Sunset Park Library expansion and affordable housing plan continue

Plans to expand the Sunset Park Library, and bring affordable housing to the site, have progressed. Members of Community Board 7 as well as Sunset Park residents attended a meeting at the board room on Wednesday, June 10 to discuss the updated plans for the expansion of the library along with affordable housing.

The proposal, to expand the library from its current 12,750 square feet to approximately 20,500, has been modified slightly, according to the Fifth Avenue Committee, dignitaries and Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) officials, who showed preliminary renderings and plans to members of Community Board 7 as well as Sunset Park residents during a meeting in the library’s board room on Wednesday, June 10.

According to Councilmember Carlos Menchaca, the renovation will result in “an expanded larger library that’s going to be redesigned to fully utilize the space with the second mezzanine. This is something that the community has been asking for, for such a long time now. That’s something we deserve.”

As for the housing, Menchaca added, “On top of the library, literally and figuratively, will be 49 units of 100 percent affordable housing, something else community needs.”

Leading off the presentation was Director of Housing for the Fifth Avenue Committee Jay Marcus, who discussed the spike in rent in Sunset. “We did a search on the web for what the apartment rents are in this area and it’s now up to over $2,000 for an apartment. The scariest part is that 48 percent of the housing stock here is not rent-stabilized.”

Marcus contended that the proposal would be part of the solution. “We want to make sure that we’re ready for the community to have the affordable housing that it needs to be able to make it a community they can stay in and stay as diverse and vibrant as Sunset Park is,” he told the group.

In addition, Marcus added that the Fifth Avenue Committee has partnered with the Center Against Domestic Violence to ensure 20 percent of affordable units will be available to families looking for homes after living in a shelter. “We know that this is a community board that cares a lot about the people in the area that have had crises in life. That’s why we’ve partnered with them,” he said.

BPL Executive Vice President for External Affairs David Woloch discussed adjustments made on the library expansion aspect of the plan.

“Sunset Park Library is one of the most bustling libraries in our 60-branch system. It’s a busy branch because there is a demand in the community,” he said, noting that size-wise it is currently right in the middle. “We are currently in a dialogue as part of the budget process to try and get more funding for the library. We are fighting for more expense funding so we can hire more librarians, buy more books and have longer hours in the branch.”

However, some attendees were upset with the plans, especially the affordable housing component.

“We need that library to be expanded but not negotiated with affordable housing,” said Sunset resident Javier Nieves. “This is not affordable. It is affordable for those people that are going to come from outside the community. The last people who are going to have a say in this is the community. The community needs low-income housing.”

There was also a sense among some that the community was being kept out of the process. “I like the fact that they’re expanding our library,” said attendee Guadalupe Hernandez. “But from the meeting, I felt like they already have it all planned out. It seems like they don’t want or need our opinions as the community.”

According to the proposed timeline presented during the meeting, construction would begin in October, 2016 with the library re-opening in June 2018. An interim branch location is expected to be announced by this fall.

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