Brooklyn's Pacific Branch Library saved as part of deal
By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The ‘BAM South’ 32-story mixed use cultural development in Fort Greene won approval at a City Council committee meeting Monday morning. The Two Trees Management project, one of the key remaining pieces in the BAM Cultural District, will include cultural space, affordable housing and a new public plaza which includes a restaurant and retail. The building is designed by Enrique Norten of Ten Arquitectos.
The project — which will also include space for BAM (17,400 square feet), and 651 ARTS (12,500 square feet) and a new library— will sit on a 47,000-square-foot lot bounded by Flatbush Avenue, Lafayette Avenue and Ashland Place. Currently used for public parking, the lot is owned and operated by the NYC Economic Development Corporation.
“Two Trees is grateful to the City Council for its support and proud to partner with the City and some of Brooklyn’s most innovative cultural institutions to advance the growth of downtown Brooklyn’s world-class cultural district,” Jed Walentas, a principal at Two Trees Management said in a statement late Monday.
“With cultural space, much-needed affordable housing and a new public plaza, we will be transforming a parking lot into an iconic building with many public benefits.”
As part of the deal City Councilwoman Letitia James (D-Crown Heights) negotiated an agreement that would maintain the Pacific Street library branch, which Brooklyn Public Library had planned to sell to developers, an idea which distressed local residents.
Councilwoman James also negotiated an increase in the number of affordable units from 20 percent to at least 30 percent, at two separate development sites to the north of the site, according to the New York Daily News.
The tower will contain approximately 300 residential units, 60 of which will be affordable to families making less than 50 percent of the Area Median Income (A.M.I). It will also include movie theaters to expand the nearby BAM Cinemas, and performance space for cultural organizations on the second, third and fourth floors of the building.
“I am pleased to again offer my support to BAM South, a project which will offer significant affordable housing to the Fort Greene community," James said in a statement on Monday. "I have always supported Two Trees’ vision for the project, and I believe it was important to ensure the project included significant community benefits such as increased affordable housing, maintaining the Pacific Street library, a commitment that cultural organizations utilizing the space will reflect the diversity of this community, and assurance that future utilization of the open space includes the input of all stakeholders.
"Two Trees has further recognized the importance of paying union working prevailing wages, and I congratulate them for exceeding WMBE contractor requirements in the development of this project," she said, adding on Tuesday that "there will be some -- but not all -- union workers on site."
Jeremy Soffin of BerlinRosen Public Affairs, representing both Two Trees Management and Brooklyn Public Library, said on Tuesday that Two Trees read a statement into the record "talking about its commitment to good jobs. It did not commit to union wages on this project."
The statement by Two Trees reads in part, "We pledge to work together with the Building and Construction Trades Council to ensure that work on the $130 million project will be bid out to multiple union firms giving them the opportunity to compete for the work. We are confident that union contracts will be employed at the site over the course of construction of this great mixed use project."
In his role as spokesperson for BPL, Soffin said in a statement, "Brooklyn Public Library is grateful to the City Council for its approval of the BAM South project, which will include a brand new, 16,500-square-foot library. This inspiring and accessible new branch will allow BPL to deliver modern public library services to the Fort Greene, Park Slope and Boerum Hill neighborhoods.
“With more than $300 million in deferred maintenance across our facilities, we are especially excited that the space at BAM South will be provided to the Library at no cost, with the Library having responsibility only to fit out the branch,” Soffin said.
“While we initially planned to fund the fit-out costs through the sale of the existing Pacific Street Branch, an aging facility two blocks away that fails to meet modern library needs in many ways, it has become clear that the neighborhood highly values that branch and its historic building. BPL is committed to working with elected officials and community stakeholders to develop an appropriate plan for the Pacific Street building through an open community process. The plan will acknowledge the needs of the Library and the community. This plan could include maintaining some or all of the Pacific Street building and continuing to provide library service and programming for children in the community. At the same time, we will continue to work with our partners to address the Library's urgent funding needs."
- Cultural space: The building will include 50,000 square feet of cultural space, including BAM cinemas, a new Brooklyn Public Library branch and rehearsal space for local groups operated by 651 Arts.
- Architecture: The 32-story building is designed by Enrique Norten of Ten Arquitectos.
- Public spaces: The project includes an iconic new 10,000 square foot public plaza with public programming, a restaurant/café and 15,500 square feet of retail.
- Economic development: Two Trees will invest $135 million in the project, with $16.5 million going to the city’s general fund with no direct public subsidy.
- Jobs: Two Trees has committed to 32 percent MWBE involvement and 20 percent local hiring.
- Affordable housing: The 300-unit building will include 60 affordable homes.
- Parking: This project will create up to 225 public and accessory parking spaces for automobiles; and up to 201 bicycle parking spaces.
Updated at 10:21 p.m. to add Councilwoman James' statement.
Updated at 11:46 p.m. to include further details about parking and affordable housing.
Updated on June 18 at 1:30 with clarification about Two Trees' commitment to union wages.