BY RONDA KAYSEN | When Goldman Sachs pulled out of the deal to build their new headquarters in Battery Park City, they took the money to build a new library for the neighborhood with them, a casualty that has rattled local residents.
“Without Goldman Sachs, I don’t know what the future of the library is,” said Robin Forst, assistant chief of staff for City Councilmember Alan Gerson and a B.P.C. resident. “I’m keeping my fingers crossed that maybe Goldman will come back. Without them I don’t know if there would be money elsewhere to fund it on the same timeline.”
The investment bank had pledged $3.5 million for a 10,000 sq. ft. library at Site 16/17, a neighboring development. But when the plans to build the $40 billion headquarters unraveled last month reportedly because of a proposed West St. tunnel that would have emptied on the building’s doorstep, the promised amenities vanished, too.
“I think this is terrible for the neighborhood, I really do,” said Marti Cohen-Wolf, a Battery Park City resident since 1982 and longtime advocate for the new library. “The library was part of being a neighborhood, it was part of a cohesive thing to bridge the north and south parts of the neighborhood.”
The closest public library for the growing neighborhood of 9,000 residents is the New Amsterdam library, a small neighborhood branch on Murray St. in Tribeca. “It’s a lovely library, but it’s too small to serve the community that’s around it,” said Cohen-Wolf.
The Battery Park City Authority, the state and city agency that oversees the development of the neighborhood, has provided the space for the B.P.C. library rent-free until 2069, but the capital budget is entirely dependent upon Goldman’s coffers.
“At this time there is no other alternative source of funding for the library,” said Jennifer Bertrand, a spokesperson for the New York Public Library. “There is a need and the residents of Battery Park City have expressed their interest in a library, but we cannot move forward without the construction and operating budget in place.”
Generally, public libraries are paid for by government funds, added Bertrand, like the new Mulberry Street Library in Soho under construction on Lafayette St.
The bank had also pledged $1 million toward a community center on Site 5C in Tribeca, money that was also tied to the headquarters. But the Manhattan Youth-steered center costs far more than $1 million to build and is not nearly as dependant on Goldman’s pledge as the library is. Edward J. Minskoff Equities, developing a Tribeca site on West St. said last week they would contribute an extra $1 million to the rec center.
“They are not going to build the Freedom Tower. They are not going to build the Goldman Sachs building, but they are going to build a community center on 5C,” said Bob Townley, executive director of Manhattan Youth. “You’ve got to go with what brought you here, baby, and it was little small projects with a sense of community and we will revitalize New York from the ground up.”
Townley is gearing up for a capital campaign in the fall and may yet ask Goldman Sachs to support the center.
At this point, library advocates have yet to devise a viable plan B for their library. Anthony Notaro, a B.P.C. resident and chairperson of the Community Board 1 B.P.C. Committee is “extremely” concerned about the future of the library and hopes that with the West St. tunnel proposal now dead in the water, Goldman will reconsider its decision.
“We’re hoping that Goldman can be persuaded to come back otherwise we’re going to have to look at other funding sources,” Notaro said. “This is so new, I don’t think anybody knows what to make of it at this point.”