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, November 6, 2019

Citizens Defending Libraries Main Page

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

SIGN OUR PETITION TO SUPPORT LIBRARIES:  Sign our new updated petition here:
Mayor de Blasio: Rescue Our Libraries from Developer Destruction
You can also stay informed by following us on Twitter (@DefendLibraries) and by liking our Citizens Defending Libraries Facebook page. And we post videos on our Citizens Defending Libraries YouTube Channel.
When We Started and Why

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 at great public loss, with libraries being intentionally underfunded, their books and librarians eliminated.  Citizens Defending Libraries was first to point out how the the real estate industry's interest in turning libraries into real estate deals was driving such sales and the reduction of funding and library resources.


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.  These successes include: 
    •    The sale of Mid-Manhattan, the most used circulating library in Manhattan, was prevented with the help of two lawsuits in which Citizens Defending Libraries was first in the list of named plaintiffs.  That sale was prevented as Citizens Defending Libraries joined with others to successfully derail the New York Public Library’s ill-conceived consolidating shrinkage of major Manhattan libraries known as the Central Library Plan.  Citizens Defending Libraries accurately predicted this sell-off and shrinkage of libraries was likely to cost over $500 million, far more than the $300 advertised by the NYPL as it promoted its real estate deals.  Unfortunately, work remains to be done as aspects of the Central Library Plan still ominously survive:
    •        The NYPL still plans to sell and close the largest science library in New York City, SIBL, the Science Industry and Business Library, eliminating its collection of science books just when they are needed most,
    •        Millions of additional books are still missing from and need to be brought back to the 42nd Street Central Reference Library at Fifth Avenue (yes that's the building with the lions, Patience and Fortitude).
    •        The NYPL still plans to subject the Mid-Manhattan Library to a consolidating shrinkage with a concomitantly vast reduction in available books.
    •    The sale and closing of another beloved central destination in Manhattan, the 5-story Donnell Library is now widely understood to have been a mistake. Library administration officials now apologize acknowledging it was a significant mistake, but that is only so long as we keep reminding the public what was lost and how the library was sold for a pittance, while real estate industry insiders like Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner benefitted from this first “shrink-and-sink” deal by replacing it with luxury tower, a tiny underground and largely bookless library in its base.
    •    Working with others in the community, we have so far prevented the sale the Pacific Branch Library, the first Carnegie in Brooklyn, next to Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards megadevelopment (now aka “Pacific Park”), which in 2013 the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) announced was one of its two highest priorities to sell as it launched a program of real estate deal sell-offs.
    •    For almost four years, from 2013 to 2017, we delayed and fended off the sale and destruction of Brooklyn’s second biggest library, the central destination Brooklyn Heights Library, which included the central Business Career and Education Library and a now shuttered Federal Depository Library making federal documents, records, and history available to the public.  This was another “shrink-and-sink” sale of property, also next to (and involving) Forest City Ratner property was the BPL’s other first announced highest priority.  Again, a luxury tower will stand where an important central destination library once stood.  Garnering over 2,000 testimonies from the community we surprised everybody by causing Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams to come out against the project after it was launched.  It was also reportedly the subject of a “play-to-play” investigation with respect to the development team that was an inferior bidder channeling funds to Mayor de Blasio.  That investigation appears to have been dropped immediately after Donald Trump stunned the public by firing U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.
    •    We alerted the public and Red Hook community about “Spaceworks,” a real estate company formed Mayor Bloomberg’s administration to shrink libraries viewing library space as being under utilized we helped to prevent the already woefully small 7,500 square foot Red Hook library from being shrunk down to just 5,500 square feet.  Brooklyn Community Board 6 helped kill the shrinkage.  (While we also worked to get the word out to the Williamsburg community about a proposed shrinkage there with Spaceworks being handed the second floor of the Williamsburg Library, we were not able to act fast enough and Councilman Steve Levin and Brooklyn Community Board 1 were supporting the scheme.)
     •    We alerted the Sunset Park community about long-secret plans to sell the Sunset Park Library and redevelop it into a mixed used project.  We believe that because we were on the scene to shine this spotlight, and also because the BPL wanted to overcome our opposition to the Brooklyn Heights Library sale, Sunset park is the first time the BPL actually proposed to enlarge one of the the libraries it was targeting for sale.  That will be a sort of victory if there is no subsequent bait-and-switch.  Unfortunately, it is not a perfect victory.  Our sense is that for good and valid reasons the informed Sunset Park community was still largely, perhaps 90%, opposed to the library replacement plan they were not involved in developing and from which they will suffer while the library is closed for many years before it is replaced.  Unfortunately, those who were in place to fight for the Sunset Park community’s interests did not ultimately defend them.  That includes Brooklyn Community Board 7 and City Councilman Carlos Menchaca.
     •    Citizens Defending Libraries was also on the scene to shine a spotlight and help put things quickly in perspective for the Inwood Community when the NYPL announced it wanted to turn the Inwood Library into a real estate deal, likely also as a part of an effort to help push through a upzoning of the area.
     •    Citizens Defending Libraries similarly sounded the alarm before word was out publicly about a proposal for a consolidating shrinkage of the Brower Park Library with the Prospect Heights Children’s Museum (reversing a previous expansion).
     •    Citizens Defending Libraries has been engaged in an education and publicity campaign.  It included:
     •        Forums, including a mayor forum during the 2013 election with most of the candidates endorsing our proposals that libraries be properly funded, not sold and shrunk.  Mayor de Blasio, whose position we changed during the campaign, joined with us in July to proclaim that our libraries should not be sold saying: “It's public land and public facilities and public value under threat. . . and once again we see, lurking right behind the curtain, real estate developers who are very anxious to get their hands on these valuable properties.”  Unfortunately, by October he was taking money from developers behind the curtain.
        •    As a result of our activism there have been hearings about the sale and shrinkage of libraries starting with a very important June 27, 2013 New York State Assembly hearing that embarrassed city library administration officials. 
       •    A letter of support signed by multiple community organizations, electeds and candidates running for office.
        •   In May of 2016 Citizens Dfending Libraries was honored to be a recipient of the Historic Districts Council's Grassroots Preservation Award.
Despite our battles won, our NYC libraries are still besieged by a major war and the threat of such plans.

What libraries are affected?
Library officials said early on that they wanted to sell the most valuable NYC libraries first.  And indeed, that is exactly what the NYPL did when its first move was to sell the central destination Donnell Library, a library that was documented to be on most valuable block in Manhattan at the time.  Similarly, the concurrently launched Central Library Plan with its proposed sale of the Mid-Manhattan Library focused on the choicest real estate.  The BPL did the same thing prioritizing two prime site libraries adjacent to Forest City Ratner property for probable luxury towers, the Brooklyn Heights Library and the Pacific Branch library.  Unfortunately, the libraries that are most valuable to real estate developers are also the most valuable to the public for very similar reasons, including central accessible locations.

The most valuable libraries may be at the top of this list, but all libraries in the New York City system are currently under siege.  All libraries are under siege because of the deliberate, unprecedented and absolutely unnecessary underfunding of NYC libraries that is being presented as an excuse to sell libraries affects all libraries in all our city's boroughs.

All libraries in the New York City system should also be considered currently under siege because each and every library sale becomes precedent and a model for the next.  The shrink-and-sink sale of the Brooklyn Heights Library replicates the shrink-and-sink Donnell Library (in fact it was conceived at the same time with the same people in the background).  Moreover, BPL president Linda Johnson told the City Council when it was approving the shrink-and-sink Brooklyn Heights Library sale that it would be a model for future library deals by all three city library systems, the BPL, which she heads, the NYPL and the Queens Library.  Johnson has referred to herself as head of the Brooklyn Library system as having "over 1,000,000 square feet of real estate" at her disposal.

While Library officials are attracted to seizing for conversion the most valuable libraries first, they are also usually tactically coy about their plans. At this point they openly acknowledge going after only a few libraries at a time.  They go after the very valuable ones they want and they also go after the libraries where they believe they have ascertained that they can overcome community opposition and expect that they can, at the same time, perhaps achieve another objective that attracts them, like laying the groundwork for an upzoning in Inwood or establish and entrench a principle of reduction as with Spaceworks in Red Hook and Williamsburg.

For more details about affected libraries click here:  What Libraries Are Affected By City Strategy Of Defunding, Shrinking, Selling Off Libraries?

Are The Libraries Being Shrunk, Pushed Underground, Books and Librarians Eliminated Because the World Is "Going Digital"?

Although the people promoting library sales and elimination of books would like to use as an excuse that the world is going digital, that is not the case.  New York City libraries are more used than ever.  Although use was up 40% programmatically, most of the recent increased use is in terms of circulation, 59%, and almost all of that circulation is physical books.  That is despite an effort by NYC library administration officials to steer people into the use of digital books (which, maybe surprisingly, are actually more expensive for the libraries) and away from what they derisively refer to as "old-fashioned analogue books."

While digital books sometimes have some advantages the general population tends to prefer physical books.  Further, there are advantages with physical books related to the way people learn and think and there are problems and concerns about digital books that need to be considered.  See:  Physical Books vs. Digital Books.

At the same time, libraries do need to address digital needs and provide access to the internet; they need to help bridge the so-called "digital divide" between those who have ready access to computers and the internet and those who don't.  For that reason libraries should actually be growing to address these expanded needs rather than shrinking.  In this regard it is, indefensible and inexplicable that two top-notch libraries with some of the most advanced and robust support of computer and internet libraries, SIBL the 34th Street Science, Industry and Business Library and the downtown Brooklyn Heights Library with its Business, Career and Education Library, were both targeted for simultaneous elimination.

Are Libraries Just Too Expensive a Luxury to Pay For?

In the overall scheme of things, New York City libraries cost virtually nothing.  When it comes to libraries, no matter how you slice and dice it, we are dealing with total funding figures that come to fractions of a percentage point, this despite the fact that, economically, libraries more than pay for themselves, and: “More people visited public libraries in New York than every major sports team and every major cultural institution combined.”

Notwithstanding, subsidies to sports venues like the Ratner/Prokhorov “Barclays” arena dwarf what we spend on libraries. In 8 years when we spent at least $620 million on just three sports arenas, (the Ratner/Prokhorov "Barclays" included) that amount was 1.37 times the amount spent on libraries serving seven times as many users.

The underfunding of libraries is notwithstanding that libraries are one of the public's top priorities. The city’s 59 community boards ranked library services as their“third highest budget concern” and“Brooklyn’s community boards ranked libraries their top priority.”  In 2013 when the NYC Comptroller polled the public about its priorities for "The People's Budget" libraries were again one of the very top priorities.

Valuable in so many ways in their own right, libraries must also be considered an essential adjunct to schools and ensuring proper education and literacy of the population.  One thing that a recurring trope in science fiction scripts gets right is that there is a high correspondence, if not quite one-to-one correlation, between the demise of great libraries and the collapse of once great civilizations.

NYC Libraries Are Being Sold For Huge Losses And For Minuscule Fractions of Their Value

People ask whether the public is at least getting good deals or "value" when we sell our libraries.  We absolutely are not.  We are selling our libraries for far less than their worth and far less than we have invested in them.  The losses are actually profoundly embarrassing notwithstanding the proclivity of library officials to deceptively characterize proceeds from sales as "profits," and as "hefty" rather than "paltry."  That's been true since the beginning. . .

. . .  The first library sold, the Donnell Library, the central destination, 97,000-square foot, five-story central destination library on what was documented to be the most valuable block in Manhattan at the time, was sold to net the NYPL less than $25,000 million.  The penthouse in the luxury tower that replaced it in the 50-story luxury tower replacing Donnell went on the market for $60 million.  Another single lower-level condo unit in the luxury building, 43A, sold for $20,110,437.50.  There is also a 114 guest room luxury hotel in the tower.  according to the Wall Street Journal, Chinese investors made that hotel,“the most highly valued hotel in the U.S.” after agreeing to buy it for “more than $230 million. . .  .more than $2 million a room.”

. . . The central destination Brooklyn Heights Library in Downtown Brooklyn, expanded and fully upgraded in 1993, one of the most modern and up-to-date libraries in the system would cost more than $120 million to replace.  The city sold it for less than its tear-down value, for less than its value as a vacant lot, and because it was sold to a developer who's inferior bid was not the highest bid, it's sale became the subject of one of the pay-to-play investigations of the de Blasio administration.  When costs are finally calculated it is likely the city and library administration officials will have netted less than $25 million from this library's ruination.

. . . In two suspicious real estate deals the NYPL has sold the 34th Street SIBL library, the city's biggest science library . . . . .

TO READ MORE- Click:  TO READ MORE- Click: Libraries Being Sold For Huge Losses And Minuscule Fractions of Their Value

Who Is Selling Our Libraries?

The plans to sell our libraries were announced under the Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration and it appears that they go back to at least 2005 and probably at least 2004.  Prior to the Bloomberg administration, NYC libraries were being expanded significantly under the Giuliani administration.  During the 2013 mayoral race, candidate Bill de Blasio said that the library sales should be halted, but in short order Mr. de Blasio was taking money from real estate developers "behind the curtain  . .very anxious to get their hands on these valuable properties.”

Once in office, Mayor Bill de Blasio continued with the library sales he decried as a candidate, although, to give the devil his due, de Blasio did not proceed with the full-blown NYPL Central Library Plan.  While the Mid-Manhattan library is now being subjected to a consolidating shrinkage it is no longer being sold straight out, but, under Mayor de Blasio we are still selling SIBL the city's biggest science library.  We are also still exiling research books off premises from where they were once readily and quickly retrievable at the 42nd Street Library.

There are other elected officials that are avidly taking the lead pushing these city library sales.  Foremost among them is city council member Brad Lander.  Also clearly conspicuous in his enthusiastic and unrelenting support for these plans is Jimmy Van Bramer head of the City Council Cultural Committee of which the city council's library subcommittee is a sub-component he domainates in leading.  .  .

 . .  Each particular local city council member must also be held responsible for what happens to the libraries in their districts, but revelations are that many of them, like Councilman Stephen Levin (Brooklyn Heights and Williamsburg libraries), Ydanis Rodriguez (Inwood Library) and Carlos Manchacca (Sunset Park Library), were brought on board behind the scenes in advance to  . . .

TO READ MORE (including about the involvement of a Trump presidential son-in-law, Blackstone's Steve Schwarzman, the library boards of trustees, law enforcing officials standing idly by the sidelines and what are supposed to be charitable organizations serving the public) - Click:  WHO Is Selling Our Libraries?

When Did The Plans To Sell Libraries (Plus The Launching of The Concomitant Underfunding of Libraries) Begin?
Chart from Center From an Urban Future report showing sharp decline in funding (coinciding with plans to sell off/"leverage" libraries) against escalating use.  
As noted, although plans to sell NYC libraries were not announced by the Mayor Michael Bloomberg administration until much later, those plans actually to go back to at least 2005 or probably 2004David Offensend was hired by the NYPL in June of 2004 and, though he is imprecise, he says that he started working on library deals not long after his arrival there.  Janet Offensend, his wife, who helped launch BPL library sales started haunting the BPL and its board in 2005.  Other city development officials were being positioned by Mayor Bloomberg on the BPL board around that time.  (The Bloomberg administration took office January 1, 2002, shortly after 9/11.  By contrast, the Giuliani administration implemented library expansion plans that carried over into the early Bloomberg years.)

The BPL's minutes for 2005 show that in January a developer, perhaps jumping the gun based on inside knowledge, was angling to buy the 12,200 square-foot Midwood Library.  In November 2006 the New York Times ran a little noticed article about tearing down “obsolete” branch libraries to produce “new,” "better" library space in multi-use developments saying that a study had produced "an inventory of nearly every branch library in New York City" to identify "candidates for redevelopment" (like the "Red Hook, Sunset Park and Brower Park" libraries and the "Clinton Hill Library," which involves pushing through an accompanying rezoning.)  The article mentions "deferred maintenance" as a reason to redevelop the libraries.

In May of 2006 it was revealed that four Connecticut librarians had won a fight, secret because of a gag order since it began in July 2005, to resist broad federal surveillance of their library patrons.

Although the public did not know what it needed to know in order to see it happening, 2007 and 2008 were extremely eventful years in terms of furthering the plans to sell NYC libraries: 
    •    In January 2007, Booz Allen Hamilton (known principally as a private surveillance firm, the "colossus" in the industry, working for the federal government) was hired to assist the NYPL trustees with their strategy of the sale and reformulating of libraries.
    •    In the Summer of 2007 the Mayor Bloomberg and First Deputy Mayor Patti Harris expressed enthusiasm for the NYPL’s plans to sell and redevelop major central destination Manhattan Libraries.
         •    In November The Donnell Library sale was announced . . . .

TO READ MORE (a complete timeline of library sale events and maneuvers in 2007, 2008 and right through to to the formation of Citizens Defending Libraries) - Click: When Did Library Selling and Underfunding Begin?

It's Not Just The Real Estate Industry Threatening Libraries

While most New Yorkers are attuned to the power and excesses of the city real estate industry and therefore easily understand its role as a key motivator in the assault on libraries, it's unfortunately naive to believe that only the real estate industry has an agenda that is adverse to the tradition of continuing libraries as the democratic commons we have known them to be.

This gets us into some other big questions. TO READ MORE- Click: Examining The Panoply of Threats

Control of Information

Does dumbing down the public make sense, is it truly workable if you want an effective democracy?  The availability and control of information, including in libraries as copious storehouses of information, has always long disconcerted authoritarians.  For instance, is it surprising to know that Senator Joseph McCarthy exercised his influence to ban from U.S. controlled libraries the music and scores of the "Fanfare For The Common Man" composer Aaron Copeland, because McCarthy believed  . . . .
TO READ MORE- Click: Examining The Panoply of Threats 
No doubt there are those for whom it would be preferable if information in libraries was tidily circumscribed so that it just slipstreams comfortably behind the limited thinking and reporting of the corporate conglomerate controlled national media.  That's a corporate media which among other things and by example underreports the climate change crisis, and  . . .
TO READ MORE- Click: Examining The Panoply of Threats
 While the tradition has been to protect and preserve the information entrusted to libraries, information on the internet can be startlingly evanescent, its continued existence subject to decisions made by whim or out of wrath about what the public should see. . . .
TO READ MORE- Click: Examining The Panoply of Threats
The Internet And Digital as Business

As the world speeds into digital, it is important to recognize the pull and tugs of what the internet corporations would like, including reasons for wanting things to go digital.  There are reasons why, when just five or six (as of 2017) people control as much wealth as half of the rest of the world's population, that Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon (and Washington Post) owner Jeff Bezos, and Microsoft's Bill Gates are three for them (with another Carlos Slim Helu incidentally, as part of his media holdings, being the largest shareholder of the New York Times.  Those reasons coincide with the reasons Apple, Google/Alphabet, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft are all vying (along with Exxon Mobile) for the spot as largest U.S. company.

 . . . Think where all this money comes from.  There is, of course, the ubiquitous advertising, as the pop-up ads that saturate far-flung corners of the internet will remind you, just as advertising saturates the monopolistically owned TV and radio airwaves.  There is also the data-scraping.  As the "old internet saw" was quoted when Google was wiring all of NYC's streets for wireless internet "for free": "If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product."  What the private internet companies know about you helps target you . . . .
TO READ MORE- Click: Examining The Panoply of Threats (or start by reading some of the snippets in different categories below.)
Privatized Political Advantage

Among those buying the data are political parties and their campaign operations looking to control the elected seats of government. Now with unprecedented insight into your preferences, those actors and operatives use the data to decide, with tools like gerrymandering, how much your vote should or should not be allowed to count.  With "voter preference files" that contain tens of thousands of "sets of data points" they have graduated from "microtargeting specific groups" to "nanotargeting" with different kinds of messages (whether true or not) designed elicit particular `emotional responses' from voters.  "Pay to sway" services supply a smorgasbord of  . . .
TO READ MORE- Click: Examining The Panoply of Threats
Owning Ideas and Culture to Charge For Them

The content industry has its wants as well.  Its purveyors desire, for instance, to get the public out to the very latest movie you see touted on billboards, simultaneously on the sides of city buses, via the ads on Comedy Central and other channels, perhaps also boosted by a "sponsorship" mention on your local public radio station as it does featurette reporting . . . 
TO READ MORE- Click: Examining The Panoply of Threats
A Reduction to Dollar$ Sense

. . Traditional libraries have always stood as models opposite to the concept that everything in the world, plus everything that ought to be prioritized and perpetually pushed to the fore should exist in stripped-down monetizable dimensions.  To evaluate the world exclusively in the very limited terms of seeing things in terms of just numbers or only following the money is, in an of itself, impoverishing.  A 2015 report published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review studied how  . . .
TO READ MORE- Click: Examining The Panoply of Threats

The last big subject to mention bears a relationship to the first topic.  When the government, whoever is in charge, isn't actually preventing citizens from reading certain books it might proscribe, it can, nevertheless, be interested in surveiling what books and information members of the public are reading.  In theory, this could allow the government to  . . . .
TO READ MORE- Click: Examining The Panoply of Threats
Who Is Hurt Most When Libraries Are Defunded and Dismantled? The Poor, The Racially  Discriminated Against, Scholars, Future Leaders

Defunding and dismantling our libraries hurts society broadly, probably more broadly than many may have considered.

It is, of course, usually recognized that cutting back on library services significantly impacts low-income neighborhoods relying on them.  A PowerPoint presentation to the Queens Library board told it that library service is most important to low-income users: 2/3rds visit at least weekly, & almost 30% visit every/most days.  A recent Pew research Center report says "Low-income Americans, Hispanics and African Americans are more likely than others to say that a library closing would impact their lives and communities," see them as community anchors, and use them to pursue jobs.  And it's been astutely commented that wherever it happens the loss of libraries is "another surefire way to entrench inequality."
Researchers and students also use the libraries.  Arguing to destroy libraries, the NYPL tried a divide-and-conquer-the-community approach suggesting that the research library was elitist and not sufficiently populist when in any given year the researchers and students at its 42nd Street central reference library consult "only 6% of print sources."  The same argument was being used to thin out collections at neighborhood libraries and move books off-site from those locations too.  That "6%" consultation rate was referred to by Ada Louise Huxtable in her very last column, published just weeks before her death (Wall Street Journal: Undertaking Its Destruction, December 3, 2012), in which she lambasted the NYPL's Central Library Plan including its stingy thinking that books should not be kept on hand if they are consulted infrequently:
If we could estimate how many ways in which the world has been changed by that 6%, the number would be far more meaningful than the traffic through its lion-guarded doors. The library's own releases, while short on details, consistently offer a rosy picture of a lively and popular "People's Palace." But a research library is a timeless repository of treasures, not a popularity contest measured by head counts, the current arbiter of success. This is already the most democratic of institutions, free and open to all. Democracy and populism seem to have become hopelessly confused.
Among other things, the 42nd Street Central Reference Library and SIBL are the libraries for the graduate students at CUNY, the City University of New York, who  . . . .

TO READ MORE (about how the benefits of libraries are transmitted throughout society, the racial discrimination in selling libraries and divide and divide-and-conquer-the-community ploys) - Click: Who Is Hurt Most When Libraries Are Defunded and Dismantled?

How Many Books Are Disappearing?

Venturing into a library to witness scads of empty book shelves is a disorientating experience.  The empty shelves constitute early warning signs: Empty shelves at Mid-Manhattan Library, SIBL, the Brooklyn Heights Library, the Grand Army Plaza Library, the 42nd Street Central Reference Library have meant that these libraries have been targeted to be involved in library sale and shrinkage plans.

It is stunning how many books have disappeared and become unavailable, multiple millions overall.  (Library administration officials have done their best to obscure true counts of the reductions.)  If the books disappear from targeted libraries far enough in advance library administration officials can deceptively promise that there will be as many books after the shrinkage of the library as before.  Another deception is for library officials to claim that if books are exiled to be consolidated elsewhere in a "deduping" center there will actually be "more" books as a result.  ("Deduping" is euphemism for book elimination, the idea being the more books you consolidate in a central location the more books you have that are "duplicates" to be eliminated.)

Amazingly, despite the increasing difficulty in obtaining books NYC book circulation is going up and circulation increases are mainly the physical books that patrons generally prefer.  The idea that because some books (not all- for instance, Robert Caro's "The Power Broker") are available digitally we no longer need libraries to supply physical books is a myth.  That library administration officials disparage physical books as "old-fashioned analogue books" or just "artifactual originals" or that those officials will spend more money to push people in to digital reading than what spending on physical books costs does not make that myth any more true.

When library officials solicit contributions from the general public they will jive about how they are asking for that money in order to buy more books because they know that is a vision the public will support and respond favorably to, but at the same time library officials are less than transparent about how they are actually removing books from library premises and from the system entirely.

For more information about how many millions of books have disappeared from which libraries . .

TO READ MORE- Click: How Many Books Are Disappearing From New York City Libraries?

Why Turning Libraries Into Real Estate Deals Isn't The Good Deal Library and City Development Officials Describe

At first blush, many people have accepted what city development and library officials have regularly asserted about the deals launching this city-wide program of converting libraries into real estate deals (or, similarly, "redeveloping" our schools for that matter), that by "unlocking" library real estate development rights with multi-use developments it is a "win-win" proposition that benefits the libraries as well as the developers and real estate industry.

The offer of a free lunch is a tempting thing to hope for, but it doesn't bear scrutiny.  The math, when you do it, simply doesn't work out: It is expensive to tear down existing, frequently recently renovated libraries that the public has already invested substantially in.  When these development ideas are promoted the math goes from initial wishful fantasies, to deliberately obfuscated lack of transparency, to outright mendacious misrepresentation.  If library officials had insisted that the Donnell Library or the Brooklyn Heights Library be fully and completely replaced when they were sold (irrespective or their spaces being shoved underground), the sales would have to be calculated showing deep and obviously absurd public losses. . .

There is also the disruption that affects the public. And, although library and city officials try to skip over the point, when library assets are being divested, the libraries are, in the process, shedding their opportunities for future expansion and to keep pace as the city grows.

Moreover and probably most important, such multi-use development schemes force the libraries to "partner" with powerful private real estate interests that ultimately wind up in the drivers seat, setting the priorities with big checkbooks that bankroll false and misleading PR.  With the moneyed interests throwing their weight around, the public is exposed to bait-and-switch variations.  The Donnell Library sale deal that was described to the press and public when it was announced in no way resembled the deal that was consummated.

Selling Libraries And The Broader Issue of Private Sector Plunder of Public Property

Libraries are not our only public commons that are undemocratically under attack.  The attacks on libraries reflect a much wider scourge of plundering our public assets with the selling off and privatizing of schools, hospitals, public housing, parks, and even the privatization of our streets and sidewalks.  Accordingly, instead of just fighting the library fight, Citizens Defending Libraries (and you can join us) has reached out to other activists to hold a series of forums on the selling off of public assets and help engender and understanding of the commonalty of the threats and tactics an subterfuges we see.  For instance, as Noam Chomsky has explained one such "standard technique of privatization: defund, make sure things don't work, people get angry, you hand it over to private capital.". .  (In other words, when the door is open to privatization and sell-off there is an inducement to underfund.)  And then, with the transfer to private ownership, the result for public gets even worse.

Some of The Biggest Lies To Watch Out For 

City and library officials working with real estate developers trot out a standard set of misleading falsehoods and ploys to promote library sales.  If you think they sound good, watch out, often what they are saying is pretty much opposite to the real truth.

Want to know what lies to watch out for? . .

TO READ MORE- Click: The Biggest Lies To Watch Out For When Official Sell Libraries

(Read about: lies about public process * Lies about how to oppose a sale * Lies that "replacement" libraries will be as big or bigger *  Lies that libraries are too "dilapidated" to fix * The "same number of books" lie)

Where Does It Go From Here?  What Can You do?

One thing you can do is consider this a worthy cause and inform yourself and others about it.  Protection and preservation of our libraries is something that most people instantly and automatically understand.  As one member of our group observed early on: "If you can't stop them at libraries, where can you stop them?"  That's why we must stop them.. .

 . .  But also, because people do understand what it means to protect libraries, because they understand it in their very bones, the protection of libraries is an issue and a cause that can be used as a fulcrum to push back on the many other issues that relate to it, the impoverishing privatizations of public assets in general, abuses of the real estate industry, the corrupting influence of money in politics, inequality of power and wealth and the abuses of power by the wealthy. 

What Can We Do Next?

TO READ MORE- Click: How to Defend Our Libraries.

(Read about: Altering the law * Insisting on transparency * defending library buttons * Our Letter of Support * Our petition * Our mailing List * Testimony at public hearings *  Birddogging elected officials  *  Contacting the press *  Social media * Having us speak to yous community organization * Letters to the editor/comment on web articles * Research help * FOIL assistance * Singing the marvelous Judy Gorman library song )

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

The archive of our previous web page (used into December 2017) can be found by clicking HERE.

Statement of Carolyn McIntyre, WBAI Local Station Board Chair Respecting Today's Ruling By Judge Melissa Crane That WBAI Radio Station Should Be Put Back On The Air, And Resume Broadcasting Under Local Control

The following is the statement of Carolyn McIntyre, WBAI Local Station Board Chair, released today respecting today's ruling by Judge Melissa Crane that the WBAI Radio Station should be put back on the air, and resume broadcasting under local control.

Carolyn McIntyre, WBAI Local Station Board Chair
November 6, 2019 Statement
For Post Court Decision Release

November 6, 2019

First, I want to thank Arthur Schwartz, our attorney representing us and the Pacifica Board for his crucial work to get WBAI back on the air. All of us may think of making sacrifices for the communities we care about, but Arthur’s work goes way beyond what we could expect.

What the public needs to know most is that WBAI was not taken off the air by Pacifica: The Pacifica National Board acted quickly to immediately reverse the actions of the group of rogue individuals who unleashed their attack in secret shutting down WBAI. What is most frightening is that, with our station seized and taken off the air, we were unable to broadcast to our listening community facts about what actually happened. Now, resuming our normal local broadcasting, we will able to get the word out about this and other important issues.

The actions taken by the renegades have, unfortunately, been extremely destructive, not only to WBAI, New York’s Pacifica Network terrestrial radio station but also to the entire Pacifica Network. The silver lining, however, may be that with the extra attention that WBAI’s shut down garners, WBAI, whose listenership has been resurging, will be become stronger and more listened to than ever. .

. . We look to bring back all our old listeners and as well as adding new ones who look for voices that represent their concerns and communities. WBAI 99.5 FM is the only exclusively listener supported radio. That listener support will be especially important as we seek to recover from the setback of this attack.
Carolyn McIntyre
WBAI Local Station Board Chair
Carolyn McIntyre, WBAI Local Station Board Chair
Michael D. D. White, WBAI Local Station Board Vice-Chair

Friday, November 1, 2019

Scary SWAT Team arrest of Journalist Max Blumenthal After He Reports United States Government Funding of Venezuela Juan Guaidó Coup Team

This is scary,  Scary too that there is no reaction from groups like PEN.  Scary that there is no reporting of it in the corporate media.

Journalist Max Blumenthal published a Grayzone article about United States funding of lobbying by the Juan Guaidó team with which the U.S. tried to replace the Venezuelan government via a coup.  Shortly thereafter, literally hours later, Blumenthal was arrested in a SWAT team style raid by Washington D.C. police (apparently coordinating with feds?), shackled and held incommunicado.

Here is some coverage by the media watchdog group FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting):
Max Blumenthal Arrest Exposes Hypocrisy of Western Media and ‘Human Rights’ NGOs, Joe Emersberger, October 30, 2019

Counterspin Radio Show coverage (4:09 minutes), November 1, 2019.
Here is the Grayzone's own report about the arrest:
‘This charge is 100% false’: Grayzone editor Max Blumenthal arrested months after reporting on Venezuelan opposition violence- The Grayzone editor Max Blumenthal has been arrested on false charges after reporting on Venezuelan opposition violence outside the DC embassy. He describes the manufactured case as part of a wider campaign of political persecution, by Ben Norton, October 28, 2019.
First they came for the journalists.  After that we don’t know what they did.”
. . .  And I couldn’t find out in my library either.
     ( a la Gideon Lichfield, after Niemoller)

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Scary That WBAI Is Off The Air On Halloween - But Happy Halloween Anyway

Right now WBAI, New York's only truly listener supported public radio station, has been taken off the air by a rogue group of minority insiders.  It's making it very difficult to figure out the logistics of contributing funds to WBAI or to the true Pacifica Radio network. . . BUT it's Halloween. so in the midst of all these other scary things going on . . . .  (We hope you'll find this fun listening.)

WBAI October 31st Halloween No. 1

WBAI October 31st Halloween No. 2

WBAI October 31st Halloween No. 3

WBAI October 31st Halloween No. 4
Comedy aside, stay tuned because there will soon be a time when it will be important for WBAI to start collecting contributions of funds again (and a time when membership increases will be very helpful too).  In the meantime, one thing you can do that doesn't involve donating to WBAI right now is to sign the following petition requesting that WBAI be put back on the air:
@WBAI New York Broadcasters: Say No To Pacifica Across America! - Sign the Petition! http://chng.it/S4X2c25N via@Change
We have this posted as another update about teh scary things that have happened to WBAI-- its a resolution of the Pacfica Governance Committee chastising those who shut down WBAI:
Resolution of The Pacifica National Board Governance Committee Responding To Acts Recently Taken By Certain Actors Within The Pacifica National Foundation Environment

Monday, October 28, 2019

New Book “Home Wreckers” Identifies NYPL Trustee (And 42nd Street Library Namesake) Stephen A. Schwarzman As Key Culprit (Along With His Friends and Neighbors) In The Huge Theft That’s Responsible For Depleting Wealth of Other Americans

NYPL trustee Stephen A. Schwarzman, a principal subject in Aaron Glantz's new book, "Homewreckers," is featured prominently on its cover and scrutinized within the pages inside.
It’s time to write, yet again, about why NYPL trustee Stephen A. Schwarzman has a terrible reputation that sinks lower and lower with everything you ever find out about him. 

We just got finished writing about Mr. Schwarzman in connection with his friendship and praise for the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS).  Crown Prince MBS is the Saudi leader who has enmeshed our country along with his in the war crimes and siege warfare against Yemen and he is the one everyone is looking at in connection with the dismemberment murder of Jamal Khashoggi.  See:  Stopped!! NYPL's Plan To Turn Over Its 42nd Street Central Reference Library Grand Celeste Bartos Ballroom For Event Honoring The Infamous Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (Good Friend of Stephen Schwarzman?)

We were writing then because of the plans the NYPL had to turn over its Grand Celeste Bartos Ballroom space in the famed 42nd Street Central Reference Library for Prince MBS to have a reputation laundering event where Prince MBS would teach young people how to manage their reputations.  It seems like everything these days is about reputation laundering for reputation management.  See: As The Brooklyn Public Library Holds Gala At The Barclays Arena Honoring Nets And Barclay’s Arena, Citizens Defending Libraries Is There With A Message: End Faux Philanthropy; Take Less And Don’t Sell Our libraries! and A Flourish of Stories About So-Called Philanthropy Being Used As A Guise For Diminishing The Public Commons– That Includes Libraries.

Yes, in its great unfettered wisdom, the NYPL, its trustees and senior management, was going to allow the Crown Prince to launder his reputation in the grand 42nd Street Library that, already for reputation laundering purposes, is now officially and ostentatiously called the “Stephen A. Schwarzman Building.”

In that article about MBS and Schwarzman we also passed along information about Stephen A. Schwarzman hobnobbing happily with Gislaine Maxwell, now famous and in the news for the stories about how she was the key and apparently foremost helper, Jeffrey Epstein’s number one elf, in running his pedophiliac sexual and political blackmail ring. . . and we passed along information about how Mr. Schwarzman and his businesses factor prominently in the burning up and deforestation of the Amazon rain forest.

As usual with Mr. Schwarzman, if you hang around a little while, there will be more information arriving that, if it is at all possible, drags your opinion of him down even further.

Now there is a new book out featuring its outstanding villains conspicuously on its cover.  Yes, Stephen Schwarzman is one of the main ones the book tells us stories about.  The book is Homewreckers: How a Gang of Wall Street Kingpins, Hedge Fund Magnates, Shady Banks and Vulture Capitalists Suckered Millions Out of Their Homes and Demolished the American Dream, by Aaron Glantz.  Glantz has won a Peabody award for investigative journalism and was a recent finalist for a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on modern-day redlining.

Glantz’s book which has, on its cover, members of what Glantz describes as “President Donald Trump’s inner circle” has, in addition to Schwarzman and Trump, Trump Cabinet members Steven Mnuchin, the current Treasury Secretary of the United States, and Wilbur Ross the current United States Secretary of Commerce.  Helping make Schwarzman more officially a member of that Trump inner circle is that, as you can pick up from the caption to one of the photo illustrations in the book’s interior, Trump made Schwarzman chair of his strategic and policy forum of corporate advisors and “titans”– You see Trump sitting next to Schwarzman at one of its meetings. (CDL video of them together here.)

Glantz’s book is about the unfettered mechanics of an enormous transfer of wealth that robbed a substantial portion of Americans of the share of national wealth they once traditionally held, enriching a very few at the very top and very specifically the men on the cover of the book as the prime examples.

Glantz is smart to stand back and unfold his story in big picture terms, laying out the two main aspects it divides into.  First, the astonishing transfer of wealth that occurred, removing almost all the wealth and financial security from a broad base of Americans, and secondly, how unfair that transfer to a small elite group of insiders was, accomplished by financial manipulations which government aligned itself to assist, and sometimes even subsidized to make the seizures riskless for those seizing the wealth, and which oft times descended into unchallenged illegalities.  Schwarzman was a leader and one of the few key players in these events as Glantz tells the story.

Talking about his book recently on Democracy Now, Glantz speaks of how so “much of Americans’ wealth is in their homes,” because we as Americans have very few other ways to save.  Thus it is of enormous consequence, as he points out that “eight million Americans lost their homes in the Great Recession” with financial groups like Schwarzman’s acquiring those homes through foreclosures.  Now, points out Glantz, “we live now in a society where the wealth gap between the richest one-tenth of 1% and the other 90% is bigger than it’s been in a hundred years.”  And with that shift of wealth along with power comes other things: Although Glanz didn’t note it, the very wealthiest are now paying taxes at a lower overall rate than the middle class.  Schwarzman is an advocate of taxing the poor more.

The Democracy Now interview with Glantz is at: Part 1 (part of DN daily broadcast): Homewreckers: How Wall Street, Banks & Trump’s Inner Circle Used the 2008 Housing Crash to Get Rich, October 15, 2019, and Part 2 (DN Web Exclusive): “The Federal Government Actually Paid Him”: How Steve Mnuchin Profited from the Housing Bust, October 15, 2019.
More specifically Glantz observes:
    . . . the richest 0.1 of 1% of the American people have the same amount of wealth as the other 90%. And that is because, in America, 80% of most middle-class families’ wealth goes to only five things: food, housing, shelter, transportation, healthcare. All those other things, besides housing, just disappear as soon as you spend your money. Housing is the only way that most Americans have to save. The average American family has $4,000 in the bank. So, either you put your money in equity in your house, or you pay it to your landlord,
Glanz then asks “who profited” off this transfer of wealth through foreclosures on these homes.  Glanz spotlights Invitation Homes, founded by Schwarzman and his Blackstone group, as one of the main profiteers, and observes that Schwarzman’s company now owns 80,000 homes all across the country.  In 2013, on Charlie Rose just a few years after the great recession began, Schwarzman was able to brag that his was the “largest real estate investor in the world” and that:
We started actually buying individual houses from Foreclosure about a year and a quarter ago. We're now the largest owner of houses in the United States.
Indeed, unsurprisingly, Glantz’s book confirms that the “biggest buyer of foreclosed homes was” Schwarzman’s “Blackstone Group.”  On that Charlie Rose broadcast, Schwarzman told Rose that he had absolute confidence in the future of the housing market in the United States in light of the real estate market turnaround following the Great Recession’s downturn, which enabled that wholesale acquisition of foreclosed homes by him and his company, and that “in fact it's turned out to be so even faster than we wanted it to.”  Presumably, he could only have been meaning that had the downturn continued longer he would have been able to buy up still more foreclosed homes to profit even more.  See: Noticing New York: On Charlie Rose NYPL Trustee Stephen Schwarzman Confirms Suspicions: His $100 Million To The Library Was Linked To NYPL’s Real Estate Plans, June 22, 2013.

When Americans lose the wealth of their home investments, they lose more: They are at the mercy of the decisions of landlords to increase rents or to neglect to make habitable the premises they then need to rent.  Glantz notes of Invitation Homes that because it’s a publicly traded company you can “very clearly their rent increases” and “the relatively small amount of money they spend on maintenance.”

Something else has happened, a shift of wealth on another level, with all these foreclosures.  Glantz writes:
The Obama administration's bulk sales gave rise to a class of landlord that has never been seen before.  At the beginning if 2012, national Real Estate Investor magazine reported, not a single landlord owned as many as a thousand single-family homes.  But just two years later, industry analysts were tracking more than a dozen vulture companies that had swooped in after the housing bust to buy thousands—removing then from individual ownership and concentrating wealth in the hands of billionaire investors.
More explicitly, his book covers how, until this sea change, the landlord industry had been mostly an industry run by moms and pops, dominated by “small investors doing it locally across the country.”  In other words, those renting to tenants once comprised an interstitial layer of  a somewhat more wealthy group of people with closer ties to the community.   Their absence from the local landscape leads to other consequences; writes Glantz: “the corporate landlords were far more likely to file eviction notices than mom-and-pops.”  In fact, the way in which the Blackstone and Invitation Home owners have supplanted the mom and pop landlords means that landlords who once made personal and judgement based decisions about whether to evict families and how to accommodate hardships when families are pulling themselves through a financial crisis have been replaced by a whole new eviction industry running based on numerical formulae. . . .

. . . Worse, that new eviction industry is now pursuing practices that are apparently designed to make money out of the cycle of fines and desperation that launching threatened and actual evictions entail, with, for instance, some owners who “see the late fees they impose prior to eviction as extra income,” given that tenants can wind up paying “22 percent more every year in housing costs because of the added fines and fees.”  That is not to mention that just raising the rent extraordinarily can be a de facto eviction, and the fact the cost of low income housing, rising faster than inflation, is also rising even faster than expensive apartments.

The late-paying renter, with already limited options, is less able to move because they don’t want an eviction notice trailing them around, and is this forced to continue paying nearly unaffordable rent.  They are:
thus transformed into a perpetual debtor. Never able to catch up, her power to demand basic services or repairs, to complain about anything at all, dwindles from little to nothing.
This was covered in (and quotes above come from) the recent multi-part “On The Media” series about the alarming current state of eviction in the United States, The Scarlet E (especially Part III of the series)* : See: The Scarlet E, Part I: Why?, June 7, 2019, The Scarlet E, Part II: 40 Acres, June 14, 2019, The Scarlet E, Part III: Tenants and Landlords, June 21, 2019, and The Scarlet E, Part IV: Solutions, June 28, 2019.
(* This On The Media series done by co-host Brooke Gladstone, is an example of the excellence of the work On The Media can often produce, and used to do so more regularly, but it makes for a confusing problem, because On The Media recently has also been churning out some truly appalling propaganda pieces, particularly when it involves reporting on narratives concerning information from the intelligence communities and rationales for more perpetual war.  Typically, it's been co-host Bob Garfield who has become the prime mouthpiece for these suspect pieces.  Whereas, On The Media used to encourage a meta-awareness of media and often used to teach media literacy by interrogating narratives offered by other sectors of the media, Garfield now, more and more, seems to be stenographically transmitting talking points from the intelligence communities and military industrial complex.  It’s been so bad that Garfield even had to broadcast a mea culpa in one follow-up segment- May 24, 2019, his apology though wasn’t as maxima culpa as it should have been.  Very interestingly, Garfield’s mea culpa segment stands out exceptionally on the On The Media site as one for which there has been no transcript provided, making it less likely to Google- Garfield's more important apology is thus harder to find than the original apologized for segment for which there is a transcript.)
The Scarlet E series explains how, as the Blackstones of the industry Walmartize property ownership, the increased “social distance” with landlords no longer personally talking with or intimately interrelating with tenants means there are no personal or locally tailored solutions to problems or avoiding cycles of despair.

The Scarlet E also notes (Part II) that tale that the data tells: “One of a plague that could have been contained had it not been purposefully designed to diminish the wealth and power of specific populations–black and brown ones.”

During the Democracy Now interview of author Aaron Glantz, Juan González brought up “the disproportionate impact that this loss of equity in all these homes had, especially on the African-American and Latino communities, which were even more dependent on home equity for what little wealth they had or net wealth they had.”  In fact, the following week in a Democracy Now interview with Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, an assistant professor at Princeton University about her new book, “Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Home Ownership,” it was noted that:
Recent census data reveals the homeownership rate for African Americans has fallen to its lowest level since before the civil rights movement. In the second quarter of this year, the rate fell to just 40%, the lowest level since 1950.
Glanz responded to González noting that:
What we see is that banks, like Steve Mnuchin’s bank, concentrated their foreclosures in communities of color. And then, when they started making loans again when the economy improved, they didn’t make loans to those communities. [virtually none– Glantz gives numbers.]
And now Steve Mnuchin, as the treasury secretary, is in charge of regulating every American bank.
The book depicts how, throughout the transfer of homeownership wealth and equity resulting from the Great Recession, the government wasn’t on the side of the resident homeowners; it was on the side of the big investors like Schwarzman.  In the Democracy Now interview Juan González note, “Julián Castro, now a presidential candidate, was at HUD supposedly in charge of the efforts to assist homeowners, and that’s come under heavy criticism, what the Obama administration did to help these homeowners.”
Big picture, some may remember– everyone ought to remember–  that at the beginning of the Great Recession there was even a question about whether a firm like Goldman Sachs would go bankrupt given the risks it had taken along with similar financial institutions that were bad bets. The bad bets and inappropriate risk taking on the part of Wall Street firms were what triggered the enormous economic downturn that negatively affected everyone else in the economy. Other firms, Lehman and Bear Stearns did collapse, and if firms like Goldman had been allowed to fail it could, properly handled, have led to a generally desirable break up the monopolies in the industry that are not good for democracy (see Tim Wu’s work).

Instead, with Goldman advisors sitting in the top positions in government guiding most of the decisions, government saved Goldman and the rest the firms like it, coming to Wall Street’s rescue.  Government did not concentrate on rescuing the resident homeowners who had been negatively affected by Wall Street’s bad decisions.  It was a question of how and where the money to “rescue” the economy was pumped into the economy.  It went to the financial sector and was used to fund the overall transfer of homeownership wealth.

In 2008, there was fear of a “deflationary recession” as had occurred during the Great Depression. In essence, that’s a market recognition that values of homes were now inflated.  A recognition that homes generally were not worth what had been presumed when banks made loans on them would normally mean that both the homeowners and the bank that lent them money would be forced together and at the same time to cope with the fact that they had both made bad more or less, the same, mostly shared bad decisions about the market.  If the home is worth less than previously, there aren’t alternative buyers on the horizon and the bank’s best outcome is to write down the amount of the loan and allow the resident homeowner to pay off a lower mortgage amount or pay a reduced rate of interest.  In that case, the wealth reflected by the homes doesn’t get transferred elsewhere.

There are ways to avoid “deflationary recession” and keep the resident homeowners in place. That’s if the choice is to bail out homeowners (rather than Wall Street), and Glantz told Democracy Now that there were many “very senior people” inside the Obama administration who pushed for those kinds of programs as an alternative response, but he says that advice was consistently ignored.  Glantz says:
all these people came forward, and they said, “We don’t need to bail out the banks. We can have a program like Franklin Roosevelt did back in the 1930s to bail out the people.” And then learning that that New Deal program actually made money for the government as it helped millions — it helped a million Americans stay in their homes, created the 30-year fixed mortgage, and then how, even when foreclosures happened, this government-run bank sold them off one at a time to individual families instead of in bulk to speculators . .  there were like very senior people in the room who were making this argument the whole time, who were just ignored every step of the way.
Instead, the threat of deflation was battled by pumping up the market back up by streaming money into the hands of the banks.  With pumped in funds, the financial sector, sidestepping the need to take necessary loses and it gained the upper hand to force transfers.

In the Scarlet E series it is noted that what made things significantly worse for the prospect of resident owners continuing to own their own homes was the way the banks, who had previously been requiring little equity be paid before the Great Recession, changed the borrowing rules as the federal “rescue” money flowed to Wall Street.  The changed rules favored big investors:
 . .  banks went from stupid to stupid . .  they [started giving out loans to no one]. You had to put 25, 30 percent down. So then the question is who has the opportunity to take advantage of this market. The answer I think is larger landlords or private equity; people that have capital. . .  that property gets consolidated in fewer and fewer hands. And so then the house -- the most intimate of spaces the most sacred, protected of spaces -- the house becomes a pure commodity and it becomes something that's driven completely by a market logic.
Under the terms by which some of the federal money was dispensed, there were, in theory, some rules at least, to benefit the beleaguered homeowners.  They were supposed to be followed by the banks getting the federal dollars being pumped in.  Glanz, however informs us about how those rules were not, in fact, followed.

Part of Glantz’s book involves tracking the stories of actual individual homeowner families affected by the crisis.  One of the happier through lines of these stories in his book is about Sandy Jolley, albeit, she is one of those lost her home to foreclosure.  After losing her home, Ms. Jolley won an $89 million whistleblower settlement against Steve Mnuchin’s bank. An attorney who took her case had her meet with the  Justice Department, the FBI, and the HUD inspector general when she contacted him to present “evidence of a massive fraud.”  Of that multi-million dollar settlement, Ms. Jolley got $1.6 million for herself.  It took ten years.  By that time, Steve Mnuchin had profitably sold his bank and was the Treasury Secretary.  Also, Glantz points out that while Mnuchin’s bank had to pay the $89 million whistleblower settlement, it had received over $1 billion in federal subsidies in connection with its foreclosure portfolio.

In his book Glantz describes the sweet deal “loss-share” agreement subsidies that his “homewreckers” got from the government; Mnuchin for OneWest Bank, John Otting for US Bank, Wilbur Ross and Stephen Schwarzman for BankUnited–  The banks got to keep all the money they made on foreclosures or anything else, but if they “lost money foreclosing on homeowners, the government would pay for it,” to the tune of billions of dollars. By the way, note how this lays the pavement on the raceway to speed up home foreclosures all the more.

In Glantz’s Democracy Now interview, there was a natural focus on candidates now running in the 2020 presidential campaign.  In addition, to noting, as mentioned above, that Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro was at HUD when HUD and the federal government was failing so miserably to address the needs of those who owned their own homes, Glantz gave prominent mention in the interview to the fact that a number of the other Democratic candidates in the field have plans “to tackle the housing challenges of ordinary Americans, many who are still struggling after the devastating 2008 housing market collapse.”  Specifically listed as having proposals are Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, and Pete Buttigieg.  Joe Biden was mentioned as apparently having no plan.  Julián Castro got no mention as having a plan.  Glantz also made specific mention that “Kamala Harris says she wants to put $100 billion towards promoting African-American homeownership.”  And he noted “black homeownership rate in this country is below the level that it was at when segregation and discrimination was legal.”

That made it sound like Kamala Harris could be depended upon to be part of a solution.  But, as needs to warned, Democracy Now’s often excellent news coverage tends to give you about 85% of the news.  It’s been said that Steve Mnuchin would probably not be Treasury Secretary today if he had been prosecuted for his bank’s mortgage fraud in California back when it was happening.  (And much the same applies to Wilbur Ross as Commerce Secretary.)  And prosecuting Mnuchin and his bank is something it has been noted, Kamala Harris, who was Attorney General of the state of California at the time didn’t do.

Although it went unmentioned in the Democracy Now interview, Glantz’s book deals (pages 86 to 88) with how Mnuchin’s bank OneWest falsified and backdated documents and evaded other required procedures in order to accelerate the foreclosure mill operations maximally- it would also have disqualified the bank from receiving more federal foreclosure subsidies.  Kamal Harris disregarded the “strong recommendations of her staff” and did not sue Mnuchin’s bank.

Something else you didn’t hear on Democracy Now that you would have heard if you were picking up your news from Jimmy Dore’s Radio Show (one of the shows on WBAI radio, currently subject to a destructive dismantlement attack on the Pacifica Public Radio Network)— Steve Mnuchin has since that time been a donor to Kamala Harris’ campaigning.  In other words, if you get a lot of your news from Democracy Now, you need to work to supplement what you hear there by informing yourself from other sources as well.

Citizens Defending Libraries has included the following in flyers it has distributed:
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.
Two of the co-founders of Citizens Defending Libraries spoke to Amy Goodman, the Democracy Now host who created the Democracy Now program (incubated out of WBIA radio her in NYC), on November 12, 2015 at the Brooklyn For Peace fund raiser where Ms. Goodman was honored and they discussed with her why Democracy Now should cover these matters and the sell off and shrinkage of New York City libraries.  We sent follow up materials to the Democracy Now producers about what that coverage ought to consist of.  Democracy Now never followed up and never covered this other story other story they could have covered involving Steve Schwarzman before Trump was elected and Schwarzman appointed the head of Trump’s economic policy council.

Not only did the unprosecuted Mnuchin become Treasury Secretary, he was able to sell his OneWest bank at a nice profit.  Glantz makes a point in his book about how small the club of elites is.  The club is so small that Mnuchin did no have to go very far at all to sell his bank, he sold it to his neighbor John Thain owning another apartment in the 740 Park Avenue where they both live.  Glantz makes a point about how many of the characters in his book, corporate raider Ronald Perlman, Steve Mnuchin, former Goldman chief John Thain, and Steve Schwarzman all reside at 740 Park Avenue.  Nowhere in Glantz's book does he mention that the address is also famous as David Koch’s address or that the conglomeration of billionaires at 740 Park Avenue was the subject of a documentary about escalating wealth and income inequality that Alex Gibney made, “Park Avenue: Money, Power & the American Dream.”

Schwarzman’s apartment at 740 Park Avenue was formerly owned by John D. Rockefeller, Jr.  Small world, he bought it from another wealthy NYPL trustee.  It’s twenty thousand square feet, has thirty-five rooms, thirteen bathrooms.  Schwarzman doesn’t have to worry about going out to the public library, he has his own “pine-paneled library” in the apartment.  The apartment is just one of Schwarzman’s homes. Amy Goodman’s reaction on Democracy Now:
So, when you want to sell banks or whatever, you just go trick-or-treating in your own apartment building.
In his book, Glanz describes the lavish birthday parties Schwarzman has given himself, both his sixtieth birthday party in 2007 (where the wealthy attending came dressed as European nobility of the past and “Among the most popular costumes was Marie Antionette"- Rod Stewart was paid something around $1 million to perform and Patti Labelle sang as well) and his seventieth birthday (Gwen Stefani sang there).  The seventieth was quite as lavish as the sixtieth, live camels, trapeze artists, fireworks, etc., but Glantz notes that while the 2007 birthday's lavishness “sparked condemnation” even from conservative sources, by 2017 with Trump in office, this kind of excess was taken largely in stride, going mostly unnoticed and unremarked upon.

Glanz’s book says that “Schwarzman sought to rehabilitate his image” after his “controversial [sixtieth] birthday party” by transferring $100 million to the New York Public Library, which is when Schwarzman’s name was put on New York's  42nd Street Astor, Tilden, and Lenox Central Reference Library (the one with the lions).  Glanz apparently didn’t do enough research on Schwarzman to realize that this $100 million transfer was not merely for reputation laundering purposes, it was also intended to jump start New York library real estate deals, including the first one, the shrink-and-sink Donnell Library sale that benefitted Jared Kushner.                               

Schwarzman is thoroughly covered in Glantz’s book, which is 330 pages before the acknowledgments start.  Schwarzman gets mentioned some 53 there and his Blackstone gets mentioned some 41 times in all.

Blackstone, acting quickly. has a defense web page site up with Invitation Homes attacking the book:  Correcting the Record on Blackstone and Invitation Homes- Correcting the numerous falsehoods and mischaracterizations in Aaron Glantz's recent book that references Invitation Homes and Blackstone.  Nevertheless, when you look at that web site, it s not clear what are asserted to be the "numerous falsehoods," what would make them "numerous," or what the corrections are that the site means to offer.

The New York Times has just reported that NYPL trustee Stephen Schwarzman, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and Jared Kushner are all going to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman upcoming economic event despite the infamy.  Despite the dismemberment killing.  Despite Yemen.  It’s just business- as usual.

Notes the Times article:
Since then, many executives have pledged to continue their partnerships with Saudi Arabia, which range from joint investments in entities like Blackstone’s multibillion-dollar infrastructure fund. . .
The Schwarzman Blackstone multibillion-dollar infrastructure fund deal is Saudi seed money to be used to privatize American infrastructure.

Privatization, whether it it turning libraries into real estate deals or selling American infrastructure, is a symptom of wealth inequality.   It means that accumulated wealth, running out of other things in which to invest its capital, needs to start buying up what was previously the public commons as one of the few things still left to acquire and collect rent on. It also reflects how the increasing imbalance of power enfeebles the public’s ability to fend off these encroaching advances.  Lastly, with the shift of resources to the wealthy and the powerful, there is less and less public money to invest in the public’s resources to maintain them healthily and robustly to benefit all of society. 

The parallels of such privatization to the shift of wealth described here and by Glantz with respect to homeownership are obvious.