Skip to main content

Pacific branch library building adjacent to Atlantic Yards site too expensive to repair, destined to close; will it be demolished?

Photo from library web site
The Pacific branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, at Fourth Avenue and Pacific Street just below the western plot (Site 5, home of P.C. Richard and Modell's) of the Atlantic Yards footprint, may be doomed.

From the Daily News, Brooklyn Public Library plans to sell two dilapidated branches and move them into smaller locations: Brooklyn Heights and Boerum Hill branches on the block:
Brooklyn Public Library officials are taking the controversial step of selling off two dilapidated branches.
The two libraries on the block, the Brooklyn Heights and Pacific branch in Boerum Hill, are in need of crippling repair costs the system can’t afford, a BPL official said.
The Brooklyn Heights branch on Cadman Plaza West would be sold to a developer as early as next year, keeping a smaller version of the library on the ground floor and building apartments over the existing complex.
Plans also call for the building that houses the Pacific branch on Fourth Ave. to be sold,
with the library moving to a planned building in the newly-created Brooklyn Cutlural District.
The Pacific branch would remain open until the new building was completed in 2016, said Nachowitz.
What's not clear is what will happen to the Pacific branch, a historic building--the first Carnegie library to open in Brooklyn, in 1904--but not a landmarked one. It need not be preserved. So it could be demolished for a larger building that encompasses not just its footprint but the low-slung city building next door.

Or, should there be sufficient pressure, the building--or at least a part of it--could be preserved as part of a larger development. Otherwise, one significant link to the past would be erased. Plans must be approved by City Council.

I queried the library yesterday about plans for the building, but didn't hear back.

New branch

A new branch is apparently destined a few blocks north. From the Brooklyn Paper, Looking for apartments: Two Trees seeks zoning change to allow more housing near BAM:
A developer has the green-light to put up a skyscraper on a marquee spot right next to the Williamsburgh Savings Bank — but the builder wants to fill the tower with nearly double the permissible amount of housing.
Two Trees Management Co. needs the city to sign off on its plan to put 300 apartments inside the proposed 32-story tower, dedicating about 86 percent of floor space to residences when current zoning only allows a max of about 53 percent.
The development company claims putting about 300,000 square feet of apartments above 50,000 square feet of commercial space and cultural offerings — including three Brooklyn Academy of Music theaters, a new home for the Pacific Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, and a rehearsal space managed by 651 Arts — is a far better proposal than the tallest possible structure it could build without a zoning change, which would set aside about 152,000 square feet for arts and commercial tenants and 171,000 square feet for housing.
It is not uncommon, in cities around the country, to put new libraries in mixed-used buildings, as is planned near BAM and also in Brooklyn Heights. It's seen as a way of harnessing the private market--which gets the benefit of added density on sites once occupied by lower-rise buildings--not unlike the way other public benefits, such as affordable housing, are achieved.

At the same time, without public vigilance, developers can get the upper hand, as Michael D.D. White warns in a Noticing New York post.

Branch history

From the library's web site:
The Pacific Branch was the first Carnegie Branch to open to the public in Brooklyn, on October 8th, 1904. Pacific's architect, Raymond Almirall, also designed the architecturally notable Eastern Parkway and Park Slope branches for the Brooklyn Public Library system. The New York Tribune praised the new branch for its classical and dignified design. Describing the second-floor children's room, the Tribune's writer went on to write that Pacific is the most completely equipped room for children in the country, with tables and chairs built especially for children. Other features included a rotunda with interior semi-circular iron balcony, fine wood work on the banisters, doors, doorways and arches, a tiled fireplace and wood panelling.
Problems soon beset the fine new library. In 1914 construction of the BMT subway system caused structural damage, and in 1917 all of the children's books and one third of the adult books were ruined by the water used to control a fire. In the 1930s W.P.A. workers created a large second-floor mural which has unfortunately not survived. After another fire in 1973, the building was slated for demolition, but community activists and the Brooklyn Public Library worked together to save it from the wrecker's ball.
After extensive renovation, the Pacific Branch reopened to the public in 1975. For almost 100 years the Pacific Branch has served a changing community. The branch, which boasts an active Friend's group, looks forward to serving the people of this busy crossroads neighborhood for generations to come through its wide range of information and recreational resources, its video collection and its innovative events and programs.
From the Atlantic Yards environmental review

From Chapter 7, Cultural Resources, of the November 2006 Final Environmental Impact Statement
Brooklyn Public Library, Pacific Branch (S/NR-eligible, NYCL-eligible). The Pacific Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library is located at the southeast corner of 4th Avenue and Pacific Street across from the project site (see No. 19 of Figure 7-2 and Figure 7-16). It was the first Carnegie Library to open in Brooklyn. Built in 1904, it was designed by Raymond F. Almirall (1869-1939), a Brooklyn-born architect who also designed the library at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn and the Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank on Chambers Street in Manhattan. The Pacific Branch library is an imposing red brick structure. Designed in the Beaux Arts style, it is detailed with robust limestone ornaments, including a cornice with torcheres and swags, and large consoles over the first floor.
...The area’s prosperity in the early part of the 20th century is evidenced by the construction of the BPL, Pacific Branch, in 1904 at 25 4th Avenue, and the new BAM at 30 Lafayette Avenue in 1908. The opening of the Manhattan Bridge in 1909 provided a direct connection to Flatbush Avenue, which made it one of the city’s busiest thoroughfares for the first half of the 20th century. New industries opened in the area surrounding the LIRR rail yard.
From Chapter 7, Construction Impacts:
The only community facility that would experience a significant adverse impact is the Pacific Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, which would experience significant adverse impacts from noise [at least if the project had been built as announced] between 2007 and 2009.
The analysis shows the potential for significant adverse noise impacts at the Pacific Street Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. Measurements of internal/external noise levels at the library undertaken in October 2006 showed that the library’s windows/walls provide approximately 20 dBA of attenuation. In addition, the library is already air conditioned. Therefore, during the 1st three years of construction—2007, 2008, and 2009—interior L10 noise levels within the library building during periods of peak construction would be in the range of approximately 50 to mid-50 dBA. This would be above the 45-50 dBA L10 noise level range that would be desirable for this type of land use. Consequently, as noted in the DEIS, construction of the proposed project would result in a significant adverse impact at this library. This impact would be of limited duration and magnitude. Since the issuance of the DEIS, noise mitigation measures that would include additional acoustic treatment for the library windows on the Pacific Street side were identified. With this measure, the significant adverse construction noise impact on the Pacific Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library would be mitigated.


  1. Historic buildings - - and those having been used as libraries - - should absolutely be preserved / appropriately renovated / declared historic landmarks, and maintained as libraries for the public.

  2. Anonymous12:55 PM

    It is a gorgeous building, but is in horrific shape in the interior. Several years ago emergency roof work was done to avoid a collapse, but all administrative departments were moved to other locations permanently. I'm pretty sure the upstairs meeting room is still off-limits due to structural unsoundness. I don't know if internal renovations are possible but they certainly wouldn't be affordable. The Park Slope branch was renovated (took over 3 years and was very expensive), but that branch was always heavily used and beloved by its community. The Pacific branch never was that beloved. It sits at the crossroads of major transit hubs of course, but doesn't feel like a part of the neighborhood. Most serious library users would just hop the B41 to Central - barely a 10 minute ride.

    1. Actually, I've been in the upstairs meeting room in recent months.

      It would be useful, of course, to have a full assessment of the costs of renovation, including costs to operate as a library as well as cost to maintain it in some other form.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

Barclays Center event June 11 to protest plans to expand Israeli draft; questions about logistics

At right is a photo of a poster spotted in Hasidic Williamsburg right. Clearly there's an event scheduled at the Barclays Center aimed at the Haredi Jewish community (strict Orthodox Jews who reject secular culture), but the lack of English text makes it cryptic.

The website explains, Protest Against Israeli Draft of Bnei Yeshiva Rescheduled for Barclays Center:
A large asifa to protest the drafting of bnei yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel into the Israeli army that had been set to take place this month will instead be held on Sunday, 17 Sivan/June 11, at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, NY. So attendees at a big gathering will protest an apparent change of policy that will make it much more difficult for traditional Orthodox Jewish students--both Hasidic (who follow a rebbe) and non-Hasidic (who don't)--to get deferments from the draft. Comments on the Yeshiva World website explain some of the debate.

The logistical questions

What's unclear is how large the ev…

Atlanta's Atlantic Yards moves ahead

First mentioned in April, the Atlantic Yards project in Atlanta is moving ahead--and has the potential to nudge Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn further down in Google searches.

According to a 5/30/17 press release, Hines and Invesco Real Estate Announce T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards:
Hines, the international real estate firm, and Invesco Real Estate, a global real estate investment manager, today announced a joint venture on behalf of one of Invesco Real Estate’s institutional clients to develop two progressive office projects in Atlanta totalling 700,000 square feet. T3 West Midtown will be a 200,000-square-foot heavy timber office development and Atlantic Yards will consist of 500,000 square feet of progressive office space in two buildings. Both projects are located on sites within Atlantic Station in the flourishing Midtown submarket.
Hines will work with Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA) as the design architect for both T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards. DLR Group will be t…

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Revising official figures, new report reveals Nets averaged just 11,622 home fans last season, Islanders drew 11,200 (and have option to leave in 2018)

The Brooklyn Nets drew an average of only 11,622 fans per home game in their most recent (and lousy) season, more than 23% below the announced official attendance figure, and little more than 65% of the Barclays Center's capacity.

The New York Islanders also drew some 19.4% below announced attendance, or 11,200 fans per home game.

The surprising numbers were disclosed in a consultant's report attached to the Preliminary Official Statement for the refinancing of some $462 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Barclays Center (plus another $20 million in taxable bonds). The refinancing should lower costs to Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the arena operating company, by and average of $3.4 million a year through 2044 in paying off arena construction.

According to official figures, the Brooklyn Nets attendance averaged 17,187 in the debut season, 2012-13, 17,251 in 2013-14, 17,037 in 2014-15, and 15,125 in the most recent season, 2015-16. For hoops, the arena holds 17,732.

But official…

At 550 Vanderbilt, big chunk of apartments pitched to Chinese buyers as "international units"

One key to sales at the 550 Vanderbilt condo is the connection to China, thanks to Shanghai-based developer Greenland Holdings.

It's the parent of Greenland USA, which as part of Greenland Forest City Partners owns 70% of Pacific Park (except 461 Dean and the arena).

And sales in China may help explain how the developer was able to claim early momentum.
"Since 550 Vanderbilt launched pre-sales in June [2015], more than 80 residences have gone into contract, representing over 30% of the building’s 278 total residences," the developer said in a 9/25/15 press release announcing the opening of a sales gallery in Brooklyn. "The strong response from the marketplace indicates the high level of demand for well-designed new luxury homes in Brooklyn..."

Maybe. Or maybe it just meant a decent initial pipeline to Chinese buyers.

As lawyer Jay Neveloff, who represents Forest City, told the Real Deal in 2015, a project involving a Chinese firm "creates a huge market for…