Tuesday, April 2, 2013
April 2, 2013 Press Release And Open Letter To Mayoral Candidates From Citizens Defending Libraries
Carolyn E. McIntyre, Michael D. D. White
Citizens Defending Libraries
@DefendLibraries on twitter
CITIZENS DEFENDING LIBRARIES ISSUES OPEN LETTER TO NEW YORK CITY MAYORAL CANDIDATES: DECLARE YOU ARE ON THE SIDE OF THE PEOPLE AND THE LIBRARIES, OPPOSE THE ENGINEERING OF REAL ESTATE DEALS SELLING OFF LIBRARIES AND SHRINKING AND UNDERFUNDING THE SYSTEM TO BENEFIT DEVELOPERS, NOT THE PUBLIC
New York, April 2, 2013– In an open letter to all the New York City Mayoral candidates (attached) Citizens Defending Libraries, a group of concerned citizens mobilizing to save New York City’s libraries, has asked all those running for the office of mayor to declare that they join with Citizens Defending Libraries in its campaign (supported by a petition that now has more than 8,500 signatures) to oppose the sale of libraries, shrinkage of the system and deliberate underfunding of the library system by the mayor, the goal of which is to benefit private developers, not the public.
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April 2, 2013
To: All Candidates For Mayor of The City of New York
Re: Open Letter To Mayoral Candidates From Citizens Defending Libraries
Dear Candidates for New York City Mayor:
This is an open letter from Citizens Defending Libraries to all candidates running for the office of New York City Mayor asking that they in every mayoral forum and in their issued position statements call for an immediate end to the plunder of our New York City libraries.
Our libraries represent, in a most quintessential way, our publicly-owned resources, our democracy and the opportunities we extend to one and all for equality, self-improvement and education. Library usage is way up (40% programmatically and 59% in circulation), yet at a time when the city is growing with its wealth and density increasing, the current mayor is financially starving the libraries, a deliberate underfunding that is artificial and unnecessary. Libraries, despite their extraordinary benefit, cost the city a pittance, a teeny faction of the city’s overall budget. The mayor’s deliberate underfunding is unjust and unwise, but it is nevertheless suggested that this unjust and unfair policy of underfunding be responded to with another policy that is even more unjust and unwise: the selling off of libraries and the shrinkage of the library system. Focus your attention on these sell-offs and you will see that they are being engineered with an eye to benefitting real estate developers, not the public.
We ask that the every candidate join in recognizing that these sell-offs are emblematic of the very worst that is happening in this city in terms of selling off of public assets for private benefit in a city where everything is increasingly being privatized. In the case of libraries, these sales and consolidating shrinkages began in 2008 with the secretive, then suddenly announced, and subsequently reviled closing and sale for shrinkage of the Donnell Library, once one of Manhattan’s main libraries. It continues with the shrinkage and closing of more libraries as part of the Central Library Plan that also involves decommissioning 42nd Street’s Central Reference Library as the effective and preeminent research library it was meant to be. (The squandering involves ripping out that reference library’s irreplaceable research stacks.) It now continues with the export of those practices to Brooklyn where, with nearly exact replication of Donnell’s demise, the central library in Brooklyn Heights will be sold off and shrunk. Meanwhile, 1.3 miles away there are plans to sell the historic Pacific Branch library, the first Carnegie Library opened in Brooklyn; like the Brooklyn Heights library, it is next to Forest City Ratner property.
“Strategic plans” of library officials working with the Bloomberg administartion call for the “leveraging” and alteration of the library system’s “real estate footprint” (i.e. a description of similar real estate deals) throughout the system. Librarians and essential professionals normally associated with running libraries have been laid off wholesale. They have been replaced by expensively paid “strategic staff,” the euphemism for those now running the libraries like real estate companies.
Citizens Defending Libraries asks all the mayoral candidates to join in calling for an immediate halt to these real estate deals intended to benefit the few at the expense of the many. These deals should be shelved and not considered until proper and adequate funding for New York’s libraries has been restored with the establishment of baseline funding to protect them into the future. No deals should be allowed to go forward until there has been the change in personnel necessary to ensure that those involved in these evaluations and decision-making functions will not continue to hew to developer-driven, developer-first thinking. We also ask that all the candidates call for the scrutiny, investigation and audits that should be brought to bear concerning the suspect excuses (such as improbably high repair costs) that have been given by the library officials who eagerly want to sell off irreplaceable crown jewels of the library system.
At a time when these candidates are asking others to support their campaigns, we offer a test of what each of them really believes in: We ask the candidates to support the Citizens Defending Libraries campaign and petition to save the libraries from sell-off, shrinkage of the system and deliberate underfunding by the mayor.
Citizens Defending Libraries will be one of the groups that will keep the public informed of each candidate’s position in this regard.
Carolyn E. McIntyre
Citizens Defending Libraries
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