The Central Library, as well as the DeKalb, Macon, Park Slope, Williamsburg, Stone Avenue, and Clinton Hill branches will get new signage. Other branches will also receive new signage, but they are not subject to the jurisdiction of the LPC.
Laura Varacchi and Christopher King of Vinegar Hill-based LVCK Design created the “kit of parts,” as one commissioner called it, for the signage. The local branches also fall under the purview of the Public Design Commission. The PDC approved the scheme and it was up to the LPC to approve how to use the signage, not to redesign it.
That was a sore point for some of the commissioners. Commissioners Michael Goldblum, Adi Shamir-Baron and Michael Desvonshire were particularly unhappy with the addition of banners to most of the buildings.
The DeKalb Library, an individual landmark located at 790 Bushwick Avenue in Bushwick, will receive two black banners with white text that say “DEKALB” and have the Brooklyn Public Library in much smaller text at the bottom. One each will be installed on each end of the main façade. Above the door will be new text that says “BROOKLYN PUBLIC LIBRARY” and has the street number below it. Finally, a new stanchion with the branch’s name and a digital display will replace the one currently in front of the building.
Commissioner Goldblum asked why banners were proposed in the first place. The designers told him that there were two reasons: one was simply to be eye-catching; the other was that many people don’t know that their branch has a name. “Banners, to me, are the least useful thing,” Goldblum said, adding that they “muck up the architecture.” He instead suggested another stanchion on DeKalb Avenue.
Commissioner Shamir-Baron said she thought one banner would be sufficient. Commissioner Devonshire agreed, saying the banners would be disruptive and would never be approved if a retailer like Joe Fresh asked for it. He said the black banners would be disruptive. “It’s advertising and there’s too much of it,” he said.
LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan, however, called the move “positive” and said the new signage would be “discreet” and not overwhelming. Commissioner Diana Chapin particularly liked the digital aspect of the stanchion, Commissioner Kim Vauss liked the idea of banners, and Commissioner Wellington Chen found the proposed signage, including the banners, “discreet and appropriate.”
Commissioner Jeanne Lutfy actually found some of the proposed signage “too understated” and lacking “enough presence.”
Brooklyn Community Board 4 approved the proposal and so did the commissioners, but not unanimously.
Up next was the Macon Library, located at 361 Lewis Avenue, in the Bedford-Stuyvesant/Expanded Stuyvesant Heights Historic District. It will receive eight-foot-tall banners, one on each side of the main façade, that read “MACON,” as well as a new “361” over the front door, and a stanchion with a digital display in front of the building.
Commissioner Lutfy thought just seeing “MACON” instead of “Brooklyn Public Library” might be confusing. Commissioner Goldblum asked why the banner couldn’t be hung on the large flagpole. He was told the pole is reserved for the American flag, but nobody could explain why it wasn’t present in the photos of the Macon branch. Commissioner Wellington Chen asked about posting some of the signage on the fence. He was told that would make it too easy for the public to reach, and possibly damage.
Brooklyn Community Board 3 approved the proposal, as did the commissioners, again without unanimity.
Next was the Park Slope Library, an individual landmark located at 431 Sixth Avenue. It will receive two eight-foot banners reading “PARK SLOPE,” a stanchion with a digital display, and new numerals indicating the address. Those numerals will be put on concrete to the left of the main entry stairs.
Brooklyn Community Board 6 approved the proposal, as did a majority of the commissioners.
The Williamsburg Library is an individual landmark located at 240 Division Avenue. It already has two large banners, one on each side of the main entrance, which cover window openings. Those will be removed and the masonry repaired. Then two new black banners will be installed, one at each end of the main façade, as well as a new stanchion with a digital display and new numerals indicating the address. Those numbers will be installed by the main entry stairs.
Brooklyn Community Board 1 took issue with the content of the stanchion. Commissioner Goldblum called the banners proposed for this branch the “least objectionable” of all. The proposal won over a majority of the commissioners.
The Stone Avenue Library is an individual landmark located at 581 Mother Gaston Boulevard, in Brownsville. It was designated a landmark in 2015. The proposal was for two banners, reading “STONE AVENUE,” on the Dumont Avenue side of the building, new numerals over the entrance on Dumont Avenue, and a stanchion with the branch name and hours on the Dumont Avenue side of the building’s corner. The massing on Dumont Avenue is because the library actually has a secondary tenant that occupies the other entryway.
Several commissioners agreed that the two-banner approach didn’t seem to be working, and Commissioner Diana Chapin was among those who didn’t like the position of the proposed stanchion. She suggested moving it to the left of the main entrance, not the right.
Brooklyn Community Board 16 approved the proposal. The commissioners approved the proposal, with some modifications. Only one banner will be installed, and the library will work with LPC staff on the location of the stanchion.
The final branch was Clinton Hill Library, located at 380 Washington Avenue, in the Clinton Hill Historic District. The proposal called for three banners – one green, one black, and one yellow – affixed to the concrete at the top of the left side of the building, a stanchion with the branch name and hours located in front of the left side of the building, new lettering and address numerals over the main entrance, and new “BROOKLYN PUBLIC LIBRARY” lettering on a raceway on the right side of the building.
Chair Srinivasan noted that this building is not one for which the district is known. Commissioner Shamir-Baron said banners actually work here, but wasn’t convinced the stanchion would do anything. Commissioner Goldblum was worried about drilling the banners into the concrete, and suggested instead anchoring them to the brick below.
The commissioners’ approval came with the directive that the library work with LPC staff on the anchoring of the banners and the location of the branch identification stanchion.
Finally, the commissioners got to the proposal for the Central Library, an individual landmark located at 10 Grand Army Plaza. This proposal turned out to be the least controversial, but was also the one over which the commissioners could have the most say. That’s because, unlike the local libraries, the Central Library proposal was only before the LPC, not the PDC. So, the commissioners could have chosen to make real design tweaks.
The library’s two existing static signs at the base of the main entry stairs will be replaced with eight-and-a-half-foot-tall double-sided signs that have a digital displays. Similar single-sided pylons will also be installed at the Dweck Center entrance and the children’s entrance. The Dweck Center entrance signage will replace an existing light pole.
Chair Srinivasan said the new signage “seems more elegant” than the existing “clunky” installations. Brooklyn Community Board 9 approved the proposal, as did the commissioners.
The only public testimony came from Christabel Gough of the Society for the Architecture of the City. She said this system where the PDC and LPC both oversee projects isn’t working, and several commissioners agreed with her.