Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Neighborhood Similar to Brooklyn Heights Manages to Afford a New AC in their Library

This is the story of a library in Andover, Massachusetts that managed to replace its HVAC (heating, ventilating and air conditioning) system for under $500,000.

We mention this because a library of a similar size in Brooklyn Heights is for sale . . .  because the Brooklyn Public Library says it would cost $3.5 million to replace the HVAC, which has been broken for years.

Andover, Massachusetts is a town very much like Brooklyn Heights. Andover is a  little bigger than Brooklyn Heights, but is very similar demographically.

Andover is a wealthy community, just like Brooklyn Heights. According to a 2008 estimate, the median income for a household in Andover was $114,319. (Wikipedia) The median household income in Brooklyn Heights was $111,067. (City-Data) Things are just as expensive in Andover as they are in Brooklyn Heights.

Stevens Memorial Library
Like Brooklyn Heights, Andover residents are well-educated and love to read. Both areas have similar-sized local libraries (in Andover it's Stevens Memorial Library and in Brooklyn Heights it's the Brooklyn Heights Branch Library, part of the Brooklyn Public Library system) and both libraries have a "Friends of the Library" volunteer group.

Brooklyn Heights Branch: Google Maps
Both libraries have or had busted air conditioners. In 2010, the Stevens Memorial Library's AC failed during the hottest day in May, and the library had to operate through the summer -- one of the hottest on record -- without it. Portable air conditioners and fans were brought in, and it cost the library $5,400 for electricity in July, according to North Andover Patch. Many summer programs had to be cancelled.

In Brooklyn Heights in 2010, the situation was identical. But instead of bringing in portable ACs and fans, the library closed early or completely on many of the hottest days of summer. (The Business Library shares the building. It, too closed on hot days.)

Now here's where the two libraries went in very different directions:

Stevens Memorial:

Stevens Memorial Library carried out a Building Energy Assessment and found they needed to replace all the HVAC components with more up-to-date ones.

At a special town meeting called for another purpose, the Library Building Committee presented the town with a couple of different options that included project management and engineering as well as just the HVAC.

Quoting from North Andover Patch: "The Finance Committee reviewed the proposal and decided on the $460,000 option with project management and engineering, so as to have the project done right the first time and implement as much energy efficiency as possible."

The price tag seemed high, but there were incentives for some of the equipment through National Grid for energy efficiency, so there was a payback on that. And by replacing the technology, the library is hoping for a 40 percent savings on an annual basis. The town voted to replace the HVAC and the job was completed before the summer of 2012.

According to the Eagle Tribune, "The modern HVAC has made the library a haven from heat waves."

Brooklyn Height Branch Library:

BPL did nothing in 2010, 2011 or 2012 other than close the library early on the hottest days. Then in January of 2013, BPL dropped a bomb: Claiming a new AC would cost $3.5 million dollars and millions in other unspecified building repairs were also needed, BPL said they would sell the building to a private developer.

Their plan called for rebuilding the Heights branch inside a smaller, city-owned condo space on the first floor of the new residential development, and moving the Business Branch to a neighborhood far away from the business section of Brooklyn.

Most residents reacted with shock and dismay, protest groups formed, and many felt that yet another back room deal with a developer had been struck. BPL said the sale would proceed "at a fast trot" and though they said the public would have a voice, a group that collected 8,000 signatures on a petition to save the library was not allowed to speak at meetings.The Brooklyn Heights Association, however, said they would not oppose the plan if certain conditions were met.


The Brooklyn Heights library site is for sale and the RFP has been issued by the city. No figures were ever shown to the public about an AC system costing $3.5 million and no bids were ever sent out.Though the Brooklyn Heights Branch summer hours were cut to just mornings, recently the branch has been totally closed due to a heat wave.

Meanwhile, in Andover, Summer at the Stevens continues this week with movies, story times, book discussion groups for kids, teens and adults, and two special speakers. Knitters and other community groups meet all summer. The library has expanded the number of public computers due to a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, matched by the Friends of the Library..

The library director said that thanks to the new HVAC system, she expects the "library to continue in its present building for another 100 years." (The roof does need repairs, however.)

Previous Posts:

- Brooklyn Public Library Moving to Wrap Up Sale of Heights Branch Quickly
- Tough Crowd at Brooklyn Heights Library Meeting
- Brooklyn Heights Business Library Moving to Prospect Heights; Building May Be Sold to Developer
- Brooklyn Heights Library Closed Again
- Brooklyn Public Library Funding Restored, Bloomberg's Phony Crisis Averted

Go to McBrooklyn's HOME PAGE.


Anonymous said...

Yet, in a brutal decision on economic priorities, there will be an epic Tomato Battle, with attendant security, this Saturday at Floyd Bennett Field.

Anonymous said...

Who's bringing basil?