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Here’s where art on the facade of the Brooklyn Heights library will go

City Terrain East
(Ehblake / Wikimedia Commons)
(Ehblake / Wikimedia Commons)

Last week the Department of Buildings (DOB) approved demolition permits for the Brooklyn Heights branch library, clearing the way for a 36-story tower but raising questions about the ultimate fate of the art on the library’s facade.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported that exterior demolition at 280 Cadman Plaza West will begin in late March, and take about three months to complete. The new tower, designed by New York’s Marvel Architects, will add 133 condos, retail space, and a STEM lab for young people in the neighborhood.

An almost 27,000-square-foot library will occupy the development’s mezzanine, part of the ground floor, and a below-grade level. Though it’s smaller than the low-rise building it’s replacing, the city maintains that the new branch will contain more usable space.

Moreover, the sale of the city-owned property to developer Hudson Companies for $52 million is set to generate $40 million in capital repair funding for the BPL. Although site work has begun, the library sale and delayed transfer of ownership have remained a point of contention for activist groups like Citizens Defending Libraries, which maintains that no work should begin until the deal between the two parties is signed.

So, with plans filed and permits in, there’s just one more question—what’s happening to the art on the library facade?

The Architect’s Newspaper previously reported that New York City’s Public Design Commission (PDC) had to weigh in on the two bas–relifs by Clemente Spampinato before they could be removed. Keri Butler, deputy director of the PDC, shared the latest on the art’s final home in an email:

The Public Design Commission has reviewed the methods and materials for removing the artworks from the facade of the library and temporarily storing them, and has found these methods to be appropriate with the understanding that a proposal for relocating the artworks within the new development at 280 Cadman Plaza West will be submitted by September 2017.

Displaying Spampinato’s work in the new library underscores its civic function while preserving the art more-or-less in situ for public enjoyment. There’s no word yet, though, on where in the new building the reliefs will be hung when it opens in spring of 2020.

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