"I think this is the most controversial issue that I've seen in my district since being elected in 2009," said Councilmember Stephen Levin at a hearing that dragged on for more than four hours on Wednesday. All told, 85 constituents testified for or against a proposal to demolish the aging and low-ceilinged Brooklyn Heights branch of the Brooklyn Public Library and replace it with a with a 36-story luxury condominium.

As part of the $52 million proposal, developer Hudson Properties would construct a public library branch on the first floor of the tower at 280 Cadman Plaza West, with an estimated completion date of 2020.

Three hours into the debate, Levin spoke up again. "People," he said, "please behave."

Already, Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President Carlo Scissura had dubbed the project "truly innovative" and even "something revolutionary"; Common Cause Policy Manager Prudence Katze had deemed it "relatively hasty and uncreative," setting "a dangerous precedent for plugging budget holes" by nullifying a public asset; Union coalition Build Up NYC had condemned Hudson's refusal to mandate union construction labor.

"This is not a dilapidated library," said one neighbor, defending the existing structure. Another insisted that, "The library is a dark place, a dirty place. Hot in the summer and cold in the winter."

Brooklyn Height's Community Board 2 and the City Planning commission have both approved the Hudson plan, which also mandates that the developer supplement its luxury units with 114 units of affordable housing at an offsite location in neighboring Clinton Hill.

These units will take applicants who earn between 60-165% of the Area Median Income—for a family of two, that means household incomes ranging from $41,424 to $113,916. Rents for two-bedrooms will range from $1,106 to $3,135. According to the 2013 census, around 36.3% of New York households make less than $35,000 a year, and 47.8% make less than $50,000.

This "affordable" housing, with an estimated completion date of 2018, has done little to appease many Brooklyn Heights residents, who argue that their neighborhood is already feeling the strain of steady high-rise development from the Heights to nearby DUMBO and Vinegar Hill.

Last fall, the NY Times reported that about half a dozen residential developments are projected to add between 1,500 and 2,000 people to DUMBO in the next few years. PS 8, which serves Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO, is in the midst of a contentious rezoning battle with the Department of Education, and is at 140% capacity.

"What is Brooklyn Heights getting by this sale? A new high rise," testified retired librarian Daniel Winicore. "It will not be getting any new affordable housing."

The Brooklyn Heights Library at 280 Cadman Plaza West (via)

Hudson Properties Principal David Kramer did his best to get the hearing's attendees on board with the plan. Because he lives "blocks from the site," he said, the project is "very personal." Kramer described two "micro-retail" spaces that would join the library on the tower's first floor—Brooklyn Coffee Roasters ("so people can get the necessary caffeination") and a "curated pop-up retail space" with a weekly rotation of Smorgasburg vendors.

Brooklyn Library President Linda Johnson also defended the plan, describing a new library branch that will be "modern and inviting" for people to work "collaboratively" in.

Primarily, though, she focused on a Brooklyn library system that is experiencing a "maintenance crisis." The entire system has an estimated $300 million in unfunded capital needs; 70% of the libraries in the system are more than 50 years old, and a quarter of them need $5 million in maintenance. The Brooklyn Heights branch, which was built in 1962 (she described it as "outdated and outmoded") needs about $9 million. The city only provides the BPL with $15 million annually in capital funds.

Johnson also argued that the new proposed library would total 18,500 square feet of public space, "more than any other Brooklyn branch." (The library facing demolishment totals 19,000 square feet of public space, plus a 16,400-square-foot Business and Careers library.) $40 million from the sale would go towards renovating public libraries in Bushwick, Fort Greene and Boerum Hill, and an $8-million, brand new library in Sunset Park.

"I want to quote from our spiritual forefather K. Marx, who said 'from each according to his ability, to each according to his need' and thats what this is really about," said former District 15 CEC President Jim Devore. "To the extent that this will redistribute wealth from Downtown Brooklyn to other parts of Brooklyn, it's important and it's necessary."

This is what a library inside of a condo might look like (Marvel Architects)

Councilmember Levin was less sure. "In doing this you're taking away something from an area that has a lot of traffic," he said. "My concern is that this is removing a resource from Downtown Brooklyn."

Earlier, Kramer had presented a rendering of the 7,000-square-foot interim library that would operate out of Our Lady of Lebanon Church on nearby Remsen Street for the duration of construction. "It beats a book mobile," he shrugged. "It beats no service at all."

The City Council is scheduled to vote on the proposal before the end of 2016.

Additional reporting by Roxie Pell.