Civic Council to CPC: Keep BAM South, Pacific Library Plans Separate

The Park Slope Civic Council has called on the New York City Planning Commission to separate proposals for the BAM South development and a new local library, rather than view them as the same plan.

The Brooklyn Public Library recently proposed closing the historic Pacific Library, at Pacific Street and Fourth Avenue, and moving its greatly needed resources to a new tower being proposed for the BAM South triangle across from the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

The Pacific Branch of BPL

Earlier this month, the Civic Council unanimously passed a resolution urging the preservation of the Pacific Street branch, calling for landmark status for the structure and for services to remain at this underserved location.

In the letter to CPC Chair Amanda Burden, Civic Council President Michael Cairl wrote that at various public presentations, the planned move “is represented as a ‘one deal,’ with the BPL going so far as to say that they currently are developing [a memorandum of understanding] with the NYC Office of Management and Budget to assure that proceeds from the library sale are allowed to be used to build out the new library at BAM South.”

Cairl noted that the branch, the first “Carnegie” library in Brooklyn, “is one of the few architecturally distinctive buildings left on the up-zoned Fourth Avenue. I can attest personally to deep community attachment to both the building and the original purpose of the library: ‘to promote social well-being and the ability of residents of underserved communities to engage in self-improvement through access to knowledge.’ The Pacific Branch continues to serve the low- and moderate-income population for which it was created. It is used by three local schools that have no library of their own, and provides a wide range of programs serving a population from toddlers to senior citizens. Moving the library function to a different neighborhood which, while geographically close, is of a very different socio-economic profile, and could only be reached by crossing one of the busiest, and most dangerous intersections in Brooklyn (the Flatbush Avenue, Atlantic Avenue, Fourth Avenue junction), amounts to an abandonment of the population it currently serves.”

With the tremendous growth expected in the Downtown Brooklyn’s population, he added, the community could well be served by two libraries.

The proposed BAM cultural library, back in 2007, from Ten Arquitectos

The proposed BAM cultural library, back in 2007, from Ten Arquitectos

“While the original Downtown Brooklyn Plan envisioned a library at the BAM South site, it was never intended as a replacement library; the original intent was that it would be a culturally focused library. I would personally be happy to see additional libraries in the area — the new influx of people occupying the high-rises in the downtown Brooklyn area suggests adding more resources to that area. At the same time, the increase of population along Fourth Avenue resulting from the up-zoning of that street, has no doubt influenced that fact that public use of the Pacific Branch has increased close to 60 percent over the past ten years and keeps increasing. …

“Many of us who live near the Pacific Branch library, use it, and experience it as critical to our sense of place in the community are justifiably concerned the Brooklyn Public Library System intends to use approval of the BAM South project as a fait accompli for city approval of the BPL’s plan to move the Pacific Branch library into it. This should not, and need not, be allowed to occur.”

To learn more about the issue, e-mail the Civic Council’s Forth on Fourth Avenue Committee at fofa@parkslopeciviccouncil.org or Historic District Committee at historic.district@parkslopeciviccouncil.org.

 

Letter to CPC Chair Amanda Burden, March 14, 2013

Dear Commissioner Burden:

This letter concerns the proposed BAM South project, which proposes the construction of a large, multi-use building across from the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM).

There are three actions before the City Planning Commission related to BAM South including a text amendment, a zoning map change and a special permit. The BAM South project is of particular concern to the Park Slope Civic Council because, until very recently, it was not understood that the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) plans to use the public library in the BAM South project to replace an existing public library.

According to public presentations made by the BPL, the construction of the BAM South project will be tied to the sale of the Pacific Branch Library, located at 25 Fourth Avenue, at Pacific Street, at an intersection of the northwest Park Slope and Boerum Hill neighborhoods. As stated on the BPL website, “The Two Trees Management Company, a Brooklyn-based real estate developer, is currently building a multiuse cultural and housing complex at the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Ashland Place, two blocks from the existing Pacific branch. BPL has an exciting opportunity to build a new, 16,500-square-foot branch to replace the current aging facility … BPL plans to sell the existing Pacific branch and use the proceeds generated by the sale to pay for the fit out of the new Pacific branch.” At public presentations, this plan is represented as a “done deal,” with the BPL going so far as to say that they currently are developing an MOU with the NYC Office of Management and Budget to assure that proceeds from the library sale are allowed to be used to build out the new library at BAM South.

The Pacific Branch Library, which opened on October 8, 1904, was the first “Carnegie” library in Brooklyn. It was designed by noted architect Raymond Francis Almirall, who designed two buildings in Park Slope, Bath House No 7 on Fourth Avenue, and the Park Slope branch of the BPL, that are already designated landmarks, as well as other notable buildings in the United States. The Pacific Branch is one of the few architecturally distinctive buildings left on the up-zoned Fourth Avenue. I can attest personally to deep community attachment to both the building and the original purpose of the library: “to promote social well-being and the ability of residents of underserved communities to engage in self-improvement through access to knowledge.” The Pacific Branch continues to serve the low- and moderate-income population for which it was created. It is used by three local schools that have no library of their own, and provides a wide range of programs serving a population from toddlers to senior citizens. Moving the library function to a different neighborhood which, while geographically close, is of a very different socio-economic profile, and could only be reached by crossing one of the busiest, and most dangerous intersections in Brooklyn (the Flatbush Avenue, Atlantic Avenue, Fourth Avenue junction), amounts to an abandonment of the population it currently serves.

Additionally, with the tremendous growth in population in Downtown Brooklyn, the approved Atlantic Yards project with more than 6,000 new units of housing to be constructed and the increased population along Fourth Avenue connected to the up-zoning, two public libraries are needed to serve the surrounding communities.

While the original Downtown Brooklyn Plan envisioned a library at the BAM South site, it was never intended as a replacement library; the original intent was that it would be a culturally focused library. I would personally be happy to see additional libraries in the area – the new influx of people occupying the high-rises in the down- town Brooklyn area suggests adding more resources to that area. At the same time, the increase of population along Fourth Avenue resulting from the up-zoning of that street, has no doubt influenced that fact that public use of the Pacific Branch has increased close to 60 percent over the past ten years and keeps increasing.

Local community support for the Pacific Library staying in place is strong. In its March 2013 meeting the Park Slope Civic Council’s Board of Trustees unanimously passed a resolution authorizing the resubmission of a re- quest for Landmark evaluation. The resolution also stated “Public affirmation of the belief that the services pro- vided by the existing Pacific Branch Library should continue to be provided in the current Pacific Branch location, thereby remaining in the neighborhood immediately served by the library” and authorized “collaboration with other organizations working to sustain the Pacific Branch library, including active support of public forums and campaigns directed toward that end.”

In considering the BAM South proposal it is very important that any approval for the proposal be unbundled from either tacit or explicit endorsement of the move of the Pacific Branch (and the resulting sale of the Pacific Branch building) to the BAM South site. Many of us who live near the Pacific Branch library, use it, and experience it as critical to our sense of place in the community are justifiably concerned the Brooklyn Public Library System intends to use approval of the BAM South project as a fait accompli for city approval of the BPL’s plan to move the Pacific Branch library into it. This should not, and need not, be allowed to occur.

Thank you for your consideration. Very truly yours,

Michael Cairl

President