Why Is New York City Planning to Sell and Shrink Its Libraries?

Defend our libraries, don't defund them. . . . . fund 'em, don't plunder 'em

Mayor Bloomberg defunded New York libraries at a time of increasing public use, population growth and increased city wealth, shrinking our library system to create real estate deals for wealthy real estate developers at a time of cutbacks in education and escalating disparities in opportunity. It’s an unjust and shortsighted plan that will ultimately hurt New York City’s economy and competitiveness.

It should NOT be adopted by those we have now elected to pursue better policies.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Citizens Defending Libraries Resource And Main Page

Defend our libraries, don't defund them. . . . .  fund 'em, don't plunder 'em 
Citizens Defending Libraries Rally at City Hall 4/18/2013 with Comptroller John C. Liu
Citizens Defending Libraries was founded in February of 2013 in response to then breaking headlines about how, across the city, our public libraries were proposed to be sold and shrunk, with libraries being intentionally underfunded, their books and librarians eliminated.   During its its as yet short existence Citizens Defending Libraries has had a number of significant successes fending off and preventing library sale and shrinkages and there has been some progress towards restoration of the funding of libraries to a proper pre-library-sales plan level of proper funding, but the libraries are still besieged by the threat of such plans.

This page (which will be periodically updated) provides resources in connection with the petition and campaign to oppose the defunding of New York City's libraries, the shrinkage of the system and the sale of library real estate in deals that prioritize benefit for developers.

Chart from Center From an Urban Future report showing sharp decline in funding (coinciding with plans to sell off/"leverage" libraries) against escalating use.  
The first petition (gathered over 17,000 signature, most of them online- available at signon.org with a background statement and can still be signed).   On June 16, Citizens Defending libraries issued a new updated petition that you can sign now:
Mayor de Blasio: Rescue Our Libraries from Developer Destruction
You can also paste the following url into your browser.

http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/mayor-de-blasio-rescue-2?source=s.tw&r_by=5895137 

This José Marti quote which can be found in this plaque on 41st Street's Library Walk is included in the petition to save New York City's libraries

All libraries in the New York City system are currently under siege.  For more details about affected libraries click here:  What Libraries Are Affected By City Strategy Of Defunding, Shrinking, Selling Off Libraries?

Here are additional action steps you can take that go beyond promoting the petition in order to help this campaign succeed: Action Steps You Can Take Including Contacting Elected and Other Public Officials.

Note about Citizens Defending Libraries (and allied groups) on Facebook and Twitter:   This, or any other of the individual pages at this Citizens Defending Libraries web location can be "liked" on Facebook if you go to the bottom of this page.  In addition, there is a Citizens Defending Libraries Facebook page that can also be "liked" on Facebook at:  Facebook- Citizens Defending Libraries (which will help you get notice of articles and new information pertaining to the cause when there are updates).  You can also follow Citizens Defending @DefendLibraries on twitter.

Our Facebook and Twitter will keep you up to date with the latest news and articles as they come out and allow you to easily share Tweets and posts.

In addition, the Committee to Save the New York Public Library has a Facebook page, and can be followed on Twitter (@saveNYPL).  Library Lovers League also has a Facebook page, and can be followed on Twitter (@LibraryLoversNY).

 News ArticlesAvailable Reference Articles

 •    Wall Street Journal: Undertaking Its Destruction, by Ada Louise Huxtable, December 3, 2012.
“There is no more important landmark building in New York than the New York Public Library, known to New Yorkers simply as the 42nd Street Library, one of the world's greatest research institutions. Completed in 1911 . . . . it is an architectural masterpiece. Yet it is about to undertake its own destruction. The library is on a fast track to demolish the seven floors of stacks just below the magnificent, two-block-long Rose Reading Room for a $300 million restructuring referred to as the Central Library Plan.”
 •    New York Times: Critic’s Notebook- In Renderings for a Library Landmark, Stacks of Questions, by Michael Kimmelman, January 29, 2013.
“this potential Alamo of engineering, architecture and finance would be irresponsible. . . a not-uncommon phenomenon among cultural boards, a form of architectural Stockholm syndrome.”
•    Noticing New York: 
    •    New City-Wide Policy Makes Generation Of Real Estate Deals The Library System’s Primary Purpose, (January 31, 2013).
 “Do we want a shrinking library system for a growing, wealthier city? . .  
     . . .  It’s what we are going to get as the principal purpose of the library system becomes the generation of real estate opportunities for developers.  This new city-wide policy has, in a very harmful way, turned into a perverse incentive for the city to defund libraries and drive them into the ground.”
    •    City Strategy Of Withholding Basic City Services To Blackmail Public Into Accepting Bigger Development, (Friday, February 1, 2013)
    •    What Could We Expect Forest City Ratner Would Do With Two Library Sites On Sale For The Sake Of Creating Real Estate Deals? (Sunday, February 3, 2013)
Two of the sites identified for sale in the forefront of this march towards divestiture of assets with a concomitant shrinkage of the system are in Brooklyn.   . . .  Whether by coincidence or not, both of these sites . .  are immediately adjacent to property the government has previously put in the hands of Forest City Ratner pursuant to no-bid deals . . .
    •    Libraries That Are Now Supposedly “Dilapidated” Were Just Renovated: And Are Developers’ Real Estate Deals More Important Than Bryant Park? (Saturday, February 9, 2013)
    •    If Our Besieged Libraries Could Speak For Themselves: Maybe They Do! A Petition And Efforts To Save New York’s Libraries From Developer Deals, (Wednesday, February 20, 2013)
The greatest shame of such a plan is that it, even if it shakes loose a few real estate deals, maybe a few every year, it is a travesty to continually drives all libraries and the entire system into the ground financially.
•    Center For An Urban Future:  Report - Branches of Opportunity, by David Giles, January 2013
[Libraries] “have experienced a 40 percent spike in the number of people attending programs and a 59 percent increase in circulation over the past decade”
 •    New York City Independent Budget Office:  Funding Cuts Could Shelve Many Library Branches, by Kate Maher and Doug Turetsky, April 13, 2011 
“The funding fall-off is already taking a toll on the city’s three library systems, particularly the systems in Brooklyn and Queens.” . . .“more than three dozen branch libraries may be closed.”  [Bloomberg on a course to bring waning city funding for New York’s three library systems to its] “lowest level since the 1990s.”   [The city’s 59 community boards ranked library services their] “third highest budget concern” . . [and] “Brooklyn’s community boards ranked libraries their top priority.”
.•    The Albert Shanker Institute:  The High Cost Of Closing Public Libraries, by Matthew Di Carlo, April 18, 2011
In fiscal year 2008 (again, according to the U.S. Census Bureau), there were roughly 9,300 public libraries in the U.S., with a total cost of around 10.7 billion dollars. That figure represents roughly 0.4 percent – four tenths of one percent – of all state and local government expenditures. On a per capita basis, this is about 35 dollars per person.  [local-level analyses] “have found that for every dollar we spent on public libraries, the public realizes about 3-5 dollars in benefits.”
•    The Daily News:  Coming to Brooklyn Heights: the incredible shrinking library, patrons and residents charge -- Controversial plan to sell library building to private developer who will build apartment tower over it, by Lore Croghan, February 17, 2013.
. . . a controversial plan to sell the city-owned Brooklyn Heights Library building to a private developer who will erect an apartment tower with a new, 15,000 square foot branch - smaller than the book hall that’s there now.. . . many patrons use the business library like it’s part of their neighborhood branch — and are upset the space will be eliminated.
•     Library Journal: Donnell sale highlights need for transparency in decision-making, by Francine Fialkoff, Editor-in-Chief, February 1, 2008
. . . the building that housed Donnell has been sold to make way for a hotel and a much smaller public library. .  (w)ith the proposed library having less than half the space for public services as the old Donnell . . . questions remain about the location of some of the collections. . . More importantly, the breakup of the collections diminishes the role of Donnell as a central library . . .  The decisions . . .  [were] communicated to staff (and in the case of Donnell, to the public) largely after the big decisions have been made.

Should a public/private entity like NYPL. .  so blithely sidestep public and staff input?
[The] Libraries Subcommittee chair of the New York City Council . . . “. . didn't know about the Donnell sale ahead of time.”  “It's troubling . . . in terms of . .  the whole mission of the library.”

. . .  It's way past time for NYPL leaders to come out from behind their cloak of secrecy. .  get staff and public feedback before making any other sweeping changes.
•      Walkers In The City:  Patience and Fortitude, by Romy Ashby. February 22, 2013.
The meeting was crowded with mostly older people hearing the same kind of talk about their library and smelling a rat. “The 42nd Street library isn’t the only library in trouble,” a man said. “It’s the whole library system.” A lady in her seventies told of standing up to Robert Moses and winning. “We’re not gonna watch our libraries be demolished!” she said. “We want the library we have, nothing less! The minute you give in to their conditions you’re finished! You get bupkis!” I sat and listened, and some of what I heard was this:

The city is deliberately underfunding the libraries despite library use being way up. Perfectly good libraries are being labeled ‘Dilapidated’ to justify their destruction. Librarians have been warned to sound enthusiastic if asked about any such plans. The money from the sale of libraries will not go back into the library system, despite what library brass may say. . .
•        The Leonard Lopate Show: Controversy at the New York Public Library, Scott Sherman, a contributing writer for The Nation and Caleb Crain, a former Fellow at the NYPL and author of American Sympathy, talk about the proposed changes, staffing cuts and construction plans, March 12, 2012.



•       The Nation: Upheaval at the New York Public Library, by Scott Sherman, November 30, 2011.

•       The Nation: The Hidden History of New York City’s Central Library Plan: Why did one of the world’s greatest libraries adopt a $300 million transformation without any real public debate?, by Scott Sherman, August 28, 2013.
 For two years, the NYPL has refused to discuss the CLP in detail, and many questions remain unanswered. How and why did one of the world’s greatest libraries get into the real estate business? How did the CLP, which was formulated between 2005 and early 2007, advance into late 2011 without any significant public debate or discussion? Who first conceived the idea of demolishing book stacks that were constructed by Carrère and Hastings in the first decade of the twentieth century? What role did the Bloomberg administration play in the creation of the CLP? Finally, what was the role of Booz Allen Hamilton—the gargantuan consulting firm whose tentacles reach into the defense, energy, transportation and financial service sectors—which was hired by the NYPL in 2007 to formulate what became known inside the trustee meetings as “the strategy”?
•       The Wall Street Journal: Clueless at the Corcoran- What the museum's latest bad decision says about nonprofit governance, by Eric Gibson, February, 24, 2014.
. . .  the untold story of our time is the emerging crisis in nonprofit governance, where boards embark on policies that go against-and even imperil-the mission of the institution they are charged to oversee and protect.

. . . The New York Public Library wants to gut its magnificent Beaux Arts building on Fifth Avenue and change it from a research institution to, as Ada Louise Huxtable wrote in this newspaper, "a state-of-the-art, socially interactive, computer-centered" circulating library, with fewer books, a good number of them moved off-site.
•       The Brooklyn Eagle (Exclusive): Brooklyn Public Library in line for audit, says Comptroller Stringer, by Mary Frost, February, 28, 2014.
Groups opposing the controversial sales of Brooklyn and Manhattan library branches to developers have long been pushing for an audit of the BPL and NPL systems. . .

“Some of the things raised with respect to the Queens library system are interesting and worth investigating but the Queens expenditures ($140K for a conference deck) are penny ante compared to the library sales at the NPL and the BPL,” commented Michael D. D. White, a founding member of Citizens Defending Library, following a Brian Lehrer interview with Comptroller Stringer. “The Queens Library system has not been selling off libraries like the other two,” White added.
•       City Limits: New Scrutiny of City's Library Trustees- The trustees of the city's library systems oversee more than 200 branches and the spending of hundreds of millions of city dollars. How representative of the city are they?, by Suzanne Travers, June 18, 2014.
Over the last year, library trustees have seen more of the spotlight than usual because of moves that put boards at odds with public opinion. . .

* * *
As repositories of information available to anyone who walks through the door, libraries have always helped foster transparency, accountability and democracy. Their boards, however, struggle on all three counts.
 
 •      The Brian Lehrer Show: Giving Libraries Their Due, David Giles, research director at the Center for an Urban Future and the author of the report, "Branches of Opportunity", argues that New York City's public libraries deserve even more support in the digital age. (Click below to listen) January 15, 2013.
More people visited public libraries in New York than every major sports team and every major cultural institution combined.


Chart from the Independent Budget Office- Adjustments for inflation (per the Urban Future report) shows downturn in starkest relief.
Meville House article on Citizens Defending Libraries event used picture from July rally where Bill de Blasio joined CDL to call for a halt to these library sales.  Video of event on CDL's Youtube channel.
  •      Melville House: Citizens Defending Libraries calls the Central Library Plan “a real estate grab” and “contrary to the public interest”, by Claire Kelley, February 19, 2014.
Citizens Defending Libraries, which was co-founded by Michael D. D. White and Carolyn McIntyre, has been organizing protests and actions against the Central Library Plan. They have told us that they are continuing to solicit "petition signatures to ensure the de Blasio administration scraps all of the Bloomberg library sell-off plans.". .

. . . Citizens Defending Libraries is just now arriving at our first anniversary, just blowing out the single candle on our birthday cake.  We formed in response to breaking headlines at the very beginning of last year about how libraries were being sold off at the end of the Bloomberg administration in deals that would benefit real estate developers, not the public.
 
  •      New York Times: Denying New York Libraries the Fuel They Need, by Jim Dwyer, April 23, 2015.
The city's libraries - the fusty old buildings, and a few spiffier modern ones, . .  have more users than major professional sports, performing arts, museums, gardens and zoos - combined.

* * * *

Over the last decade, they have not gotten anywhere near the kind of capital funding enjoyed by sports teams.

From the 2006 fiscal year through 2014, the city budgeted at least $464 million to build new baseball stadiums for the Yankees and the Mets, and $156 million for the Barclays Center. That's $620 million for just those three sports arenas - a sum more than one-third greater than the $453 million that the city committed for capital improvements to the its 206 branch libraries and four research centers, which serve roughly seven times as many people a year as attend baseball games. (The budget figures were provided by the city's Independent Budget Office; the teams are getting an additional $680 million in subsidies spread over 40 years.)
For decades, the libraries have served a single function in the city budget process: hostages. Mayors say they have to cut library hours to make the financial books balance.. .
 Additional Links. For more in a running series of Noticing New York articles about the libraries click here: Libraries Series.  Also, here are pages with articles that reference respectively 1.)  The Central Library Plan affecting the Tilden Astor Central Reference Library at 42nd Street, the Mid-Manhattan, Library, SIBL and the Donnell, 2.) The Brooklyn Heights libraries, and The Pacific Branch library, and 3.) Libraries in general.  



Foreground: The lion Patience , of Patience and Fortitude fame, in front of 42nd Street Research Library, whose research stacks will be sacrificed.  Background:  Mid-Manhattan Library that will be sold in system shrinkage plans
Flyers and Handouts Images, Cartoons, Flyers, Handouts Posters 

For images and cartoons for posters, rallies and handouts CLICK HERE.  For flyers and handouts for canvassing and getting the word out about the petition CLICK HERE.

Videos

Citizens Defending Libraries is making videos available on the Citizens Defending Libraries YouTube Channel.  Selected videos from that channel can also be found here in the Video Page.

Related Petitions

(It is expected more will be added to this list with accompanying explanations)

**** Citizens Defending Libraries is right now is working with the Committee to Save the New York Public Library and Library Lovers League to make sure every signs and (electronically) sends this email to the mayor (CCs are going to other elected officials): Email the Mayor!  ****


There is another separate petition (currently over 1300 signatures) by the Committee to Save the New York Public Library that has been up for some time and specifically opposes the Central Library Plan in Manhattan:

    Anthony W. Marx: Reconsider the $350 million plan to remake NYC's landmark central library

The following petition to save Long Island College Hospital (LICH) is relevant to the save the libraries petition, particularly for the residents of Brooklyn Heights and Northwest Brooklyn, because of commonality of related issues that were explained at the annual Brooklyn Heights Association meeting and in the following article:  Wednesday, February 13, 2013, One-Stop Petition Shopping: Report On The Brooklyn Heights Association Annual Meeting, LICH and Libraries.
Governor Andrew Cuomo and NYS Health Department Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah : Keep University Hospital Brooklyn at Long Island College Hospital open, by  Assemblywoman Joan Millman

The morning crowd waiting for the Brooklyn Heights downtown library to open
The Petition Being Put Forth By Citizens Defending Libraries


The first petition (gathered over 17,000 signature, most of them online- available at signon.org with a background statement and can still be signed).   On June 16, Citizens Defending libraries issued a new updated petition that you can sign now:
Mayor de Blasio: Rescue Our Libraries from Developer Destruction
You can also paste the following url into your browser.

http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/mayor-de-blasio-rescue-2?source=s.tw&r_by=5895137 

CONTACT: To contact Citizens Defending Libraries email Backpack362 (at) aol.com.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Brooklyn Heights Association 2017 Annual Meeting- "What To Do In The Age of Trump"

BHA 2017 Annual Meeting- Well attended, but public participation "in the age of Trump" was not invited
This post will be updated.

The Brooklyn Heights Association 2017 Annual Meeting was held Monday, February 27, 20017 at the Saint Francis College auditorium on Remsen Street.

The BHA gave its neighborhood report.  That report contained no mention of the destruction of the Brooklyn Heights Library, the BHA's continuing support of its shrink-and-sink sale or the ongoing abuses such as the felling just days before of five neighborhood trees, at the library's Truth Park excused by the false representation that the developer had already acquired the property from the city.

Things were tightly controlled this year with no invitation for public questioning or input, except that, as part of panel discussion of de Blasio's proposed (and at this meeting largely ridiculed) BQX riverfront trolley proposal, the public could hand in suggestions questions written on index cards.  Virtually no time was devoted to those questions and essentially none of them asked.
An example of one of the many questions from attendees that were submitted, but never asked.
Not surprisingly, the BHA proclaimed with great solemnity how important it was to consider what its role should be "in the age of Trump."   Its answer was that locals should get more involved supporting the BHA and working for better schools. . . . We had a flyer prepared and distributed it to nearly everyone at the very well attended meeting that we think addresses in much more telling and pertinent terms what the BHA's responsibilities should be "in the age of Trump."   

Below, in both text and as a jpg is the flyer we distributed.
ALLOWING SALES THAT LOOT OUR LIBRARIES, (pushing our libraries out the door to plundering plutocrats, handing them over to developers) HAS CONSEQUENCES

It has been noted that if Steve Mnuchin had been vigorously prosecuted at the local level for his business’s mortgage fraud, misrepresentations, backdating and falsification of documents to rev up the pace of his OneWest foreclosure mill, he wouldn’t be Treasury Secretary, appointed by Donald Trump today- Similarly, had NYS Attorney General Eric Schneiderman investigated the shrink-and-sink Donnell Library plunder with Blackstone’s Stephen A. Schwarzman involved on the selling side and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner as principal financial beneficiary, those two Trump henchmen might not be in significant positions of power today.  The whole political landscape at the national level could be different, not to mention having healthier local politics.

When our local officials and organizations allow the corrupt plundering of valuable public assets, like the shrink-and-sink Brooklyn Heights Library deal modeled on the sale of Donnell with some of the same people in the background, it feeds the beasts who go on to prey on us in so many other ways.

It doesn’t serve us that Stephen A. Schwarzman, spearheading Trump’s economic policy, is also one of Senator Schumer’s biggest donors, just as Schumer’s wife’s connections with selling libraries and privatizing public assets also do not.  City Councilman Steve Levin misleadingly assured that he would do his job and insist on transparency respecting the library sales but, betraying his constituents, never has. Thus the lack of transparency in Brooklyn Heights helps Donnell sink unchallenged into the sunset (even as Preet Bhrara investigates the mayor’s play-to-play).

Meanwhile, five trees were felled at the Heights library by a developer who doesn’t not yet own it, while the Brooklyn Heights Association lets such library-trashing abuses multiply despite having sworn to protect the public. (The library was promised to stay open until it was acquired, and should be open even now.)

We can commend Irene Janner, receiving an award today, for her first CB2 vote against selling the library, but can’t let go unobserved the awkwardness, as the library stills hangs in the balance, of those two subsequent votes involving flip-flops where the BHA forced the library sale through,  overriding the original hearing.  WE DESERVE BETTER!
    
Sign our petition on the web: Citizens Defending Libraries



Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Showing Permit To Cut Down ONE Tree, Developer’s Men Cut Down FIVE At Brooklyn Heights Library Truth Park. Story Given Police Is That Property Is Privately Owned, Not City Owned. Police Buy It. Not Us.

This page will be updated.

Developer David Kramer of the Hudson has been busy at the Brooklyn Heights Library, which we understand he still does not own, yesterday, today and possibly tomorrow, cutting down trees in Truth Park and another in front of the library: In all five trees, although 3/4th of one Honey Locust in Truth Park still stands and another is a trunk that could regrow if allowed to.

We hope that the library and Truth Park remain city-owned and that the pay-to-play investigations by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara will finally bring to a close the plan to plunder this public asset.

The developer's tree removers showed up with a permit to cut down one tree, but were going after five (at least five so far).  Today their target was the two most magnificent Honey Locusts in Truth Park.  Apparently, without showing any paperwork to back it up the developer's guys talked the police department into assuming that the property is now privately owned, not city owned, which is our understanding and which nobody is actually truly contradicting us on.

A checks of property records via ACRIS (see below) shows that the property remains city-owned, unacquired by the developer,

Public records in ACRIS show that the teveloper took down trees before (and is trashing the property, laying waste to it, in other ways) without acquiring the property.  Remember that because the developer has never bought the property the library, according to the promises as part of the ULURP process, should still be open and serving the public in all its original glory. 
At the behest of Eric Adams Borough President's Office the Parks Department sent out a representative who, although he was quickly in transit, did not show up with alacrity, and when he arrived, announced (after checking) that he was the wrong person to have been summoned because the Park Department did not have jurisdiction for this kind of city-owned property.

The Borough President's Office is looking into what to do next.  (Many of us called and/or visited the Borough President's Office.  Feel free (assuming de Blasio is a lost cause in this pay-to-play environment) to also call Comptroller Scott Stringer and Public Advocate Tish James.

One of the police officers first on the scene who mistakenly thought that "the library" was being put back, didn't know it was being shrunk substantially, pushed more underground, apparently had misgivings about what he heard when seeing the library destroyed and apparently, at the station house, attempted to better inform himself about the situation, or was lectured to by somebody who gave him misinformation.  Returning to the scene he was talking about understanding that the new library would be smaller because it was a "library of the future" and that it was all happening because it was a generational thing with digitally oriented younger people not wanting big libraries with books libraries of the sorts that were revered by prior generations.

So he was fed the pish-tosh PR the library hands out to justify pay-to-play, crony capitalism real estate boondoggle real estate deal hand-outs, and our law enforcement officer happily swallowed it hook, line and sinker (although we do thank him for at least trying to do some due diligence).

His due diligence apparently feel far short of looking at any of the following:
Physical Books vs. Digital Books
Articles About Library Privacy and Surveillance In Libraries

Articles About Libraries and Net Neutrality
We have video.  Lots of photos.  We even have a time-lapse video of today's destruction.  We will be putting up more.

Here is the YouTube video of the Truth Park tree destruction on February 22nd with  the men working for the developer telling the police that property is now privately owned, not owned bythe city, even though the developer has never yet acquired the property from the city.  (Click through to YouTube for best viewing- fast forward if the experience is too painful and you want to shorten it.)

Destruction of Truth Park Trees Feb 22, 2017

Coming:  We have video of the final destruction of the last tree on February 23rd, which, ultimately, Eric Adams, the Brooklyn Borough President did not stop. . .  which we are sorry to say was not stopped.

Here is a time lapse video (click through to YouTube for best viewing). 

Time Lapse Truth Park Tree Removal

Here is coverage from the Architects Newspaper who was there, johnny-on-the-spot, to get the story out in service to the public:
•    The Architects Newspaper: Tree removal at Brooklyn Heights library begins, paving way for 36-story tower, by Audrey Wachs and Zach Edelson, February 23, 2017.
Here are some pictures.