The nonprofit Village of Sunset Park is leveling charges that the city and local elected officials are commencing with a backroom deal to sell their beloved and busy Sunset Park branch of the Brooklyn Public Library.
Their charges came at a protest outside the library, 5108 Fourth Avenue on Saturday. It also comes just weeks after published reports revealed that the Manhattan DA’s office and the US Attorney’s office under prosecutor Preet Baharara are investigating the sale of the Cadman Plaza Library branch in Downtown Brooklyn.
The Cadman sale is being scrutinized because the developer that won the bid to redevelop the library gave money to Mayor Bill de Blasio‘s Campaign For One New York, and then had the sale approved to his company despite not having the highest bid.
“We feel that backroom deals were done on both these libraries. The only problem we have is this entire process stinks and has been corrupt from the get go,” said Attorney Delvis Valdes, a co-counsel for the Village of Sunset Park. “Right now the Cadman Plaza Library is being investigated for not going to the lowest bidder on that project and at Sunset Park there was no bid whatsoever.”
Valdes noted that the Fifth Avenue Committee (FAC), who were given the rights to buy the Sunset Park Library without any bidding, has extremely close ties to the de Blasio Administration and several elected officials that support the sale.
This includes ties between FAC Executive Director Michelle de la Uz and Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, who is very supportive of the sale. De la Uz previously worked as Velazquez’s Chief of Staff for her South Brooklyn District office – the same area in which the library is located. Additionally, de Blasio has close ties to the FAC dating back to his days as a Park Slope City Councilman and appointed de la Uz to the City’s Planning Board, which will vote on the library sale. De la Uz is recusing herself from the upcoming vote.
Other ties include City Council Member Brad Lander, who supports the project was a co-founder of FAC, and City Council Member Carlos Menchaca, whose district in which the library is located, is a protege of Velazquez.
Under the plan, the FAC will buy the property from the city for the appraised value and then develop it with one condominium unit going back to the city for the library.
If a deal is reached, the current one-story Sunset Park branch of the Brooklyn Public Library will be demolished. An eight-story residential building with 49 designated affordable apartments will take its place. The library will occupy the first floor, the below ground level and part of the second floor, increasing its floor space from 12,200 square feet to 21,000 square feet, the first time an expansion has been included in a deal like this.
While construction is being completed the library will be temporarily housed off site at the old courthouse on 43rd Street and 4th Avenue, which the NYPD currently utilizes for administrative space.
The FAC could not be reached for comment at post time.
But Menchaca, who supports the project, maintains that everything has been done by the book.
“Over the last year or so, the non-profit developer, Fifth Avenue Committee, and the Brooklyn Public Library have made detailed public presentations in forums like Community Board 7, my office, and at the library itself. They have promised to secure a quality alternate space during construction, to modernize and approximately double the usable library space, and to take legal steps ensuring the library and affordable housing are permanently protected,” said Menchaca.
“My constituents whether favoring or opposing the project deserve transparency and accountability to make sure those promises are kept. I’m pleased the courthouse building on 4th Avenue has been designated for the alternate space during construction. I look forward to working with community members during the design of the Library so it meets the needs of Sunset Parkers,” he added.