Sunset residents protest to save their library

Dozens of Sunset Park residents and elected officials showed up on Saturday, June 4 at the neighborhood’s Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) with their signs and their passion as the battle for the site’s future continues to be waged.

The protest, hosted by The Village of Sunset Park, was held outside the library, 5108 Fourth Avenue. Many of the attendees continue to be concerned and angered by the BPL and the Fifth Avenue Committee’s (FAC) plans to construct 49 units of affordable housing in a new building which would also contain an expanded library, which is going from 12,200 to 20,755 square feet. That is still not enough to serve the neighborhood’s burgeoning needs, the protesters said.

“Our libraries need to be saved from developers who have their interest over the interest of our public and our education,” said President of the Village of Sunset Park Ray Acevedo. “They could build affordable housing anyplace else. We have the sixth highest usership in the city right here.”

Maria Roca, founder of Friends of Sunset Park, added that because Sunset has a school overcrowding problem, adding a school to the library makes sense. “Why are you selling this land to a private developer, but at the same breath, tell us there’s no land to build the school? Here’s the land,” she said.

The affordable housing addition has residents most upset. “I oppose the development of this site as affordable housing,” said former Assemblymember Javier Nieves. “This community is not going to be able to qualify for those apartments that are going to be developed. Who is it affordable for? Not us.”

BROOKLYN MEDIA GROUP/Photos by Jaime DeJesus
BROOKLYN MEDIA GROUP/Photos by Jaime DeJesus

Protesters also drew parallels to the ongoing protest over the condo development at the Brooklyn Heights Library, contending that Mayor Bill de Blasio had given preferential treatment to a developer in that project.

“Mayor de Blasio speaks of a tale of two cities when he runs for office. He’s got a city for himself and the people who pay to play.  Then there’s the city for the rest of us,” said attorney Delvis Valdes. “It’s unconscionable that the city or anyone with knowledge of how this city is utilized would even consider removing this resource for the community for affordable housing.”

“We can’t have backroom deals,” added attorney Chris Robles. “What is going on beneath the surface?”

Additional library space is also desired by members. “When I sat with Michelle de la Uz, Executive Director of the FAC, I said we want four floors instead of two floors. She said no, that it’s not viable because they need to make a profit out of this building,” claimed Acevedo.

FAC Director of Housing Jay Marcus attended the rally to listen to the concerns. “We feel our proposal is very good,” he told this paper. “We feel there’s a lot of misinformation that they’re handing out. We are paying the appraised value for the property.”

He also added that the BPL and FAC has listened to the suggestions of the community. “We appreciate the passion people bring to it. We’ve made several changes based on what we made in community.”

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