Library land bid is rebuffed - Eminent domain fears prompt committee to reject Ulmer plan: Park Slope NY Courier, 3/22/07

By Michèle De Meglio

It’s round two in the battle for the Ulmer Park Branch Library.

After holding a public hearing last month about the Brooklyn Public Library’s (BPL) desire to purchase the land occupied by the local library, Community Board 13’s Housing, Zoning and Land Use Committee weighed in on the matter.

The committee voted to reject BPL’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) application, which, if approved, would give the city the green light to negotiate with the owner of the 2602 Bath Avenue lot, the Parisi family.

The committee rejected the application because members worried that the city would use eminent domain laws to acquire the property and not give the Parisi family a fair deal.

Joanne Parisi-Colacino was glad the committee ruled in her family’s favor.

“I’m hoping they continue to listen,” she said, “because it’s just not fair. It’s going over the line of what eminent domain is supposed to be for.”

Steven Schechter, director of government and community affairs for BPL, has acknowledged that eminent domain could be used – but only if negotiations with the Parisi family fail.

He’s explained that the shaky relationship between BPL and the Parisi family has led library officials to take steps to purchase the property.

Although the two parties have coexisted peacefully since 1963, when the library opened on the Bath Avenue property, trouble began last year when the Parisi family wanted to increase BPL’s rent.

The family asked for $19 per square foot, up from the $15 per square foot price BPL is currently paying.

After BPL officials balked at the figure, the Parisi family served the library with eviction papers.

That led BPL to file the ULURP application.

Library officials say it’s more cost-effective for the city to own the lot where the library sits rather than pay rent.

Schechter said, “City purchase of this leased facility will allow BPL to expand services not only at Ulmer Park Library but also throughout our system by spending what we would pay in rent instead on much-needed library resources. As an example, one year’s rent would buy 10,000 more books, 225 new PCs, and allow us to make needed improvements to our buildings.”

The Housing, Zoning and Land Use Committee rejected the ULURP application by a vote of 8-1.

The only dissenting member was Brian Gotlieb, Community Board 13’s former chairman.

He said he supported the application because “the ULURP simply allows the city, on behalf of the library, to go forward in negotiations with the family to arrive on a price. If they’re unable to arrive on a price, then they’re able to go through the judicial process.”

The full community board will vote on the ULURP application at the board’s March 28 meeting.

Even if the board rejects BPL’s request, the ULURP application still has legs.

It will proceed to the city Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) for consideration.

Park Slope NY Courier: http://www.courierlife.net