Statement on Pacific Street Library

Statement on Pacific Street Library

The recent agreement between the City Council, Mayor Bloomberg, and the Brooklyn Public Library system has given a reprieve to the Pacific Street Branch, at least through the end of the Bloomberg Administration. BPL issued a statement committing to “working with elected officials and community stakeholders to develop an appropriate plan for the Pacific Street building through an open community process.”

Like many in our community, I am eager to save the Pacific Street Branch. I am grateful to Councilmember Letitia James for her work in negotiating this agreement. I hope the next mayor will be a much better steward of our public libraries than Mayor Bloomberg has been (under his administration, our library systems have suffered enormous cuts to maintenance, operating, and program budgets).

However, this is only a short-term solution. As my district expands to include the branch, I will work closely with members of our community, other elected officials, and BPL. Any potential sale of the property would require a vote by the City Council. That means we can hold the next mayor and BPL accountable. And you can hold me accountable.

I deeply hope that we can take this moment to not just to focus on one building, but on the much broader challenges facing the Brooklyn Public Library system. There are $230 million in backlogged and unfunded capital projects. Most of the 18 Carnegie branches are not landmarked, have no endowment for preservation, and present operational challenges to the system.

Our public libraries are underappreciated treasures, one of our last true civic squares. They provide essential spaces for education, research, culture-making, and job-seeking. Our branch libraries are more essential now than ever, and they reinforce the far-sighted nature of Andrew Carnegie’s gift to the city.

The Brooklyn Public Library needs a comprehensive plan to address the system’s current and future needs. Of course we should start with the palaces we have, and value their preservation. But we should also form a plan to bring the public library system into the 21st century. We must attend to the extraordinary legacy of buildings and books, while welcoming digital literacy and evolving demographics. We should look to create new library locations – like the gorgeous new Kensington Branch, or the Flushing Branch, or the library storefront in Far Rockaway.

I promise to work with stakeholders to strengthen our beloved Brooklyn Public Library system, so it can offer not just today’s users, but future generations, the free and open access to imagination and knowledge that it has offered our grandparents, parents, and us. If you love libraries too, please stay in touch with my office. This is going to be a long process, but we will do our best to ensure real public dialogue and decision-making takes place as we move forward.

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