Sunset residents got together with Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) representatives on Thursday, April 20, for their first workshop since the long-proposed and controversial extensive makeover for the Sunset Park branch at 5108 Fourth Avenue got the green light last month.
Members of the BPL, design/build non-profit organization Hester Street Collaborative and the Fifth Avenue Committee met with attendees in a packed room in the facility’s lower level and gave information in several languages as well as provide a opportunity for neighborhood residents to sound off on how the current plan could improve.
“It’s the beginning of what is a critical phase of this project,” Executive Vice President of External Affairs for BPL David Woloch told this paper. “The whole point of this exercise is we’re going to get a bigger and better library, but it’s critical that the planning around that be predicated on what people in the community want to see in their library and that’s what this particular process is about.”
“As frequent users of this branch, you know what a great staff we have here,” added Michele Bonan, vice president of government and community relations for BPL. “This branch won the neighborhood library award which is basically the library Oscars. We also know the limitations of this space, such as lack of air conditioning. You and the staff deserve a better library and we’re going to have one and this is the beginning of the conversation to plan for it.”
According to current plans, another focus group will be held in June. The branch is slated to close at the end of the summer, the same time that the interim library will open in the landmarked courthouse, 4201 Fourth Avenue. Construction is planned to begin in winter 2018, with an official grand opening in the early part of 2020.
The current 12,200-square-foot space will be increased 20,755 square feet, with 18,200 open to the public on two and a half floors.
In addition, 49 permanently affordable apartments will also be available, including 11 studios, 13 one-bedrooms, 13 two-bedrooms and 12 three-bedrooms. Nine units will be reserved for families making up to $27,000 a year.
Half of the units will be reserved for CB 7 residents, 10 percent will be reserved for city employees and seven will be reserved for for disabled and hearing/visually impaired individuals.
Isella Ramirez of Hester Street, gave a presentation on the plans. “We want to show you what we heard from [previous meetings] and find out from you what’s missing,” she said. “We want to know who wasn’t in the room tonight and go to them and make sure that their opinions are captured. We most importantly want to collect your ideas and priorities for your future library and understand what services are most important for you.”
Following the presentation, the attendees went into break-up sessions.
Joan Botti of CB 7 was happy with what was presented and what is planned. “This is a wonderful endeavor because the children and the community at large need an updated facility,” she said. “Nothing works here anymore, so moving the library temporarily to the community board is great since it’s a nice, large space. When they come back here, having a larger space, they’ll be able to have up-to-date computers, more books, etc.”