The full New York City Council voted decisively on Wednesday to approve the controversial proposal to sell and develop the Brooklyn Heights Library.
The vote was 45 to one with three abstentions. Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to sign off on the plan.
The library site, at 280 Cadman Plaza West, will be sold to developer Hudson Companies for $52 million. Hudson plans to build a 36-story luxury tower, with a new, smaller Brooklyn Heights branch on the ground floor and below ground. Marvel Architects will design the building. In addition, 114 units of affordable housing will be built in Clinton Hill.
As opponents in the balcony booed, members of the Council heaped praise on Councilmember Stephen Levin (Brooklyn Heights – Williamsburg – Greenpoint) for negotiating a slew of concessions that sweetened the deal.
The revised plan includes increased floor space in the new branch library, to 26,620 square feet from the original proposal’s 21,500 square feet. (The current usable space equals roughly 32,000 square feet, according to BPL, though the site has close to 60,000 square feet in total.)
Other sweeteners include an on-site 3,000-square-foot Technology & Business Services Center; a new 5,000-square-foot library in the DUMBO / Vinegar Hill area; a 9,000-square-foot STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) lab; increased service and programing at the Heights branch; and a profit-sharing arrangement that gives the library a quarter of the developer’s profits exceeding an internal rate of return of 19 percent (less $1.5 million).
The City Council Land Use Committee voted to approve the sale last Thursday after Levin announced his support. Following that vote, some library advocates called Levin a “sellout” and labeled the sale of the city-owned building a “fire sale.”
On Wednesday, Councilmember David Greenfield, chair of the Land Use Committee, worked to change this perception.
“The reality is that our public libraries are underfunded and have been for decades,” he said. “And so the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) has a very practical problem, which is that libraries across Brooklyn are crumbling. They need the resources to pay for it, and they can’t hope and pray that resources are going to fall from the sky.
“I respect the opposition and I want those who opposed the deal to know that as a result of your insistence, this has become a better deal,” Greenfield said. “You had concerns. Your councilmember took those into consideration and worked 18 hours a day for the last few weeks to try to address as many of those as possible.”
Greenfield added that “this may be one of the best deals that we’ve ever had.”