Concern for Proposed Sales of Branch Libraries and Public Schools
Pacific Library - 4th Avenue
Pacific Library - Brooklyn
Brooklyn Heights Library
Brooklyn Heights Library
P.S. 199, Upper West Side
P.S. 199, 270 West 70th Street
UPDATE: November 2013
The Landmarks Conservancy has been working with the community, elected officials and the Girl Scouts to landmark and save Brooklyn’s Pacific Street Library. It is the oldest Carnegie Library in the Borough and faced possible sale and demolition. There is a temporary halt on any sale, thanks to Councilwoman and Public Advocate-Elect Letitia James. But without landmarking, there is no real protection. The Consevancy recently included the Library on a list of buildings we urged the City’s Landmarks Commission to designate before the end of the year and the end of this Administration.
Oldest Carnegie Library in Brooklyn and Edward Durrell Stone designed school off the chopping block –for now
The Department of Education canceled the proposed sale of P.S. 199, an Upper West Side school designed by architect Edward Durrell Stone. In addition, officials at the Brooklyn Public Library have announced that “for now” they have canceled the sale of the 109-year-old Pacific Street Branch Library in the Boerum Hill neighborhood. Nonetheless, the Conservancy is keeping up its call for both these buildings to be landmarked.
An intrepid group of Girl Scouts from troop 2657 led the fight against the possible loss of the oldest Carnegie Library in Brooklyn. Their video (see below) and press conferences telling why they loved the Pacific Street building gained wide attention. A coalition of adults formed to save the branch continues to seek its preservation and landmarking.
Parents, elected officials, union officials and neighbors rallied against the possible loss of P.S. 199, as well as nearby P.S. 191, on the Upper West Side—both filled to capacity and well performing schools.
P.S. 199 on West 70th and West End Avenue, was the first public school designed by a modern architect of national and international fame. The hovering roofline is reminiscent of Stone’s celebrated U.S. Embassy in New Delhi and one of his last surviving works in the City.
The Cadman Plaza Branch Library in Brooklyn Heights, a 1950’s classic mid-century style building, was not as fortunate. It will be emptied and sold as a development site. East Harlem’s High School of Cooperative Technical Education is also still on the block despite the protests of parents and elected officials, and despite a recent multi-million dollar renovation.
Supporting libraries and schools has always been an obligation of the City. Selling off these well-used and much-loved civic assets for their real estate value is a disturbing and short sighted trend that needs to be rebuked by New Yorkers.
March 2013 Report
Two historic branch libraries in Brooklyn as well as a public school by a modern master in Manhattan are being proposed for sale to the highest bidder. The Conservancy is requesting that the Landmarks Commission designate these fine historic buildings as Individual Landmarks.
The Conservancy met with Brooklyn Public Library officials last week. They confirmed that they hope to close two well-loved neighborhood libraries, the Pacific Street Branch, and the Cadman Plaza Branch and sell them to private developers. The officials acknowledge that both facilities are heavily used by their respective communities but said that a lack of maintenance funds from the City makes it impossible to adequately repair and refurbish the existing buildings.
The Pacific Street branch, which is on the corner of Fourth Avenue, was the first Carnegie Library in Brooklyn. Built in 1903, it was designed by Raymond F. Almirall in a robust Beaux Arts style that makes it an unmistakable neighborhood presence and an excellent candidate for official landmark status. A replacement library is planned to be incorporated into a new building nearby.
The Cadman Plaza branch dates to the 1950’s and was designed in a classic mid-century style. There, the site may be redeveloped with a high-rise mixed use building that would house a library facility in its lower stories. Between the closing date of the existing library and the opening date of the new building, the community will be without a public library.
In Manhattan, a number of large public schools are also proposed to be sold in order to exploit their real estate value. P.S. 199 at 270 West 70th Street, a 1963 work by Edward Durrell Stone, is one of the buildings slated for demolition. P.S. 199 was the first public school designed by a renown modern architect. Its hovering roofline is reminiscent of Stone’s celebrated U.S. embassy in New Delhi. It is one of the last surviving works of that architect in the city and like the libraries mentioned earlier, is fully functioning. It should be a landmark.
The City seems to be increasingly relegating the construction of new schools and libraries to the private sector while at the same time selling off public assets that will never be replaced in kind.
How you can help.
Signatures are currently being gathered for a petition to build a neighborhood support group.
A local Girl Scout troop who use the Pacific Street Branch have made a video.
UPDATE: November 2013
The Girl Scouts are back to help save the Pacific Street Branch Library.
The determined Girl Scouts of Troop 2657 held another rally November 20 seeking landmark designation of Brooklyn’s Pacific Branch Library and have released their second video. Designation of the 110 year-old building—the oldest Carnegie Library in that Borough—is also on the Conservancy’s “to do” list for the City’s Landmarks Commission. The building was designed by Raymond Almirall and is featured in the AIA Guide to New York City. The Guide describes it as “a Sousa march—self-satisfied, robust and stridently Beaux Arts.”
The troop has been campaigning to save the branch, where they have met for more than a year, since its possible sale was first announced last February. They’ve created a petition, met with a variety of officials, and made an initial advocacy video. They point out that a request to evaluate the building for landmarking has been pending at the Landmarks Commission for 9 years—longer than most of them have been alive. A personal plea to Commission Chair Robert Tierney last June still did not produce any action.
The Conservancy has been working with area residents and elected officials, as well as the Girl Scouts, in an effort to spur the Commission to action. There is a temporary halt on any sale of the building, thanks to an agreement reached by Councilwoman—and now Public Advocate—elect Letitia James. But without designation, there is no real protection. The City has underfunded the branch libraries for years. But selling off the City’s public heritage to developers is short-sighted and not a worthy solution.