Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams today recommended the controversial sale of the Sunset Park Library to a politically connected Park Slope non-profit to redevelop the property into a mixed use building with a larger library on the bottom floors and 49 affordable housing units on the upper floors.
Under the plan, the Park Slope-based non-profit Fifth Avenue (FAC) will buy the Sunset Park branch, 5108 4th Avenue, from the city in a no-bid process for the appraised value and then develop it with one condominium unit going back to the city for the library.
The project calls for the current one-story building to be demolished and be replaced with an eight-story residential building with the affordable housing on the upper floors. 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.
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 project must go through the City’s land review process, which requires the borough president to weigh in on the plan before it goes to the City’s planning board and then the City Council for a final approval or disapproval of the plan.
While Adams signed off on the plan, he did express concerns that the proposed layout might inhibit the potential for desired library programming, and asked FAC to revise the floor plans to result in the most contiguous library space possible. Additionally, he called for the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) to pursue efforts to expand the library space that will be utilized on an interim basis during construction, recognizing the extensive utilization of the existing branch.
This included recommending the sharing of Brooklyn Community Board 7 (CB 7)’s community meeting space during hours in which the room is not scheduled for business, considering it is typically available in non-evening hours. He also recommended the deployment of digital vans or trailers in the model of BPL’s first-ever Techmobile, for which Adams allocated $500,000 in Fiscal Year 2017 (FY17), that can provide additional computer workstations, broadband access, and printing capability.
Regarding the creation of affordable housing, Adams stressed the importance of all units associated with development remaining permanently affordable, regardless of participation in the City’s Voluntary Inclusionary Housing (VIH) program. He also asked for such an agreement to be codified in either the Regulatory Agreement or Land Disposition Agreement for the project.
“My recommendations for the future of the Sunset Park Branch, which have been guided by the hundreds of Brooklynites whose feedback I have considered in recent weeks, are a blueprint for responsible community development that puts our children and families first,” said Adams. “Considering these land use applications has been about more than one site or one institution; it represents an opportunity to evaluate the direction of development in Sunset Park and ensure that basic services are met and enhanced.”
Adams also urged the City to seize this opportunity to resolve the continued fiscal crisis that the BPL system faces by making a citywide library system part into a New York City agency instead of a separate quasi-government entity that often has to scramble for additional funding from outside sources.
The Sunset Park Library is the second library branch sold under the de Blasio Administration with the first being the Cadman Plaza branch in Downtown Brooklyn.
As a non-profit developer, FAC has a good track record in building and managing affordable housing around the borough, although it should be noted that its’ name was derived from its’ iron-clad stance of holding back gentrification from the Fifth Avenue corridor in Park Slope, where its offices were originally located. As Fifth Avenue has become extremely gentrified, the non-profit has abandoned the corridor and has moved its office in a swanky new building just west of Fourth Avenue.
Ties between FAC and de Blasio date back to his City Council days when he represented Park Slope, and he appointed FAC Executive Director Michelle 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.
Additionally, City Council Member Brad Lander, who supports the project, was a co-founder of FAC, and Adams in Fiscal Year 2016 (FY16) allocated $500,000 to FAC to support the construction of 100 percent affordable housing at the Sunset Park Library site.
City Council Member Carlos Menchaca, who represents Sunset Park and Red Hook, also supports the project.
Adams’ recommendations will be considered by the City Planning Commission (CPC) as part of their public meeting on Wednesday, January 3, 2017. If green lighted, the new library is slated to open in 2020.