says:
Shade is like sunglasses for poor people. They should respect that, and not be so snobby.
June 12, 2016, 12:23 pm
Jackie Brown from Sunset Park says:
So who is getting all the money?
June 12, 2016, 11:44 pm
Winter from Brooklyn Heights says:
I agree with Jackie Brown - give us the money! We want the money!
June 13, 2016, 4:18 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
Marsha Rimler is getting the money. That's why she's writing comments about "give me money."
June 13, 2016, 12:23 pm
actual librarian says:
Too bad these guys don't actually give a crap about the library at all. NEVER present during budget hearings NEVER present to actually try and fix the situation. This has NOTHING to do with libraries and everything to do with rich people trying to keep their nabe for them and them alone.
June 14, 2016, 2:56 pm
S says:
Marilyn, does it help your cause to lie about the size of the new library?
June 17, 2016, 12:30 pm
Edward Fredricks from Brooklyn heights says:
If you live on Joralemon st(Which I do)
You will overwhelmingly say NO MORE
I has become a nightmare with all the new
pedestrian traffic hitting Brooklyn heights.
It is a small community being force fed
more and more. All the MAJOR development around the heights is only hurting this
Put too much stuff in a boat and it will sink.
June 22, 2016, 3:57 pm

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