Library holds workshop on controversial construction plans
by Holly Bieler
Mar 31, 2015 | 2412 views | 0 0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Locals met with Marvel and BPL reps to discuss library plans
Locals met with Marvel and BPL reps to discuss library plans
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The Brooklyn Public library and Marvel Architects held the first in a series of workshops last week for community members to offer programming and design suggestions for a new Brooklyn Heights branch that will be constructed in place of the current facilities, to be demolished in 2016.

The new library is part of a controversial project headed by private development firm Hudson Companies that calls for a 30-story mixed-use building on the current site.

At Monday’s workshop, library-goers broke off into groups with BPL and Marvel representatives to discuss a variety of broad design aspects and specific improvements they wanted to see implemented as the plans progressed.

A large piece of paper at each table prompted participants to discuss resources, activities, facilities, amenities, spaces and seating. Meeting attendees ran the gamut from elementary schoolers to senior citizens, and the range of suggestions on Monday appeared as varied.

“We think light is important and activities for kids,” said eight-year-old Leo Quinn, as representatives from each group presented their discussed improvements to the room at the workshop’s end.

“We need places to do homework, and quiet places, too,” added Joaquin Vermevlen, also eight. “And the seating in the kid’s room should be really soft.”

While many attendees suggested implementing programs and multi-use spaces for activities not traditionally associated with libraries, such as yoga, performance spaces, and ESL classes, the majority of suggestions seemed concerned with preserving more conventional aspects of the library.

“In terms of resources, we want kind librarians,” said Brooklyn Heights resident Claude Scales. “Humans to speak to.”

“We need places to sit and read, and quiet spaces,” said Mike Jankowitz.

Babette Krolik said she believed libraries would become even more important as digital technologies gained greater dominance in everyday life, something which should be considered in the plans.

“There’s no other space besides a library that proves a space for books,” she said. “And since our first priority when we come to a library is books, our first priority for physical space should be books.

We come to libraries because they’re a respite from the digital world,” Krolik added. “In the future, people will look at areas of physical books, cut off from the digital world, as a very precious, endangered resource, and a great luxury to provide to the community.”

This last thought, as if on cue, was punctuated by the ringing of an iPhone.

Some meeting attendees voiced their general frustration with the project, which has elicited wide criticism from the community since BPL opted to partner with Hudson Companies in developing it.

The new library will be housed on the ground floors of a 30-story, mixed-use building, which will also include 130 luxury condominiums, a multi-purpose satellite space for St. Ann’s, and two retailers, a Brooklyn Coffee Roasters and a pop-up culinary space curated by Brooklyn foodie fest Smorgasburg.

“I’m here to see how they intend to pull the wool over our eyes,” said Marilyn Berkon. “Let us have this space as it is. We have enough luxury condos.”

After presenting a list of suggestions his table had generated, Jankowitz voiced an oft-repeated concern about the size of the new library, which under current plans will be reduced by one-third in size.

“I don’t know how we’re going to get a library that is functional into a space that is that much smaller,” he said. “We want as much space as we had.”

After the meeting, Marvel’s Guido Hartray said his firm would distill notes from the presentations to create plans with a bit more scale, and at the next meeting community members would be able to focus more on specific plans they advocated for.

The next workshop is scheduled for April 20.

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