Today, the Brooklyn Public Library announced the approval of a redevelopment plan for the Sunset Park branch, which includes adding 49 affordable apartments on-site. The new building will replace the current library at 5108 4th Avenue.
The New York City Council voted unanimously on the plan this week, marking the final step in a process that has included approvals by the City Planning Commission, the borough president, and Community Board 7.
The Fifth Avenue Committee (FAC), a nonprofit with nearly forty years’ experience in affordable housing and community development, will partner with the library to fund and manage the redevelopment project. According to the Jay Marcus, FAC’s director of affordable housing, they will break ground in October or November and expect to spend a little over two years in construction.
With attendance and circulation both ranking in the top ten of the Brooklyn Public Library’s 60 branches, Sunset Park is one of the busiest in the borough — perhaps owing to the neighborhood’s population boom. Between 1990 and 2014, Sunset Park’s population jumped by 34 percent, which is twice the citywide growth rate, according to the city Comptroller’s office.
The redevelopment plan seeks to both meet the need for a larger library and provide housing below market rate in the neighborhood, where the growth in median income (25 percent) has been dwarfed by the increase in median rent (63 percent).
Each of the 49 units in the 8-story building will be reserved for tenants earning between 30 percent and 80 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI), with most of them available to residents with incomes at 50 percent or less than the AMI.
Most of the apartments will rent for $500 to $1,000 monthly, and half of them will be leased to residents of Community Board 7. Other set-asides include 10 percent of the apartments for city employees and another 10 percent for disabled tenants. Nine units will be reserved for survivors of domestic abuse.
The library building itself, built in the 1970s, is long overdue for upgrades. The library has estimated that $6 million in repairs would be required to just maintain the library as is; the site’s air conditioning is broken and only 12 electrical outlets are available to patrons.
The proposed design will be 20,755 square feet, with 18,200 square feet expected to be accessible to the public. The library’s website promises “modern technology, and more flexible workspaces, in addition to traditional reading areas” in the new space.
Funding for the development, estimated at $25 million, will come from a variety of sources. The FAC has received an allocation of Low Income Housing Tax Credits that will provide over half the cost. The New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (NYC HPD) and local elected officials have also provided funding.
According to the library’s website, “FAC has committed and government regulatory agreements will require that the housing remain affordable in perpetuity.”
Although New York City will continue to own the library once the project has been completed, the city will make a temporary sale of the space to the Fifth Avenue Committee, using the proceeds to pay for construction of the larger space. Once construction is completed, the FAC will return the space to the city for $1. That price will purchase one of two units in a two-unit condominium. The second unit, which will be comprised of all 49 apartments, will be owned by an affiliate of the FAC, Marcus said.
The Brooklyn Public Library will spend about $10 million to fit out the new space, with most of the money coming from the proceeds of the controversial redevelopment of the Brooklyn Heights branch.
The library will provide interim service at 4201 4th Avenue at 43rd Street in a space provided by the NYPD throughout the construction process.