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.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Response of Mayoral Candidate Christine Quinn to Citizens Defending Libraries Questions For Candidates For New York City Offices

Citizens Defending Libraries is requesting candidates for New York City political offices to answer questions with respect libraries (posted on its we pages August 13, 2013).  Below are the responses to these questions furnished by mayoral candidate Christine Quinn.

To find out what other candidates provided responses (and navigate to them) go to the Citizens Defending Libraries August 13, 2013 posting.

Questions and Responses From Christine Quinn

1.    New York City is growing (including in wealth) and public library usage is up very substantially, 40% programmatically and 59% in terms of circulation, yet libraries are currently being funded at their lowest level in years, a drastic reduction from the past.  Do you favor this low level of funding or believe that funding should be restored at least to, or above, the level that libraries were funded in the past?
 Response:  [Christine Quinn did not provide a response to this question.]
2.    Are you in favor of or do you oppose the sale of libraries, public assets of the library system and the reductions of library space (including such sales and reductions as have been proposed by the New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library)?  Please explain.
 Response:  [Christine Quinn did not provide a response to this question except to the extent that in her generalized response below she refers to her responsibility in having this year `restored' the city budget amount for libraries this year to these historically low levels that library funding has been reduced to under Bloomberg while she was Speaker of the City Council.]
3.    More specifically, are you opposed to, in favor of, or neutral about the following proposed library sales, shrinkages and consolidating of library assets (Please explain and amplify your stated position–Note that one of the sales and reductions has already occurred– Donnell– while others are proposed and/or in progress):
    a.    The Donnell Library at 53rd Street across from MoMA between Fifth and Sixth Avenues
    b.    SIBIL, the Science, Industry and Business Library, (its sale is considered to be part of the NYPL’s “CLP,” Central Library Plan)
    c.    Mid-Manhattan (its sale is also considered to be part of the CLP)
    d.    Demolition and removal of research stacks underneath the Central Reference Library at 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue (its sale is also considered to be part of the CLP).
    e.    The NYPL’s “Central Library Plan” (involving the consolidating shrinkage of the libraries noted above)
    f.    The Brooklyn Heights Library (the operations of which function on a combined and integrated basis with the Business and Career Library in the building)
    g.    The Pacific Branch Library at 4th Avenue and Pacific in Brooklyn
    h.    The Clinton Hill Library in Brooklyn
    i.    All other libraries in Brooklyn that the BPL might consider similarly selling or leveraging as a stated part of the strategic plan it published
    j.    Other libraries NYPL might decide to similarly sell and shrink, such as libraries in Harlem, North Manhattan, Staten Island or other parts of Manhattan or the Bronx.
    NOTE: The Central Library Plan involving Mid-Manhattan, SIBL and the Central Reference Library stack destruction involves reducing more than 380,000 square feet of library space to 80,000.  The Donnell sale for shrinkage and redevelopment reduced the 97,000 square foot library to 28,000 square feet of mostly underground, mostly bookless space that won’t be available until at least 2015, eight years after sale of the library was announced .  The planned sale of the Brooklyn Heights Library reduces about 62,000 square feet of space to 20,000 square feet (originally proposed to be only 15,000 sq ft), as much of a quarter of the reduced space being placed underground.
 Response:  [Christine Quinn did not provide a response to this question, nothing that supersedes her previous press release statement strongly supporting the Central Library Plan notwithstanding the library sell-offs and shrinkage entailed:
"This visionary project by the New York Public Library, embodied in this beautiful building by Norman Foster, is central to this great institution’s evolution as a vital part of our city, as it has been for over a century.  I applaud NYPL for listening and heeding the concerns of the stakeholders, and for crafting a project that sensitively addresses its dual mission as a great center of scholarship—and as the people’s library for all New Yorkers—for the next century."]
4.    Many people consider it an indication of a problematic mind-set on the part of decision makers that libraries are being sold for what they believe are very inadequate prices: The 97,000 sq. ft. Donnell Library, much of it recently renovated, was sold to net the NYPL only $39 million while the penthouse in the fifty-story building replacing it is on the market for $60 million and SIBL was recently completed using substantial public funds for $100 million but 87% of it was just sold for $60.8 million.  Are you opposed to the sale and shrinkage of library assets in general or do you accept sale and shrinkage if you consider that ‘an adequate price’ is obtained for the sale?  If the latter; please describe what you believe to be an ‘adequate price’?
 Response:  [Christine Quinn did not provide a response to this question.]
5.    Are you opposed to the sale of library space and assets in general or would you accept the sale of libraries if they were not being shrunk (or were being increased in size) and you considered that ‘an adequate price’ was being obtained for the sale?  Again, if the latter please describe what you believe to be an ‘adequate price.’  Alternatively, if you believe that the presumption should always be that libraries should not be available for sale or redevelopment because of such things as the disruptions and hardship caused and the way a generation of children and other will be significantly deprived of services, please elaborate upon this point of view. 
Response:  [Christine Quinn did not provide a response to this question.]
6.    There is now a demand for internet and electronic services at the library.  Although a Pew poll shows that younger readers strongly prefer physical books, ebooks now make up 20% of the book market.  In some cases libraries are the only place to access certain electronic data and services (often requiring assistance of a librarian to do so).  Most people believe that libraries should now provide computer and electronic services (“bridging the digital divide” for those needing such service), which may require even more space.  Notwithstanding, do you believe that there is an adequate justification for NYC libraries to be effecting substantial reductions in the inventories of physical books available for those visiting at libraries, even in the face of increased demand?  Please explain your position.
 Response:  [Christine Quinn did not provide a response to this question.]
7.    Do you believe the libraries should be reducing professional library staff, or increasing such staff of at least maintaining the level of such professionals available to assist the public?
 Response:  [Christine Quinn did not provide a response to this question.]
8.    Some believe that professionally trained librarians are often in the best position to comment knowledgeably on the directions in which the New York City library system is being steered, but actions are being taken to silence such staff and prevent them from commenting, including directives to staff, loyalty oaths and “nondisparagement” (confidentiality) agreements the NYPL wants departing librarians to sign in return for severance.  Do you condone such silencing policies or feel they should be considered to be contrary to public policy?
 Response:  [Christine Quinn did not provide a response to this question.]
9.    Do you believe that the currently ongoing sell-offs of libraries and shrinkage of library space should be investigated and/or audited by appropriate government authorities?  Please elaborate. 
 Response:  [Christine Quinn did not provide a response to this question.]
Response to questionnaire provided on behalf of Christine Quinn:  We greatly appreciate your interest in Chris' positions on issues that are important to your members.  As Speaker of the New York City Council, Chris has been an advocate of our libraries, and views them as a vital part of New York's cultural, educational and economic systems and will continue to support them if elected Mayor.  She restored $106.7 million in budget cuts to the city's libraries, and has supported this funding throughout her eight years in the Council.  Protecting libraries are an important part of Chris' platform.  She has a plan to use the city's 206 libraries as community resource centers, or "Mini City Halls," improving delivery and access of services.  Under this plan, libraries will serve as a one-stop shop for New Yorkers seeking help navigating access to important programs and services.  With Mini City Halls, we'll bring all that City Hall has to offer right to New Yorkers' doorsteps. This program will be community-specific, providing health screening, English lessons and tax preparation help, as well as many other services.  Finally, she will work to restore full six-day service to the city's libraries.

As you can imagine, the Christine Quinn for NYC Mayor campaign receives a large number of questionnaires requesting her specific policy positions on various topics.  Unfortunately, not all of such requests can be answered in the detail requested.

We have attached to this letter some of Chris' selected accomplishments as Speaker, as well as some of her core ideas for the city as Mayor.

You can find more details on Chris' accomplishments and ideas at her campaign website http://www.quinnfornewyork.com/.  You can also download the Quinn Ideas App there to keep abreast of her policy ideas throughout the campaign.
[Attached to the response was a sheet presenting bullet points the first of which (below) mentioned libraries, the next eight of which didn't, followed by a paragraph that began with a sentence (below) that stated Christine will "continue to fight for the middle class."]

Among other things, as Speaker of the City Council, Chris
    •    passed seven on-time, balanced budgets that kept firehouses open, protected libraries, and prevented the layoff of 4,100 teachers
* * * *
As New York City's next mayor, Christine will continue to fight for the middle class. . . .
 * * * *
Again, to find out what other candidates provided responses (and navigate to them) go to the Citizens Defending Libraries August 13, 2013 posting.

1 comment:

  1. You seem to suggest that Chris Quinn slighted you by not supplying a detailed response to the 9 overly-worded questions you presented her. You could have noted that she was one of only two responders out of thirteen WHO DID respond. The other one, Mr. Credico, is all but unheard of. Keep in mind that his response is not the stuff of an experienced public policymaker. At least Chris's response come from someone who actually has experience and it is well-documented in the policy statement that she provided. I cannot imagine how many of the candidates will show up on Kane Street this Friday, eleven days before the primary, but I hope you keep us advised so that we don't trek out to Brooklyn for purpose of basking in the light of Mr. Credico's wisdom.

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