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.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Action Steps You Can Take Including Contacting Elected and Other Public Officials

[Back To Main Page]  The information posted here at Citizens Defending Libraries, including this page, will be updated, evolved and developed further.

The first most important thing you can do is SIGN and promote our current petition to Mayor de Blasio here:
Mayor de Blasio: Rescue Our Libraries from Developer Destruction
You can also paste the following url into your browser to get to it:

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

This is our second petition.  Our first petition, Save New York City Libraries From Bloomberg Developer Destruction, gathered over 17,000 signature, most of them online- available at signon.org with a background statement (can still be viewed signed for good measure).

The petition will be delivered to:
    •    Mayor Bill de Blasio, Mayor
    •    The New York City Council,
    •    Melissa Mark-Viverito, Speaker
    •    Scott Stringer, NYC Comptroller
    •    Letitia James, Public Advocate
    •    Eric Adams, Brooklyn Borough President
    •    Gale Brewer, Manhattan Borough President
    •    Melinda Katz, Queens Borough President
    •    Ruben Diaz Jr., Bronx Borough President
    •    James S. Oddo, Staten Island Borough President
    •    Eric Schneiderman, NYS Attorney General
    •    Jimmy Van Bramer, City Council Culture Committee Chair
    •    Costa Constantinides, City Council Library Committee Chair
    •    Brad Lander, City Councilman, Steve Levin, City Councilman
    •    Corey Johnson, City Councilman
    •    Daniel R. Garodnick, City Councilman
    •    Helen Rosenthal, City Council Member
    •    Daniel Squadron, State Senator
    •    Velmanette Montgomery, State Senator
    •    Fred W. Thiele, Jr., State Assembly Library Committee Chair
    •    Joan Millman, State Assembly Member
    •    Jim Brennan, State Assembly Member
    •    Thomas P. DiNapoli, NYS Comptroller
    •    Trustees of the New York Public Library
    •    Trustees of the Brooklyn Public Library
    •    Trustees of the Queens Library
It is always worthwhile directly contacting elected representatives (and candidates for elected office about these issues), particularly those who represent you, whom you now or who are high on the list above. 

Citizens Defending Libraries has a calendar page that gives updating information about events, rallies and meetings you can participate in to coordinate, share information, discuss strategic next steps, canvass, etc.

You can also be very effective in getting organizations that you are a part of to endorse our new sign-on letter for library support whereby organizations and groups can express support and affinity for the campaign to stop the sale and shrinkage of libraries, along with stopping the removal of books and librarians.  Contact us about seeking sign-ons from, for instance, your local PTA, church, political club, community board, political party or chapter, etc. 

City-wide elections in 2013, including most importantly for mayor, were held last November.  The actions of Citizens Defending Libraries during that election were very important in electing to office new public officials like Mayor de Blasio and Public Advocate Tish James who pledged to stop the sale and shrinkage of our city's libraries.  Still, it is up to us to provide to make sure our presence continues to be felt as a reason for spines to stay stiff and appropriate actions taken.

In addition to supporting this petition by encouraging additional signers (by sending the petition to your friends and passing it along through social media like Facebook and Twitter) you can stay up to to date with the issues, get the word out and educate others by:
    •    Liking and following us on Facebook
    •    Following us on Twitter (@DefendLibraries)
Do the same for The Committee To Save The New York Public Library and Library Lovers League.

What To Call And Write Public Officials About

You can call and e-mail them to tell them that you want them to endorse and support the goals of this campaign.  You can be even more effective if you ask them when you contact them to inform you what they are committing to, now in the short term and for the long term.  You can then be even more effective by reporting back to us the positions they are taking (or failing to take) by contacting us or by posting that information as a comment on this page.  (See below.)

We can offer questions to ask, like the following (you may have your own to suggest):
    •    Do you support a moratorium on the creation of real estate deals through the selling off of library property until the New York City libraries are all properly funded, which would mean rehiring all-laid off staff, restoration of full library hours, restoration of libraries being open Sunday.

    •    Do you support a moratorium on the sell-offs of any library real estate (including the sales currently proposed in Brooklyn and the Central Library plan in Manhattan) at very least until such time as those involved in formulation of such deals display a different mind-set, which means community decision-making about what is desired, no shrinkage of the library system and now prioritizing timing (rushing deals through) and benefits for the sake of the real estate industry.

    •    Do you oppose shrinkage of the New York City’s library systems as is currently being done?

    •    Will you commit to use the city ULURP process under the city charter (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure) to oppose and prevent any sale of city-owned library sites as part of schemes that shrink the library system (including the sales currently proposed in Brooklyn and the Central Library plan in Manhattan)?

    •    Do you oppose the libraries' use of private-public partnerships (that become developer-driven and can be readily abused by companies expert in doing so, like Forest City Ratner) when library property is redeveloped?

    •    Do you oppose destruction and sale of irreplaceable assets, crown jewels of the library system like the research stacks that make the 42 Street library the research library it should be?

    •    Do you oppose wholesale sell-offs of libraries going on simultaneously?

    •    Do you oppose rushed and premature closing of libraries as occurred when Donnell was closed in 2008?

    •    Do you oppose the withholding of vital and core city services like libraries (and schools) as hostages in order to get developments approved?

    •    Do you support a thorough public review process, including a long lead time and sufficient advance warning when existing libraries are proposed to be decommissioned and replaced?
     •   Are you calling for investigation and audit of these library system deals?
When contacting public officials, do not let anyone tell you that the selling of libraries creates money for the library system.  That’s one of the problems: It doesn’t and it can’t- That money typically goes to the city, which has already established the policy of withholding it.  That’s what we are determined to change.  (Even in the case of certain libraries the NYPL actually owns, sale proceeds can't be counted upon for operations and the city can cut by comparable amounts.  Federal and state funds also went toward the original purchase of certain of those libraries.)

In relative terms, the amount of money such sales can bring into the city is a pittance.

The amount required to begin properly funding libraries again is also a pittance relative to other amounts spent in the city.  From the Center For An Urban Future report on library usage we know: “More people visited public libraries in New York than every major sports team and every major cultural institution combined.”  Yet, we spend far more as a city to subsidize those other things.

Libraries are an important part of the tax base and a stable economy, providing jobs, community space and serving as buffer against economic downturn.  Even if it is decided that some libraries, sometimes should occasionally be selected to be sold and replaced to create increased density, enlarging the city to add to the tax base, we then need a larger not smaller library system as a result.

Public Officials To Contact

In addition to contacting those public officials on the following list it is important to contact your City Council member.  There are 51 City Council members.  You can find out who your City Council Member is and how to contact them by going here: Find Your City Council Member.

In writing letters to politicians, you may find it easy and useful to adapt some of the points made in the latest Citizens Defending Libraries testimony found here: LIBRARY HEARINGS & FORUMS (Reports & CDL Testimony).   Among other things it is important when writing to elected officials to call for investigation and audit of the library systems in regard to these proposed real estate deals.

CONTACT: To contact Citizens Defending Libraries email Backpack362 (at) aol.com or call 718 (area code) 797.5207.

You may also leave a comment with information in the comments section at the bottom of this page.

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