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, June 27, 2016

Extra Useful Links About Libraries In Brooklyn (Including The Brooklyn Height Branch And Business and Career Library, The Pacific Branch And Strategic Plan)

[Back To Main Page] In addition to the main resource page, here are some extra useful links about libraries in extra useful links about libraries in Brooklyn, including the Brooklyn Height Branch And Business and Career Library, the Pacific Branch And Strategic Plan.  (There is some minor repetitions from the main page.)  This page will be updated.

  •    New York Daily News: Coming to Brooklyn Heights: the incredible shrinking library, patrons and residents charge-  Controversial plan to sell library building to private developer who will build apartment tower over it, by Lore Croghan, February 17, 2013.
It’s the incredible shrinking library in Brooklyn Heights, angry patrons charge.

Residents are up in arms over a controversial plan to sell the city-owned Brooklyn Heights Library building to a private developer who will erect an apartment tower with a new, 15,000 square foot branch - smaller than the book hall that’s there now.
“It’’s sad and tragic there will be less space for the library,” said Brooklyn Heights psychotherapist Carolyn McIntyre who launched a petition opposing the plan for the Cadman Plaza West building that drew nearly 900 signatures in a week.
 •    Brooklyn Eagle: Controversial Brooklyn Heights library sale to proceed at ‘fast trot’, by Mary Frost, March 4, 2013 (emphasis supplied).
. . Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) wants to “move quickly to redevelop the Brooklyn Heights branch,” Josh Nachowitz, BPL’s VP of Government and Community Relations said at the meeting attended by elected officials and representatives from . . .

Not allowed a seat at the table, however, was Carolyn McIntyre representing the group Citizens Defending Libraries, which has so far gathered roughly 8,000 signatures on a petition protesting the sale. . . .

. . .Nachowitz said . . “Sometime this year we hope to identify development partners, and enter a contract before the end of this administration.  “It is a bit of a fast trot,” he added. . . .

Robert Perris, District Manager of Community Board 2, said . . . In a number of projects the community has very little input.”

The composition of the steering committee. . “seems heavily weighted towards elected officials and bureaucrats and a small number of people from the community. Are we overlooking anybody?”

“I represent 7,000 people from the community…” McIntyre spoke out from a row of chairs that had been set up for spectators.

“You can’t do that!” she was admonished by committee members.

* * *

When committee members spoke about visiting other library branches to investigate new branch design, Brooklyn Heights resident Justine Swartz, sitting in the spectator seats, loudly announced, “You’re already talking about a new branch like it’s a done deal. I’m leaving!” before walking out.

After the meeting library patron “Birdie” told this reporter. . . .it was a mistake to move the Business Library to Prospect Heights. “I believe that programs the Business Library provides at the Central Branch are less well-attended than here [in Brooklyn Heights]. This place is a central transportation hub. . . .

McIntyre said after the meeting via email that Nachowitz had “no interest in answering the hard basic first questions he should be answering at this time.”

“When discussing the air conditioner [Nachowitz] said it would cost $3.5 million. He did not show any bid documents or give any information about bids they received. We have asked outside experts who said that the number is ridiculous. We want more information to more fully assess.”. . .
•    Noticing New York: Mostly In Plain Sight (A Few Conscious Removals Notwithstanding) Minutes Of Brooklyn Public Library Tell Shocking Details Of Strategies To Sell Brooklyn's Public Libraries, by Michael D. D. White, August 31, 2014.
The minutes document the BPL strategy of keeping such plans of sale secret, and its intent to lock in the de Blasio administration, as a successor to the Bloomberg administration, to the sales.  Even now not fully disclosed, the plans were years in the making, mostly being implemented after a statutorily enabled restructuring of the BPL board giving Bloomberg greater control, sort of the library equivalent to the mayoral assumption of control of schools.

The plans were structured to make the case for selling libraries by hiring consultants, including as a first essential lynchpin to the scheme, a former senior Forest City Ratner official, to formulate a new evaluation of the library system's capital needs that would make what was intended to be a convincing argument for selling libraries.  Ultimately, the first two libraries publicly announced as prioritized for sale based on this capital needs analysis were right next to Forest City Ratner property.  Furthermore, as the plans were launched, the BPL consciously and intentionally deferred capital improvements thus building up these `convincing' numbers further.
 •    New York Daily News: Brooklyn Heights Library patrons are going to be fired up over cuts in hours this summer: branch expects to be open only half-time because of air-conditioning troubles, by Lore Croghan, February 26, 2013.
Shorter summer hours are a fresh source of distress for Heights residents who oppose the sale of the city-owned property to a private developer who would build an apartment tower that includes a cozy 15,000-square-foot branch.  [The shorter hours with a "redeployment"  of staff represent a more than a 50% shutdown of the library, likely permenent, starting in a few months and the blame being put on air conditioning problems is highly suspect.]

“Eight to 1 — wow!” said Charlotte Karcher, a retired librarian. “Who the hell is going to go there at 8 o’clock?”
•    Brooklyn Heights Blog:Citizens Defending Libraries’ Rallies In Manhattan To Protect Cadman Plaza Branch, by Chuck Taylor, March 8, 2013.

Brooklyn Heights-based organization Citizens Defending Libraries rallied Friday during a hearing in Manhattan addressing the New York City Council’s Fiscal Year 2014 Preliminary Budget, . . .Testimony from Citizens Defending Libraries about budget issues relating to New York City’s libraries . . .Its petition to stop public policy of defunding libraries in order to sell real estate to private developers, meanwhile, has collected more than 8,000 signatures.
•    New York Daily News: Brooklyn Public Library head Linda Johnson seeking to sell some property to raise money for repairs, by Erin Durkin, October 16, 2011.
Linda Johnson, who was named president/CEO of the BPL in August after serving as interim director for a year, is pushing for . . . "There are certain pieces of real estate we have that are very valuable," Johnson said.. .

. . . the city owns the branch buildings - and under current rules any money garnered from selling them would go to the city's general fund, and the library wouldn't see a dime.

Johnson envisions more big changes,  and concedes that not everyone in the BPL family is thrilled about it.

. . . I can see that (librarians) are crestfallen," she said. "And it makes me sad too, because I love a book as much as anybody does.
   [More analysis, including how such real estate deals were decided upon without knowing how the library could benefit from them is available at Noticing New York.]
 •    The New York Observer: Ratner-rama: A Ratner in the Stacks: Library To Sell Forest City-Adjacent Branches, by Stephen Jacob, February 5, 2013.
The Brooklyn Public Library is looking to sell off two of its branches near downtown Brooklyn to developers, the New York Daily News reports, and what do you know—both of them are right next to Forest City Ratner-owned properties.

  •    The Brooklyn Paper: Readers fight to save Pacific branch library, by Natalie Musumeci, March 7, 2013.
Neighbors are fighting to halt the Brooklyn Public Library’s controversial plan to sell off the borough’s first Carnegie branch — or at least find a way to preserve the historic building.

* *

We don’t feel that it is meeting the community’s needs,” said Brooklyn Public Library official Josh Nachowitz. “It’s a beautiful building on the outside, but the interior is dumpy, let’s be honest,”

Library users disagree.

“We don’t feel like that!” shouted some angry book lovers.

* * *

“The community has identified what we would like to see and that is a preservation of the building and the services,” said Councilman Steve Levin (D–Boerum Hill). “It fits the criteria of what we ought to be preserving, particularly in a neighborhood that is overrun by development.”

A sale requires the ultimate approval of city Council, which is a process that would not begin until late 2013 or 2014, library officials said.

The Brooklyn Public Library is also planning on selling the Brooklyn Heights branch

* * *

. . .  because the city owns the property the funds from a sale would go to the city, NOT the library system. There is no existing enforceable agreement that any money would go to the libraries. A decision was made to sell libraries BEFORE there was any basis to say that some or how much money might be given to the libraries. That’s an embarrassment to the Bloomberg/library officials flogging these deals because it means selling the real estate is their first, likely only real priority, not doing what is best for the libraries.
  •    Noticing New York: Tall Stories- Buildings Proposed To Shrink The Brooklyn Heights Library: Brooklyn Public Library Publishes Seven Luxury Building Proposals To Shrink Away Brooklyn Heights Library, by Michael D. D. White, December 16, 2013.
The Brooklyn Heights Association and the Brooklyn Public Library were once upon a time suggesting that Noticing New York was being `alarmist' when in February a Noticing New York article suggested that the building that might go up to replace the Brooklyn Heights Library could be very tall, as much as 40 stories. . . .

Alarmist?  Really?  On Thursday evening (December 12th) the BPL finally released proposals (in a summary briefing form) that were all submitted to it back in September on the 20th.  One of the seven proposals, Proposal F, says that proposal’s particular building could be as tall as a 55-story height (and at least a 45-story height).
  •    Noticing New York: Tossing Dwarfs?: It’s Time To Demand That We Change The Way We Fund Libraries . . End The False Political Theater, by Michael D. D. White, March 7, 2013.
Mr. Nachowitz . . very firmly told the cameraman he was not permitting any filming. . .

Had the meeting been filmed you could have seen some “dwarf tossing” in action.  One of the things you could have seen was Dan Wiley, representative of Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, coming in, sitting down and telling Mr. Nachowitz, “Now I’m sitting here thinking, why is Josh talking for the libraries?  I’m seeing EDC.  For me you’ll always be EDC.” [a lot of laughter from all around the table ensued] (EDC is the mayor’s real estate development agency where Mr. Nachowitz was working only a little while ago.)  Mr. Nachowitz guffawed and responded jovially, “We’ll get to that.  It’s all connected.”

CONTACT: To contact Citizens Defending Libraries email Backpack362 (at) aol.com.
You may also leave a comment with information in the comments section at the bottom of this page.

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


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