City Council Finalizes Sunset Park Library Sale


The controversial Sunset Park Library redevelopment project was approved by City Council last Friday morning finalizing the formal public approval process for the project.

The current one-story library branch, 5108 4th Avenue, will be converted into an eight-story residential building with 49 units reserved for affordable housing. The library will go from 12,200 square feet to 21,000 square feet and be housed on the first floor, the below ground level and part of the second floor.

The current one-story Sunset Park Branch Library.

The Park Slope-based non-profit Fifth Avenue (FAC) will be tasked with the development project after buying the property in a no-bid process from the city.

“Fifth Avenue Committee is grateful for the overwhelming support this project has received and that FAC and BPL will be able to move forward to bring a 21st century public library and 100% truly and deeply affordable housing to the Sunset Park community. This project is a model in how to ensure that the community can achieve the maximum benefits possible as part of redeveloping public land for public good. We look forward to continuing to work with the community as this project moves forward towards construction,” said FAC Executive Director Michelle de la Uz. 

However, not all Brooklyn residents are looking forward to the new development project. Michael White from Citizens Defending Libraries, a community organization that works to prevent the sale and shrinkage of public libraries across the city, is disappointed by the sale of public land to a private organization and believes the City could eventually build a totally different project in the end.

“We don’t believe the community is getting the deal that it wants. All the testimony in front of the community board was against the project except testimony from people who were paid employees of participants in the project. It is diminishing what the public owns, it is a no good transaction. It is good that the library at least now is being promised now to be a larger library but we are afraid of a bait-and-switch, especially with the jeopardy that the City budget is in now. What could have been done is that they built a bigger library in the immediate vicinity on a new plot of land. Have it bigger, in a publically owned commercial building so the library could be expandable later on,” said White.

White and Citizens Defending Libraries believe that the new library building is going to prevent further expansion of the library in the future due to the limitations of the building project.

Delvis Valdez, local business owner and candidate for the 38th City Council seat worries that the project will create less affordable housing units. “I have been against this project from the beginning. This project was a NO bid project. The mayor took a community assets and gave it away to a friend to develop and the kicker is that there are no guarantees that Sunset Park residents will be the beneficiaries of any of the 49 units when they are done,” said Valdez.

The project will create 100% affordable housing atop the new library branch, with anticipated financing from the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development. Forty-nine affordable units will be available for incomes spanning 30% to 80% of Area Median Income (AMI). The majority of the units are reserved for incomes at or below 50% of AMI, and most apartments will rent for $500 to $1,000 per month. A minimum of 50% of the apartments will be reserved for Community Board 7 residents, 10% for city employees and 10% for the physically disabled. Nine units will be reserved for survivors of domestic violence.

City Councilman Carlos Menchaca

City Council Member Carlos Menchaca (D-Sunset Park, Red Hook) said the sale is a cumination of public meetings and hearings for the past two years with Sunset Park stakeholders on how to rebuild the aging library.

“A call for an expanded and modern library that meets local needs such as affordable housing and community space was at the center of this process. Together, we’ve worked to ensure that our residents’ recommendations were heard. Yesterday, the New York City Council voted unanimously in approval of a project that includes legal requirements for 100% affordable housing and a permanently protected community library,” said Menchaca.

UNder the plan, FAC will construct the eight-story, mixed-use building, including the library’s core and shell, at no cost to Brooklyn Public Library. BPL will fit out the new library for approximately $10 million, using a portion of the proceeds from the redevelopment of its Brooklyn Heights branch. The city will own the library floors as condos in perpetuity. It will give up its rights of ownership the actual property to FAC. 

FAC has a good track record in developing affordable housing around the borough, although it should be noted that its’ name was derived from holding back gentrification from the Fifth Avenue corridor of Park Slope, where its offices were originally located.

Ties between FAC and de Blasio date back to his City Council days when he represented Park Slope, and he appointed de la Uz to the City’s Planning Board. Additionally, City Council Member Brad Lander was once the FAC Executive Director. De la Uz recused herself from participating in the sale process as a member of the planning board. 

Interim library service will be provided throughout the construction process at 4201 Fourth Avenue, at 42nd Street.