Sunset Park residents remain torn on the ongoing plans to facilitate an eight story mixed use building at the site of the neighborhood’s library, located at 5108 Fourth Avenue within in Community District 7, which would contain an expanded library and approximately 50 affordable housing units for individuals earning up to 60 percent area median income.
A meeting was held at Brooklyn Borough Hall on Monday, November 15, which was highly attended by members of the Brookyln Public Library (BPL) and the Fifth Avenue Committee (FAC), as well as Deputy Borough President Diana Reyna, Sunset Park residents, and others.
Since the plan was first announced, members of the BPL have often mentioned the limitations of the heavily utilized Sunset branch. During the Borough Hall presentation, they brought a slideshow of photos to state their case.
“We have issues with the roof,” said David Wallach of BPL. “We have problems with the electrical system as there are only 12 outlets in the branch. We have a boiler that needs to be replaced and most glaringly, the [heating, ventilation and air conditioning] system which died a few years ago and needs to be replaced.”
Wallach also stated that, while the branch is the sixth busiest in the borough, the staff is struggling to maintain a building that was put in place in the 1970s that really doesn’t fit the needs of the 21st century library.
“We are operating in a building that isn’t big enough to fit the needs of the community,” he added.
As part of the project, the branch will increase from 12,000 square feet to a total of 21,000 square feet.
Once the BPL’s presentation concluded, residents took to the floor to express their feelings, which differed throughout the night.
“I live in Sunset Park and I visit the library three times a week and I realize that the space we have isn’t that adequate,” said Judith Agular, with help from a translator. “It is very difficult for us to go downstairs [to] the room for the children because the elevator is not really working. It is one person at a time. It’s not safe and it’s also very hot during the summer as the air conditioner isn’t working.”
Problems with the current library aside, there were plenty of objections to the plan.
“What we need is an educational complex, settlement house, or community center above a new public library,” said Maria Roca, founder of Friends of Sunset Park, “to, in tandem with appropriately-resourced public education, support and complement the ability of its families to compete in America’s economy without the need of handouts, or charity, or crumbs.”
“This proposal will do nothing for the Sunset Park community except speed up displacement and development of our neighborhood,” added resident Lydia Ramos.
According to Reyna, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams will hold off on taking a stance until he hears from Community Board 7, which will vote on the matter during its next full board meeting on Wednesday, November 15.