Friday, February 01, 2013

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.

3 comments:

  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.

    ReplyDelete
  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.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    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.

      Delete