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Sunset Park residents rally to get answers regarding library expansion plans

The ongoing battle over plans for Sunset Park’s library wages on.

On Thursday, November 12, around 80 Sunset residents showed up for a meeting at Zion Presbyterian Church (4802 Sixth Avenue) to share ideas regarding the neighborhood’s library, located at 5108 Fourth Avenue, and plans by the Fifth Avenue Committee (FAC) to expand it and build affordable housing on top.

Chris Robles, a co-counsel and legal representative for the Village of Sunset Park, the group that hosted the rally and opposes the proposal, said his group had several issues regarding the library’s expansion plan. “One of our main concerns is that the information is not coming out in a transparent way,” he said. “We’re not even able to get concrete numbers on apartments and the rentals that they’re going to do to.”

IMG_2518With a timeline for renovation uncertain, Richard Villar, also co-counsel for the group, expressed his concern about where students would go while the current library is closed. “There’s no interim space. They’ve been looking for about a year for a new place to put a library,” he said. “I recently spoke to them. They said they’re still looking for a place.”

If no interim space is found, Sunset residents fear they’ll have to travel as far as Park Slope or Bay Ridge to use the closest library during construction. “I get the sense that we’re not going to get a temporary library,” said Villar. “There’s not going to be a place or it’s going to be something small. It takes a long time to outfit a library. Where are the kids going to go? It can’t be 40 blocks away.”

“We asked at a board meeting if an interim space is going to be bigger or smaller than what we have,” added President of Village of Sunset Park Ray Acevedo. “They said it’s probably going to be smaller than what you have. We’re already crowded and they’re going to shove us into a smaller space.”

Acevedo says kids rely heavily on the facilities.

“It’s one of the most used libraries in the city of New York because immigrants use that library because they don’t have the resources at home like computers and both parents don’t speak English so the children go there so they can learn and use all the resources at that particular library,” he said.

“The children that use the library use it for internet access for school and homework help. They have no substitute for those items and they can’t afford internet access and that’s their only place to get that,” added Robles,

The affordable housing plan presented by FAC was also a major concern among attendees. “The committee keeps saying affordable housing, but the numbers they’re using are not affordable to the people that live in this community,” Robles said. “This housing is going to do nothing to solve the more complicated issue of low income housing which is the real need.”

They believe Sunset residents wouldn’t benefit from the housing aspect. “They keep switching how much the rents are going to be,” said Robles. “Whenever we ask them firm questions, they don’t give us answers. It seems like this project is being rushed through but the community isn’t getting informed of what’s going on.”

Over the summer, FAC and Councilmember Carlos Menchaca presented the plans to Community Board 7, with Menchaca emphasizing “the 49 units of 100 percent affordable housing, something the community needs.”

“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,” added Director of Housing for FAC, Jay Marcus at the time.

FAC did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

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