Brooklyn Public Library Defends Redevelopment

March 13, 2014

BPL's President, Linda Johnson, says the library needs to sell air rights to raise capital.

BPL’s President, Linda Johnson, says the library needs to sell air rights to raise capital.

By Marc Bussanich 

New York, NY—Last summer the Brooklyn Public Library issued an RFP to redevelop the Brooklyn Heights branch property because it claims the branch’s unmet capital needs equal about $9 million. Two Brooklyn pols, Councilman Stephen Levin and Public Advocate Tish James, expressed their concerns with BPL’s plans. Video 

During a City Council hearing on Tuesday, March 11, Levin first asked Linda Johnson, BPL’s president, why is the library considering the redevelopment plan now when it has had capital backlogs for a long time.

“Was this [plan] ever considered before and if it was, why was it rejected then?” asked Levin.

Johnson responded she didn’t know whether there was a previous plan but said the redevelopment would allow BPL to realize new revenue and be able to provide a brand new facility.

“This is an opportunity to extract a significant amount of value and spend it in neighborhoods where it’s sorely needed,” said Johnson.

But Levin challenged Johnson, by asking how would the Brooklyn Heights redevelopment—selling development rights to developers—not establish a precedent throughout the borough.

Johnson said the library is pursuing a real estate deal with a private developer because it’s a good solution to solve the library’s capital dilemma.

“The practical answer is that we’re doing it because we feel the need exists and because it’s such a good solution—it’s sort of a number of factors coming together in a way that we can’t ignore,” said Johnson. “In terms of precedent, that’s actually what you are doing today—making sure we’re being prudent and taking the right steps for the library and the community.”

The public advocate then asked Johnson does the redevelopment plan call for building affordable and not just luxury housing at the Brooklyn Heights branch.

Johnson said there is affordable housing in the plan but BPL has yet to approve a final developer.

“We haven’t selected a developer and therefore we don’t have a final plan at this time.”

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March 12, 2014

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