standard Pacific Street Library Handicapped By Lack of Funding

The interior of the Brooklyn Public Library (Photo by Matthew Taub)

The interior of the Brooklyn Public Library (Photo by Matthew Taub)

A persistent shortfall in funding has curtailed the potential of the Pacific Street Library, where entrances do not accommodate those with disabilities, extra rooms on higher floors remain closed off due to a lack of staffing and infrastructural problems persist, officials say.

“In a variety of ways, this could be a really great library,” said David Woloch, executive vice president of the Brooklyn Public Library. “That’s why the community, I think, is so impassioned about this space. There’s something really charming about this building.”

The entrance to the library includes a number of stairs, with no ramp as an alternative (Photo by Matthew Taub)

The entrance to the library includes a number of stairs, with no ramp as an alternative (Photo by Matthew Taub)

But Woloch said that just getting the 1903 Carnegie up to code with the Americans with Disabilities act is a challenge. A set of forbidding steps meets visitors at the entrance, and with no ramps in sight, some are simply unable to enter. Even more unwieldy staircases dominate the building’s interior, including those leading to the bathrooms downstairs, making the layout less than ideal.

The first floor could also use a facelift.

“Ideally, we’d like to change the layout. It’s tight down here,” Woloch said, referring to the main area just past the entrance, which contains a hodgepodge of computer terminals, bookshelves and quiet conversations interfering with those attempting to concentrate on reading.

And then there is the matter of not having enough hands on deck.

“From a staffing perspective, we just don’t have enough people working here to keep additional rooms open,” Woloch explained. Additional spaces on the second floor and basement, while not without their needed repairs, are unused, primarily because no one is available to supervise.

Josh Nachowitz, vice president of BPL’s Government Relations, agrees about the issues the library faces.

“In addition to basic infrastructure repairs like new roofing, new floors, new lighting and a desperately-needed HVAC revamping, there’s the need to make it ADA-compliant,” Nachowitz said. “With a building this old, it’s more difficult.”

A large room on the second floor goes mostly unused due to a lack of staffing and access for the disabled (Photo by Matthew Taub)

A large room on the second floor goes mostly unused due to a lack of staffing and access for the disabled (Photo by Matthew Taub)

The solution would involve building a free-standing “elevator tower,” Nachowitz explained. Like the ones in subway stations, the tower would come at an enormous expense. But the benefits would be immediate, allowing access to a grand room on the second floor, where stacks could also be relocated and allow more room for a tranquil environment below.

The second floor, too, is in need of basic repairs. Windows — currently cracked and often sealed by tarp and tape where they would otherwise be open to the elements — are in dire need of replacement.

“Ventilation is a huge problem,” Nachowitz said. “Up here, it’s cool, but you can see what we’re doing to plug leaks. Downstairs, we’ve installed massive vents that are extremely loud, and powerful if you’re close to them, which is uncomfortable, but ironically still not enough to cool the entire room.” Discoloration from water damage near these vents is also apparent.

Massive vents rendered nearby areas ice cold while causing water damage to the walls and still failing to cool the entire first floor (Photo by Matthew Taub)

Massive vents rendered nearby areas ice cold while causing water damage to the walls and still failing to cool the entire first floor (Photo by Matthew Taub)

Jason Douglas, the Regional Manager for the BPL’s northwest branches, mentioned how the “children’s room” was not only cramped, but unsuitable for youngsters.

“We have bookshelves in this room that rise far higher than any child could reach,” Douglas said. Still, an overflow of books sits in an extra cart, in front of the only two computer terminals available, stashed in the corner. “We don’t have the right shelf space, both in height and width, to do the right thing.”

Mr. Douglas mentioned how extra office space on the second floor could be willingly given up by the library’s staff to make room for accommodations, but the same issues prevent it.

Don't have right shelf space to do the right thing

The children’s room contains shelves higher than any child could reach, and other cramped conditions (Photo by Matthew Taub)

“We have space upstairs, but there’s no staff to watch over people up there,” Douglas said. “What is someone falls on the stairs? What if an elderly person is on the second floor, and they need to use the bathroom, which is all the way down in the basement? It doesn’t work.”

System-wide, the Brooklyn Public Library currently reports a $300 million shortfall for necessary repair work. Of the needed funding, only $17 million was provided in the most recent budget allocation. The Pacific Branch in particular needs approximately $10 million in repairs.

Office space on the second floor, closed to the public because of a lack of staff (Photo by Matthew Taub)

Office space on the second floor, closed to the public because of a lack of staff (Photo by Matthew Taub)

“In previous decades, I don’t believe we were vocal enough in getting the funding we needed,” Woloch said. Additionally, those figures are separate from the amount sought to merely operate the facilities with sufficient staffing.

“A consortium of the Brooklyn, Queens and New York Public Libraries asked for an additional $65 million this year in operating expenses, and we were given $10 million for all three systems. That’s $2.8 million more than last year for Brooklyn.”

A list of repairs needed to the Pacific Street Library (BPL)

A list of repairs needed to the Pacific Street Library (BPL)

A few other budgetary quirks, like special allocations from city council delegations, have not been enough to close the gap. And a previous plan — involving selling the library and transferring operations to a new development called BAM South several blocks away —fell through after community opposition.

  • notonmywatch

    I call B.S. again. And again. And again. And again.

    The misdirection in this article is phenomenal. Did the reporter check any facts? Does the reporter just regurgitate conversational BPL press releases? Who is responsible for the “giant vents?” The BPL? How is it cool at the top of the room but not the bottom? Does bizzaro world physics rule in the Pacific Street Branch? Is that the one with the evil Spock?

    The quotes by the library management sound like simpletons. Where did Mr. Woloch go to school?

    Cornell? Lets stick it to an alumni Almirall. JFK Schoool of Government at Harvard? Bayley Mason, god rest his soul, would take you out back and talk to you about what you are doing to the purposefully uninformed by the BPL community to cash that check each week.

    As for Mr. Josh Nachowitz, Linked in trumpets his :

    “Experience managing complex administrative, real estate and public policy projects.”

    Maybe its the simple projects that are beyond his grasp.

    Don’t have time to pick apart this astro-turfing for the BPL right now, but I will.

  • marshasrimler

    Again.. the BPL crying for money but not coming up with solutions. What are these guys paid for. This is another example of the BPL turning our libraries into slums and then asking for permission to tear them down… where have they been all these years
    We need a new Board and new leadership to solve this problem. One way to begin to cut costs is to eliminate one of these jobs and combine it with the other. The executive salaries are over the top..

  • Michael D. D. White

    How do you evaluate its good faith when BPL complains there are “no funds to repair the Pacific Street Library” it wants to sell? The Pacific Branch Library, across the street from Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards (now euphemized as “Pacific Park”), yards from the Ratner/Prokhorov arena, was one of the first two libraries on the BPL’s priority list to sell. The current BPL administration has been working hard to make the case to sell the library. So how seriously can you takes the BPL’s protestations that they are just can’t figure out what to do about all the problems they have discovered with the library? Based on their record there is very little the BPL communicates that should be accepted as being said in good faith or taken as a neutral evaluation of the situation.

  • Doug Biviano

    Doug Biviano It
    MUST be understood that de Blasio got elected by lobbyist-consultant
    Berlin Rosen. Berlin Rosen also represents – as indicated on their
    website http://berlinrosen.com/case-studies/our-clients – Forest City Ratner and BPL. They also represent my opponent for Assembly Peter Sikora, Scott M. Stringer, Steve Levin, Dan Squadron, Brad Lander, etc. —- WHO REPRESENTS YOU THE VOTER? —- http://dougbiviano.com/index.php/press-releases/5-berlin-rosen-suppresses-assembly-debate

  • Doug Biviano

    Berlin
    Rosen also did the deceptive Gary Reilly LICH mailer overstating the
    amount of protection the proposed ER of developer Fortis provides
    community. Since they represent Candidate Sikora, this campaign
    coordination with de Blasio PAC Campaign for One NY may violate the law.
    http://dougbiviano.com/ind…/press-releases/10-sal-albanese

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