Rendering of the proposed Battery Park City library
B.P.C. library money is overdue
By Julie Shapiro with Josh Rogers
New York Public Library officials say they still do not have the money to build the Battery Park City library.
The shortfall of $2.72 million means that the project is at a standstill, said Bonnie Birman, associate director of Manhattan branches.
“Until we have all the money in place, we can’t move forward,” she said.
The library, Battery Park City’s first, would be built inside the Riverhouse condo building at 1 River Terrace. In exchange for developing its headquarters nearby, Goldman Sachs paid $3.5 million to cover the exterior building costs.
The N.Y.P.L. needs $1.72 million to build out the inside of the library and furnish it and needs another $1 million for books, Birman said. The money was supposed to come from the City Council, but it was not included in the budget.
City Councilmember Alan Gerson said over the summer that he made a strategic decision to not include the library funding in the city’s budget but that he would be able to add it in by November or December. At the time, officials thought the building would be ready for library construction in February.
This week, Gerson explained that he put forward a modification to the capital budget, but that the mayor’s office has not yet approved it.
“It’s been delayed slightly for reasons that have nothing to do with the Battery Park library,” Gerson said in a phone interview. When the mayor’s office does one budget modification, other people also want to make modifications, which slows things down, he said. Gerson did not have a timetable of when to expect the funding to come through, but he promised that it would.
“Everyone’s on the same page that the library has to happen,” he said. “The money will be there it’s just a question of pushing it through the process.”
Over the summer, Simon Delekta, a government affairs manager for the N.Y.P.L., said that if the funding didn’t arrive by December, construction would be delayed. The N.Y.P.L. never set an opening date for the library because of uncertainty over funding, Gayle Snible, a spokesperson, said this week.
Once the Sheldrake Organization, which is developing 1 River Terrace, finishes the exterior construction, the library will take 18 to 24 months to complete, Snible said. The Sheldrake Organization did not respond to calls for comment asking when the exterior work would finish.
Battery Park City residents have been fighting for the library since 1999 and were not pleased to hear about the possible delays.
Maria Smith, a B.P.C. resident and Community Board 1 public member, was part of the fight to get the library.
“We had to convince the New York Public Library, [and] now they’re really on board, the developer is on board, the Battery Park City Authority is on board and we are just waiting for the city money,” she said. “I don’t know why we are not a priority…. If you are going to keep building schools and buildings, you’re going to need a library.”
Percy Corcoran, who led the neighborhood effort, said: “I have to say it’s frustrating. Battery Park City is 40 years old and we still don’t have a library.”
Anthony Notaro, a member of the C.B. 1 B.P.C. Committee, said the closest library is the New Amsterdam Branch, near City Hall. Since Battery Park City is becoming much more of a family neighborhood, it is especially important to have a library, he said.
Getting a new library is a major undertaking, Birman said.
“We don’t build a lot of new libraries, but when we see a population developing, and we don’t see a lot of libraries nearby, we try to build one,” she said. The N.Y.P.L. is funded largely by the city.
“We’re still looking forward to having a wonderful new building in Battery Park City,” Birman said. Asked if she is optimistic that the library will be built, she said, “I don’t see why not.”
Library officials will attend the March 4 C.B. 1 B.P.C. Committee meeting at One World Financial Center, 24th floor, to tell the board about the budget shortfall.