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.

Monday, December 3, 2018

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.

New York Times Obituary for Victor Marchetti Adds Another To Our List of Suppressed Books– Interesting What Gets Suppressed and the Selectivity of What Sometimes Gets Reported

At the end of October, the New York Times ran an obituary for Victor Marchetti, a former C.I.A. employee proclaiming him as “co-author of the first book, about the agency’s inner workings, that the federal government sought to censor before its publication.” See: Victor Marchetti, 88, Dies; Book Was First to Be Censored by C.I.A., by Katharine Q. Seelye,  October, 31, 2018.

The book, written with John D. Marks, “The C.I.A. and the Cult of Intelligence,” was ultimately published in 1974.

According to the Times, Marchetti’s book “became a critically acclaimed best seller” and “was one of several accounts of the C.I.A.’s attempts to subvert foreign governments and spy on American citizens (Mr. Marchetti among them) that led to the creation in 1975 of the Senate select committee to study intelligence abuses chaired by Senator Frank Church.

Although the book was so catalytic to government investigation and the ensuring recommendations for policy change and reining in the intelligence community, the Times obituary reported how the CIA fought to suppress it.  They did so based on Marchetti’s confidentiality and non-disclosure agreement with the CIA even though Marchetti’s publisher was able to argue that much of the information sought to be suppressed was already public. That means, the effort was to suppress an overall picture or point of view.

The Times obituary quoted one of its own, Anthony Lewis, a longtime columnist and legal affairs specialist for The New York Times, who weighed in back at that time worrying about the implication of knowledgeable authors in the area being so restricted that “They cannot write anything in the vaguely defined area of national security without the prior approval of the C.I.A.”

Citizens Defending Libraries has previously posted about a long list of potentially influential books that have been subject to efforts at suppression even though they often were not the subject of direct censorship.  See: Books As Catalysts In A World Where Information And Points of View Are Often Suppressed.

We’ll thank the Times obituary for calling one more such book to our attention.

While, on its face, it’s seemingly comprehensive, the Times obituary for Marchetti was selective about what it reported.  One story in the newspaper’s morgue of the collected stories the New York Times  previously ran that concerned Mr. Marchetti did not get woven into the obituary’s fabric.  It was a story was reported February 7, 1985: Watergate Figure Loses Suit Against Tabloid.

The, albeit, brief Times article reported that a Federal jury had decided that Watergate burglar E. Howard Hunt Jr. was not libeled in a 1978 article by Marchetti where Marchetti  reported that a 1966 C.I.A. memorandum said Mr. Hunt was in Dallas the day Mr. Kennedy was slain and in which he suggested that Mr. Hunt was part of a conspiracy to assassinate President Kennedy.  (The L.A. Times reporting the same grand jury decision related that the CIA memorandum said Hunt “was disguised as one of three `bums’ who were arrested in Dallas the day Kennedy died.”)  Whether, or not, Hunt, as a serial fabricator (and serial novelist), can be believed, he reportedly told his son before he died (including in recordings and videos) that there was truth to the story of his involvement in the assassination.

The New York Times obituary for E. Howard Hunt does not mention any of the talk about such possible involvement of Hunt in the Kennedy assassination.  See: E. Howard Hunt, Agent Who Organized Botched Watergate Break-In, Dies at 88, by Tim Weiner, January 24, 2007.  Instead it reports that “Mr. Hunt was never much of a spy. He did not conduct classic espionage operations in order to gather information”; that his “field was political warfare: dirty tricks, sabotage and propaganda.”

It portrays Hunt as a bungler who “mishandled many of the tasks he received from the C.I.A. and the White House” and incorporates a serviceable quote from a colleague that Hunt “went from one disaster to another” right into Watergate.  Although Hunt was once CIA station chief in Mexico the obit writer assures that enough of Hunt's secret activities are known to assure the reader that he “was a rank amateur” in “political and psychological warfare” despite the fact that he was charged with training CIA recruits in this area.  The Times article credits Hunt with helping “to plan the covert operation that overthrew the elected president of Guatemala,” but mentions, as if it’s squarely on Hunt's doorstep that the country suffered when the military regime that came in afterwards was repressive.

The Times Victor Marchetti obituary winds up by letting us know that Mr. Marchetti reckoned the attention his book received to be “a dubious reward” that in retrospect he would have avoided to instead `play the game’ instead, because he “lost everything.”  Marchetti’s son explained that the losses even extended his mother, Marchetti’s wife, being prevented from getting jobs by the CIA.

Mr. Marchetti’s son told the Times: “When you take on the system, it’s hard to beat the system.”

In other words, a word to the wise from the conclusion the Times offered: It is difficult for the public to learn about the intelligence community those things that are inconsistent with the way that the intelligence community wants itself depicted.

If New York readers want to read Mr. Marchetti’s groundbreaking book, the NYPL has one copy in its research collection that cannot be borrowed (or discovered by browsing the shelves) and it keeps it off-site so that it must be requested in advance; the two other public library systems in New York City, the Brooklyn Public Library and the Queens Library do not have any copy of the book.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Michael Kimmelman’s Unfortunate Suggestion That Amazon Invest In NYC’s Public libraries (per Eric Klinenberg)- See: “Amazon’s HQ2 Will Benefit From New York City. But What Does New York Get?”

There are a lot of people alarmed and/or already woeful about the announcement of the imminent arrival of an Amazon headquarters in Long Island City, Queens, even people who have not fully thought through everything there may be to get alarmed about in connection with the book industry-disrupting and imagination-defying growth of Amazon.*  One of those people quickest out of the starting gate with such opinions, is New York Times architect critic Michael Kimmelman.  See: Amazon’s HQ2 Will Benefit From New York City. But What Does New York Get?
(* See: National Notice- Interesting to Think That it All Began With BOOKS? Except That Amazon and World’s Wealthiest Man (As We Know Jeff Bezos Today) Didn’t Exactly Begin That Way. . . )
The arrival of Amazon is a huge topic so people will have to do a lot of thinking about it and it is too much to expect that everyone is going to get all their best thoughts together quickly.  This time, Kimmelman, who has done some good work in the past, has some worthwhile observations, but he also falters somewhat unfortunately with respect to his key recommendation.
On the perspicacious side, Kimmelman wonders how well a huge tech company like Amazon will fit in in New York City:
    . . .  the tech industry isn’t culturally urban. Its insularity, secrecy, its bedrock libertarianism and algorithmic notions about progress, land use and corporate independence have never easily meshed with the slow, open-society, regulatory-heavy, greater-good mission that defines city living. Disruption is a virtue and instrument of efficiency in tech circles. But it isn’t repetitiously welcome where protections and a focus on collective welfare remain abiding democratic ideals.
As the title of Kimmelman’s essay implies and as he, in his essay, then directly states, for Kimmelman the, “The question for city residents is what these companies give back.”

That’s hardly the only question, but Kimmelman presents one particularly unfortunate suggested answer.  He suggests that Amazon make “self-interested” investments in NYC public libraries per the thinking of “Eric Klinenberg”:
In turn, Amazon, which dominates the book market, could, up front, make self-interested commitments in local school programs and, as Eric Klinenberg, a sociologist at New York University, advocates, in public libraries, our most vibrant, multipurpose community hubs.
In other words, Kimmelman clearly sounds as if he is dangerously suggesting that Amazon engage in exactly the kind of public/private partnerships that library administration officials repetitiously crow that they are eager to promote now-a-days, projects that unfortunately commercialize the libraries and are all the more and especially dangerous when the private corporation `partners’ in them are acting `self-interestedly’ . .

Where do we start?  Do we start by saying Amazon, the great disruptor, has already been “partnering” with NYC library administration officials to promote more reading of digital books (in the subways)?  Do we wonder at the fact that Kimmelman, bypassing others (for instance John E. Buschman and Ed D'Angelo), is constituting Eric Klinenberg, “a sociologist at New York University,” as the new automatic go-to expert on what is desirable with respect to public investment in libraries after Klinenberg’s just publishing a book that he just recently put together in short order as the result of his being approached for a “collaborative project” on NYC libraries by the Revson Foundation?—  While Mr. Klinenberg describes the Revson Foundation as a “fierce champion of public libraries,” the foundation can probably more accurately be described as deeply involved in promoting (with behind-the-scenes funding) the current notion of selling libraries and turning them into shrink-and-sink real estate deals, their book collections drastically reduced, the talents and contributions of librarians dramatically deemphasized.

Do we point out that what the Revson Foundation promotes as the new libraries of the 21st Century future is all tied in with the neo-liberal, capitalist, private-market orthodoxy that promotes public/private partnerships between libraries and benefactors like Amazon?  Do we point out how Amazon’s ethos of, and roots in, data collection and its ties to the military, going back and forward, is gratingly at odds with the tradition of libraries as the havens of privacy as free speech requires?  That's what's makes their acting `self-interestedly’ far more scary if they partner on library investments.*
(* Next we are bound to hear that Queens City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who oversees libraries- and their sell-offs- and who has made himself initially visible opposing Amazon's arrival, will fold his opposition to Amazon when Amazon promises such library investments because Van Bramer doesn't believe that concerns about Booz Allen or surveillance in the libraries is real enough to worry about.)
Kimmelman once wrote a very important column of his own lambasting the NYPL's Central Library Plan following in the footsteps of Ada Louise Huxtable’s very last column, published just weeks before her death (Wall Street Journal: Undertaking Its Destruction, December 3, 2012), in which she railed against what they were doing to Manhattan’s central libraries and the elimination of books.  Mr. Kimmelman (New York Times: Critic’s Notebook- In Renderings for a Library Landmark, Stacks of Questions, January 29, 2013) likewise scorned how the “potential Alamo of engineering, architecture and finance would be irresponsible,” the result of “a not-uncommon phenomenon among cultural boards, a form of architectural Stockholm syndrome.”   We think he also got caught up with the fact that what was happening to the libraries, with its real estate deal underpinnings, was something very different from what was being touted.

When it comes to Amazon, however, Kimmelman seems to have some more catching up to do. . .

. . .  By the way, not too long ago, Forbes ran an op-ed arguing that Amazon should simply replace libraries with Amazon retail outlets–  “Amazon Should Replace Local Libraries to Save Taxpayers Money” (out of embarrassment Forbes quickly took the piece down): At least Kimmelman is not going so far as to make that exact same argument.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Tuesday Election Results For Three NYC Ballot Proposals- Analysis Of What That Means And Why You Want To Be Put on Citizens Defending Libraries’ Short List For Emails and Communications

Tuesday was Election Day and there is much to analyze.  In New York City one of the significant things to analyze about local results concerns changes to the New York City Charter that will have an effect on city governance and the way that proposals for approval, including real estate projects, move through the city system.  That obviously could affect libraries which the city tends now to regard more in the category of pawns on the chessboard of real estate development, rather than for what they offer in terms of societal benefits.

The three proposals were all approved (on the real estate site "Curbed).

Like most ballot proposals, they were all worded to sound good to people strolling into a voting booth.  Nevertheless, the thinking about how desirable each of them was varied substantially, even though one of them was dubbed a  “campaign finance reform.”  The one that most concerned informed community activist groups (except for bicyclers who view the current Mayor as being on the same page with them), was a proposal that would, in a Trojan Horse fashion, give the Mayor more control and influence over the Community Board Planning process by putting the Mayor in change of the flow of additional planning resources to local Community Boards.

The best way to consider what the proposals might mean for future is to go back and look at some of the analysis offered prior to the election.  Citizens Defending Libraries endeavored to send out information to inform all our petition subscribers to inform them of various positions and analysis so that they could decide about their votes. . . . MoveOn (through whom we communicate with the bulk of our petition signers) blocked our email.*—   MoveOn communicated that advocating a position on the proposals (or offering information as we were?) Violated its regulations.—   This is a good reason for our Citizens Defending Libraries signers to want to be put on our short (more nimble) email list that doesn’t bog down in the vicissitudes of waiting for and getting MoveOn approvals: If you want to be on our short list, send an email to Cemac62 [at] aol.com saying that you request to be on the Citizens Defending Libraries “short list.”

(* MoveOn suggested that to comply: "Sorry we can't let this one through due to NY's regulations regarding elections and ballot initiatives. Maybe you can post something more vague telling people in general how to support libraries and linking to Facebook for more info?")
Also, for analysis and discussion of the potential impact of the charter changes that were on the ballot you can listen to WBAI’s morning show last Tuesday (wth Michael G. Haskins), where Citizens Deafening Libraries co-founder Michael D. D. White discussed them with Alicia Boyd of Movement To Protect the People (in the WBAI archives for Tuesday, November 6th, advance to the 7:25 AM slot of the two-hour program- about 2/3rds of the way in- that starts at 6:00 AM).

The emails we attempted to send out to our petition subscribers will lead you to the analysis of the proposal that may help you as you works to confront development proposal going forward:

Here is the text of the email that was blocked by MoveOn even as we worked hard to conform to their regulations:
Subject: Defending Libraries: Voting on Tuesday's City Charter Proposals- Information Available

        (IMPORTANTPlease email us to be added to our short list of contacts to get urgent information more quickly than through MoveOn.   Our emails often take more time than we would like to get through the MoveOn clearing process than we would like.  We apologize for all the times that urgent MoveOn emails can’t get to you in time.)

        (NEW RULE!- MoveOn Tells us when you pass along your MoveOn emails you should delete the "unsubscribe" link at the bottom or someone else could accidently unsubscribe you from our mailing list.- One more reason to ask to be on our short list!)   

This email is arriving to you late because MoveOn blocked our original email (which was to go out Saturday).  MoveOn informed us that it did so because MoveOn regulations didn't permit an email that appeared to be making specific recommendations on Tuesday's NYC ballot initiatives- As such, we can only inform about the analysis offered by others and their analysis (which is actually what we were doing).

          So, we can tell you that if you look at the somewhat varying recommendations (and analysis) of Save The Inwood Library, MTOPP– The Movement To Protect The People, The New Yorkers For A Human-Scale City Alliance, Transportation Alternatives and Noticing New York, you will see every possible variation of recommendations on how you might vote on each of the three ballot proposals.  Varying with some of the others, The Save the Inwood Library group argues against term limits for community board members, which seems to align their analysis on that with Noticing New York.  The Inwood group also favors voting for the campaign funding change that is proposal #1.

          Transportation Alternatives will give you a different viewpoint cheerleading for all three of the proposals and figuring that term limits could somehow be a great cure for how community boards not represents the public properly.

More analysis, recommendations, and other points of view and deeper analysis can be found here:

    Noticing New York: How To Vote On The Three City Charter Reform (Reform?- Really?) Proposals on The November 6, 2018 Ballot! (NO, NO. . . & MAYBE. .?), Saturday, November 3, 2018   

See also our Citizens Defending Libraries Post:

    Want To Know How To Vote On The Three City Charter Proposals on November 6th?: The answer is NO, NO. . . & MAYBE. .?- Covered in Noticing New York.  
That’s where we point out the thoughts Noticing New York includes pertaining to libraries and the need for charter and community board reforms.

REMINDER: To keep up-to-date between emails monitor our Citizens Defending Libraries Facebook page or our Citizens Defending Libraries Twitter feed (@DefendLibraries), and there is also our Citizens Defending Libraries YouTube Channel.

Thank you for reading and passing along* this email, and thank you for defending and caring about our libraries and public assets.

Carolyn McIntyre Citizens Defending Libraries

(* REMEMBER THOUGH- NEW RULE!- MoveOn Tells us when you pass along your MoveOn emails you should delete the "unsubscribe" link at the bottom or someone else could accidentally unsubscribe you from our mailing list.- One more reason to ask to be on our short list!)
MoveOn also blocked this earlier attempted email to our petition signers:
Subject: Defending Libraries: Voting on Tuesday City Charter Proposals- NO, NO, and MAYBE?
    (IMPORTANT:  Please email us to be added to our short list of contacts to get urgent information more quickly than through MoveOn.   Our emails often take more time than we would like to get through the MoveOn clearing process than we would like.  For instance, because of such delays our pre-election email reminder to vote with important related links didn’t go out until AFTER (long after) the election.  We apologize for all the times that urgent MoveOn emails can’t get to you in time.)

    (NEW RULE!- MoveOn Tells us when you pass along your MoveOn emails you should delete the "unsubscribe" link at the bottom or someone else could accidently unsubscribe you from our mailing list.- One more reason to ask to be on our short list!)  

Do you want to know How to vote on the three City Charter Proposals on November 6th?   The answer (NO, NO. . . & MAYBE), is covered by Noticing New York (with huge indebtedness to MTOPP– The Movement To Protect The People–  and the  The New Yorkers For A Human-Scale City Alliance) in this article:

Noticing New York: How To Vote On The Three City Charter Reform (Reform?- Really?) Proposals on The November 6, 2018 Ballot! (NO, NO. . . & MAYBE. .?), Saturday, November 3, 2018.

See also our Citizens Defending Libraries Post:

Want To Know How To Vote On The Three City Charter Proposals on November 6th?: The answer is NO, NO. . . & MAYBE. .?- Covered in Noticing New York.

That’s where we point out the thoughts Noticing New York includes pertaining to libraries and the need for charter and community board reforms.

The three proposals and the recommendations?

    1.    On “Campaign Finance Reform- Reducing the amount of contributions to politician’s campaigns and increasing the amount of matching funds.”  VOTE NO.

    2.    On “Creation of New Community Engagement Agency.”   VOTE NO.
    3.    On “Term Limits on Community Boards.”  MAYBE VOTE YES (but THINK ABOUT IT!!- see . . . The Noticing New York article)

REMINDER: To keep up-to-date between emails monitor our Citizens Defending Libraries Facebook page or our Citizens Defending Libraries Twitter feed (@DefendLibraries), and there is also our Citizens Defending Libraries YouTube Channel.

Thank you for reading and passing along* this email, and thank you for defending and caring about our libraries and public assets.

Carolyn McIntyre Citizens Defending Libraries

(* REMEMBER THOUGH- NEW RULE!- MoveOn Tells us when you pass along your MoveOn emails you should delete the "unsubscribe" link at the bottom or someone else could accidentally unsubscribe you from our mailing list.- One more reason to ask to be on our short list!

Saturday, November 3, 2018

National Notice Updates and Republishes Citizens Defending Libraries Post About Amazon’s Huge Growth Beginning With BOOKS– Except It Didn’t begin There: Think DARPA Instead (per New Op-Ed In the NY Times)

National Notice, written by Citizens Defending Libraries co-founder Michael D. D. White, took over and updated a previous Citizens Defending Libraries post: Interesting to think that it all began with BOOKS! Amazon, With Bezos Now The World’s Wealthiest Man At Its Helm, Tops $1 Trillion!

The update: Interesting to Think That it All Began With BOOKS? Except That Amazon and World’s Wealthiest Man (As We Know Jeff Bezos Today) Didn’t Exactly Begin That Way. . . (Saturday, November 3, 2018)

The updates?  They stem from a new op-ed in the New York Times about the connections between the tech industry and the military.  There’s lots to learn about the connection of Amazon’s wealthy founder Jeff Bezos and his seriously connected grandfather, a key senior figure involved in starting up DARPA (the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), which started the Internet, which . . .   Oh well, you'll just have to read the National Notice article for more, but one of the subjects it gets into while considering books is surveillance and it will get you wondering further about the perhaps not so accidental reasons for Amazon’s unusual success.

Want To Know How To Vote On The Three City Charter Proposals on November 6th?: The answer is NO, NO. . . & MAYBE. .?- Covered in Noticing New York.

Do you want to know How to vote on the three City Charter Proposals on November 6th?   The answer (NO, NO. . . & MAYBE), is covered by Noticing New York (with huge indebtedness to MTOPP– The Movement To Protect The People–  and the  The New Yorkers For A Human-Scale City Alliance) in this article:
Noticing New York: How To Vote On The Three City Charter Reform (Reform?- Really?) Proposals on The November 6, 2018 Ballot! (NO, NO. . . & MAYBE. .?), Saturday, November 3, 2018.
Noticing New York includes some thoughts pertaining to libraries:
We have also seen the calculated re-composition of the [community] boards and their committees in advance to prepare for and ensure the vote results the real estate industry wants in instances such as the proposed sale of public libraries for real estate deals.  But does the institution of term limits ensure any improvement with respect to what needs to be fixed?: Only sometimes in some particular instances, and other times it can have the opposite result.

    * * *
What community boards and other New York City boards of influence (the Landmarks Commission, City Planning Commission, boards of the three city public library systems) might benefit from is diffusing the appointments to those boards among more elected officials who the public is likely to be able to identify and hold accountable when their interests don't get represented.   . . .
 If nothing else, more diffused power means that when moneyed interests want to put the fix in they have more elected officials to corral and buy off and it is harder for them to operate for long stretches in secret.  It is also likely to provoke a few more real open debates on a few more things before votes rather than discussions before votes being as scripted as they almost always are now.
The three proposals and the voting recommendations?
1.    On “Campaign Finance Reform- Reducing the amount of contributions to politician’s campaigns and increasing the amount of matching funds.”  VOTE NO.

2.    On “Creation of New Community Engagement Agency.”   VOTE NO.

3.    On “Term Limits on Community Boards.”  MAYBE VOTE YES (but THINK ABOUT IT!!- see . . . The Noticing New York article)

Monday, October 15, 2018

Pay-To-Play Library Sale Questions Loom Larger As New York Post Reports Uncovering Emails That Confirm “Probably Inappropriate” de Blasio Administration Communications With Favored Developer And Possible “Violation” Of Bid Process- Post Editorial Calls For Investigation

Deputy Mayor fro Development and de Blasio selling off libraries, our letter to prosecutors calling for investigation. .  just like the New York Post
Questions having been looming, pretty much from the get-go, about the probability of the de Blasio administration’s engagement in pay-to-play activity when it sold, for far below its actual value, Brooklyn’s second biggest library, the Business, Career and Education Federal Depository Brooklyn Heights Library in downtown Brooklyn.

As of last week those questions loom still larger and more starkly as the New York Post reported uncovering emails from 2014 (March & September) confirming that the favored developer who was awarded the library site for a fraction of its value to the public, David Kramer of the Hudson Companies, whose development team channeled money to the de Blasio campaign, was communicating with de Blasio’s Deputy Mayor for development, Alicia Glen, for her assistance before being given the contract.  Kramer thanked Glen for “being the expeditor” saying that “Ever since our call in August, it feels like momentum finally started happening” and that he was “quite pleased with the outcome (how’s that for understatement).”  Kramer had at least two conversations with Glen before being granted the property.  The Post says that such conversations were barred under state law.

Going back in time to put this in context, that August referred to in Kramer’s email to Glen was the same August that Noticing New York laid out the history of the BPL’s systematic marshaling up its library assets, including the Heights Library, for sale as real estate deals, benefitting developers, not the public.  The month before, in July, Noticing New York had written about Spaceworks as just one vehicle for turning New York City Libraries into real estate deals.  September 16th, Citizens Defending Libraries followed up with a press release about its follow-up with its Citizens Audit and Investigation of Brooklyn Public Library- FOIL Requests and held a rally in connection therewith outside the Brooklyn Public Library Trustees meeting as the trustees voted to give the city-owned library to Kramer. 

The Post article quoted “a source familiar with the procurement process” who called the contacts between Glen and Kramer “completely inappropriate, and depending on what happens, probably a violation of the procurement rules.”  The Post article also noted that it had previous reported that Hudson won the contract despite that fact that its bid “was not the highest bid.”  And it noted that “Hudson received $10 million in financing from the same Goldman Sachs division that Glen used to oversee.”

Two days after the Post article ran, it was followed up with by an editorial calling for an investigation again noting that Kramer’s bid was not the highest plus the troubling Alicia Glen-Goldman Sachs connection to Kramer’s financing and adding:
State law bars contacts between firms and officials during bidding competitions to prevent favoritism or even the appearance of it.
    * * *

Worse, the deal fits a pattern of de Blasio donors getting favorable treatment: Who can forget City Hall’s OK for a nursing home to be turned into condos, reaping the developer a $72 million windfall? Or the favors for fat cats and unions that gave handsomely to the mayor’s campaign and his Campaign for One New York slush fund?

Prosecutors have failed to find enough smoking-gun evidence to charge anyone at City Hall. Let’s hope they’re still trying.
Here are links to the article and editorial:
•    Condo developer’s chat with deputy mayor raises questions about bid process, by Yoav Gonen, October 9, 2018

•    Yet another case of de Blasio’s City Hall for sale, By Post Editorial Board, October 11, 2018
We are thankful for the Post article and editorial and for the freedom of information request effort through which the Post obtained this information (even if belatedly). . .  The BPL and de Blasio administration have stonewalled Citizens Defending Libraries' FOIL, never turning over information that would similarly be relevant to discovering more about the library sales. . .

We are thankful, but we have to point out that there is more of this story to be told, more dots to be connected.

The Post article could have made much more clear that what was being sold off was not the “site of the Brooklyn Heights library branch” the article mentions, or the “Brooklyn library site” the editorial mentions, but the actual, still standing library itself.  Furthermore, the Post is incorrect in referring to the site as merely the site of a “branch” library: It was the site of a huge central destination library, the Business, Career and Education Federal Depository Library.  Neither the article nor the editorial says that this was the second biggest library in Brooklyn.  We had nothing else close either in terms of size or its valuable location.

Yes, the Post does make clear that Kramer, the low bidder, paid less for the site than the city would have gotten if it had given the site to another developer bidding to take the site, thus making clear its implication that in return for campaign contributions the de Blasio administration was willing sell a city asset for less than its value. . .  It is probably not a surprise that the de Blasio administration in such an exchange would sell a city asset for less than its worth as indicated by the Post, but the only way to truly realize how much was squandered by the de Blasio administration selling this central destination library off to the low bidder is to realize the value that this still-standing library had to the public.

Developers bidding for the library “site” (not the library) were bidding only for the tear-down value of the property, to them that was less valuable than the value of a vacant lot.  But this central destination library had recently been greatly expanded and fully ungraded in 1993.  It was one of the most technologically advanced in the system with more computers and access internet access at exactly the time when library administration officials said this was what they needed much more of.   It was one of the most solidly built libraries in the system. The Post describes David Kramer as paying “$52 million” for the site, but after all is reckoned and the many expenses and losses of selling the library are subtracted out, it is likely the sale will perhaps net not much more than $20 million— We’ll one day learn more about this from future FOIL requests, we hope . .  

The Brooklyn Heights Central destination library would cost at least $120 million to replace.  But we are not getting back our Business, Career and Education Federal Depository library.  Its books are disappearing, so are the librarians.  It’s a huge public loss.

The Post editorial incorrectly says that the Brooklyn Public Library “owned the site” of the library.  It didn’t; the city did.  That’s an example of the bureaucratic fuzz behind which city and library officials are trying to hide and to baffle the public with.  (However, the BPL, as the library tenant in the property, could have easily fought the sale.)  But, because of quotes offered by David Kramer defending his contacts with Alicia Glen in the original Post article we can strip away the illusion that the Brooklyn Public Library board is somehow politically independent enough to represent the public interest rather than just taking orders from City Hall.  Kramer explained about his calling Glen about the library sale told the Post (emphasis supplied):
Eight months into the new administration, we kept on hearing that EDC and [Brooklyn Public Library] were awaiting direction from City Hall    
Carolee Fink appointed to BPL board
If the Post wanted an addition to its reporting to make more ominous the de Blasio threat to our libraries when contributing developers `lurk,' it could have gone on to report that this April  Carolee Fink, Alicia Glen’s Chief of Staff, was appointed to BPL board by Mayor Bill de Blasio.  Ms. Fink’s status as Glen’s Chief of Staff can be explained by her deep involvement in pushing through real estate development projects.

More about Ms. Glen who, as noted, came from Goldman Sachs to the city to do development. In December 2015 when BPL president Linda Johnson told the BPL board of trustees how the sale of that library sale went down, a shrink-and-sink deal replacing the central destination library with a luxury tower, Johnson told the BPL board of trustees that Ms. Glen had adopted the library sale and shrinkage deal as “her own” to “push it across the finish line.”  The secretive final negotiations at City Hall included raiding Department of Education funds for space in the luxury building to help the developer. 

Not mentioned by the Post is that Glen’s push “across the finish line” also involved a raid on Department of Education Funds to help push the deal through with the manipulative and cockeyed idea of writing a black check to the developer to put a “STEM” or “STEAM” facility in the building.
Moreover, the trustees were told that this sale was a “huge turning point for the library system” and “across the city in general” with Johnson `pioneering’ the future of libraries.  And previously Ms. Johnson had told the city council that the shrink-and-sink sale would be a model for all three of the city’s library systems.

The Post fits the de Blasio gift of the library to Kramer in the “pattern of de Blasio donors getting favorable treatment” referring to Kramer as “a donor and longtime pal of Mayor de Blasio.”  We would have loved the Post to use the images we obtained of a de Blasio fund-raising event Kramer’s development team held for him, that they bragged about.  Their bragging was posted online just weeks after de Blasio held a big campaign event with Citizens Defending Libraries telling people he opposed the library sales and that there were, lurking right behind the curtain, real estate developers who are very anxious to get their hands on these valuable properties.”

Kramer team de Blasio fund raiser picture taken down hastily by Marvel Architects as pay-to-play investigation heated up.
As the pay-to-play scandal escalated Marvel Architects, working for Kramer on the sale took down the images and their posted brags hoping no one would remember, but we have the images already, and they won’t go away.  See:
As Feeding Frenzy Elevates NY1 Covers De Blasio “Pay To Play” Violation: Taking Campaign Contributions From Kramer’s Hudson Companies While Handing Out Brooklyn Heights Library Deal- Marvel Architects Runs But Can’t Hide
The Post editorial ‘hoped’ that “prosecutors” were “still trying” to “find smoking-gun evidence to charge” people in City Hall.  We would have loved it if the Post had mentioned our open letter to those potential “prosecutors” requesting the exact same thing. See:
Open Letter to US Attorney Preet Bharara, NYS Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, et al: Use Your Staggering Powers as Law Enforcers & Public Guardians To Immediately Halt the Corrupt Sale & Shrinking of Brooklyn Heights Library
One of the addressees we beseeched in our letter was Letitia James, currently Public Advocate for the City of New York, who with her likely step up to New York State Attorney General given her Democratic primary victory will have a lot more power to pursue this. . . if only she will.  We hope the Post will put pressure on Attorney General James to do so.

In February 2015, when the scandal about the facts pointing to a pay-to-play sale of the library were already getting press, Citizens Defending Libraries implored the Brooklyn Heights Association at its annual meeting to withdraw support for the library sale and back investigation of the sale, but the BHA refused.  See:
Annual Meeting of Brooklyn Heights Association- The BHA President Patrick Killackey Insists That BHA Will Continue To Betray Community By Supporting The Brooklyn Heights Library Sale & Shrinkage Notwithstanding Recent Scandals
The Post story and editorial about these emails breaks just as Kramer is about to market the luxury condos in the tower replacing the library sold for such a small fraction of its actual value to the public. See:
As Condo Apartments Set Brooklyn Heights Sales Records (You Heard About Matt Damon’s $16.645 Million Penthouse?) Central Library Sold To Build (Now About To be Marketed) Luxury Condos Nets Mere Pittance
Quoted in the above post, the Brooklyn Heights Association speaking through its executive director Peter Bray reiterated all over again its continuing support for the sale of the library saying, “We’ve taken a very close look at this project from day one.” 

The sale of the library could never have been pushed through without the BHA’s support.