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 James Lane:
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?
James Lane: As stated in this question our city is growing and usage of the public library is up, that alone states that we should not be reducing its budget, but instead we should be coming up with more creative ideas on how to increase funding to our libraries and help make them more sustainable for future growth. Libraries need to have their facilities and staff expanded to better meet the increased demand of the people. As the Green Party candidate for public advocate one of the first things that I would like to do is examine our city budget for the past 30 years and share these findings with the public to clearly show that there is money available to save our public libraries, schools, firehouses and health care systems if we stop giving huge tax benefits to the wealthy 1% and redistributing those funds back to the 99% that truly need them.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.
James Lane: I am strongly opposed of the sale, shrinkage and consolidation of our public libraries and their assets and the reduction of their space. I feel that if the public was made more aware of this issue that we would be having massive protests in the streets as libraries should not be considered as storage facilities for housing massive volumes of printed material. They are much more than that. Our public libraries serve as childhood to senior education centers, internet communication facilities and meeting spaces to name of the vital resources they provide to our community.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 AvenuesNOTE: 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.
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.
James Lane: I am strongly opposed of the sale, shrinkage and consolidation of our public libraries so my answer would be redundant for each one of these proposals. There are no benefits to the community and selling off, shrinking down and consolidating to a so-called Central Library plan. In fact, these plans would only result in a financial profit to wealthy real estate developers that are just trying to obtain these properties at bargain basement prices without providing the public any benefits for the spaces they will have taken away from the people.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’?
James Lane: I am strongly opposed of the sale and shrinkage of library assets and feel that there is no such thing as an adequate price in this discussion. These disgustingly low sale prices being quoted are way below value in a grossly inflated real estate market. This further highlights the greed and lack of public insight that occurs when these evil behind closed door deals are crafted. As the Green Party candidate for public advocate I will make it my duty to serve as the city’s watchdog and work to prevent deals that involve selling off public property to private developers.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.
James Lane: I am strongly opposed of the sale library space and assets and feel that there is no such thing as an adequate price in this discussion. Selling of library space and assets would cause huge disruptions and hardships to the local communities in which they reside. Speaking from personal experience I grew up in Harlem during the 1970s where street crime and random acts of violence occurred on a pretty regular basis. For example if you are hanging out on the street corner with a group of friends with nothing to do, there would be a high probability that by the end of that day some altercation would occur to make that situation turn out badly in the end. So as an alternative I would spend a lot of my time after school and on weekends at the library casually browsing through books and learning more about the things that interested me as a child. As I got older the libraries provided me with the quiet place to study to prepare reports and homework assignments. As an adult the library was the first place I was directed to for finding out information about my original birth records when at the age of 23 I found out that I was adopted after both of the parents that raised me had just passed away. As a father my son and I frequently read together and going to the library is one of our favorite things to do when go on our “adventures”.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.
James Lane: I can understand the demand for Internet electronics of services at the library but I do not understand why we would sacrifice current space to make way for new technologies. But we need to do is see how we can build upon the existing space that we currently have and make way for further self sustainable growth in the future. For example, there are many public libraries that are 1 to 2 stories tall and I feel that adding an additional story with adequate space provided on the rooftop to how solar panels is an example of how you can expand on the currents infrastructure and reduce possible energy costs. As a Green party candidate for public advocate I am committed to working with small businesses and public institutions on how to expand on their current space if needed and use those opportunities to help in creating a clean green money saving alternatives.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?
James Lane: I believe there should be no reduction in professional library staff in fact based on current figures of usage that we should in fact be discussing ways to hire more professional librarians to assist the public. As a Green party candidate for public advocate I feel there are job opportunities available in our public libraries and possibly revenue-generating trainings that librarians could help conduct if they were interested in doing so.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?
James Lane: It is inconceivable to me why the New York City public library system is imposing gag orders on departing librarians. What is the NYPL of trying to hide? This is a clear indication that something far more sinister is going on under our noses and must be thoroughly investigated. As a Green party candidate for public advocate I will serve as a champion for social justice to librarians that are being forced to signed confidentiality agreements in return for severance.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.
James Lane: I believe this practice of selling off and shrinking our public libraries need to be thoroughly investigated. As a Green party candidate for public advocate I will use the legal resources available to me and work with the appropriate government authorities to fully investigate and bring an end to this practice.10. City funding is to be used to pay for some of the library sell-offs and shrinkage (including, in June of 2012, the City Council’s release of $150 million taxpayer capitol funding for the Central Library Plan): Do you feel there should be required predicates to such city funding such as economic impact studies and/or hearings and what failures, if any, do you feel there has been in this regard?
James Lane: Why is our city government funding the destruction of our educational system? This is yet another reason why I was so moved to run as a Green party candidate for public advocate. We cannot take away money from schools and at the same time spend $150 million of taxpayer funds to a plan that further works towards removing libraries from our children.11. The City has pledged $150 million to the Central Library Plan. But there have been no public hearings on using taxpayer money to alter 42nd Street, which was paid for, built, and is still owned by the City. Will you promise to hold hearings on radical changes to one of New York's greatest landmarks?
James Lane: As a Green party candidate for public advocate I promise to make sure that we have multiple public hearings in regards to all of our libraries as well as other publicly used resources. Currently, most public hearings happen at times which are inconvenient for most of our city residents to get to. I propose that if we are going to have any future public hearings on this and other matters that affect our city residents that they are made available at three convenient times for that day for example early morning midday and after work. Additionally, I pledge to have weekly press conferences from the steps of City Hall to further inform the public of any public hearings going on for the upcoming week to further add visibility on our city government is or is not properly working for its residents.12. Please speak about how you see sell-off, shrinkage and underfunding of libraries as relating to the proposed sell-off and/or privatization of other public assets such as schools (for instance, similarly, for redevelopment), public housing properties, parks and hospitals.
James Lane: I see the sell-off and shrinkage and underfunding of libraries as laziness and greed by the powers that are moving these discussions in this direction. By immediately going to developers who are just looking for the best property at the cheapest price seems to be a quick fix with no insight as to how it will affect the community in the end. As a Green party candidate for public advocate, I will work tirelessly to collect the needs of the people that are currently being affected by the lack of firehouses, hospitals, housing, libraries, parks and schools to help develop alternative solutions that do not require the selling off of public resources.13. Officials currently estimate that more than half of the city's high schools (now under mayoral control) are in violation of NYS Department of Education regulations that require schools to employ either part-time or full-time librarians, depending on enrollment (possibly making the alternative of NYC’s public libraries a more important resource for those students). Now, the NYC Department of Education is asking for a waiver to excuse its failure to meet this state regulatory requirement (no district in the state has ever been granted such a waiver), a move being legally opposed by the teachers union. What is your position on this issue and what is the role of the Public Advocate/Comptroller respecting this?
James Lane: As the Green party candidate for public advocate my first task would be to investigate why some schools are not able to employ either part-time or full-time librarians for their schools and work with the city government to help allocate additional budgets internally if that’s all that is needed. Our current mayor of course loves to quote figures on how public education has improved so much under his control, but in fact we are seeing time and time again failures such as this. As the city’s public advocate, I will work to organize parents and teachers to determine what is really crucial for the proper education our New York City. As of right now much of the funding is being determined on standards that do not necessarily build a well rounded education. I’ve seen schools penalized by budgeting cut, because they believe in alternative teaching methods and reduced classroom sizes that actually produce more “thinking” individuals, rather than robots that have solely been trained on passing a standardized test. There is money available in our city to fund our schools and libraries, we just need to get the money flowing in the right direction again.14. The New York Public Library plans to close two big midtown libraries and radically alter the 42nd Street Library. Yet there has not been a single NYC public hearing. (Assemblyman Micah Kellner is holding state level hearings.)
James Lane: If elected, will you hold hearings on the sell-off of public property? As a Green party candidate for public advocate I promise to make sure that we have multiple public hearings in regards to the selling of any public property. Also, I pledge to have these public hearings on this and other matters that affect our city residents that they are made available at three convenient times for that day for example early morning midday and after work. Additionally, I pledge to have weekly press conferences from the steps of City Hall to further inform the public of any public hearings going on for the upcoming week to further add visibility on our city government is or is not properly working for its residents.15. Would the City's $150 million be better used for branch libraries that are in desperate need of capital improvements? (Jacob Morris recently asked this question about Harlem's Macomb's Bridge Library in The Daily News.)
James Lane: The city’s hundred $150 million would be best used in publicly visible fund with clearly illustrates to all residents of the city what areas need development and what percentage of the money each one is to receive. Then we will have an opportunity to have public hearings in regards to those proposed spending. As the Green Party candidate for public advocate I want to correct the wrongs that our current city government has done in regards to their past budgeting decisions and create a truly fair and healthy city for people to live and work in.16. The Committee to Save the New York Public Library has called for an independent agency to make public a detailed cost analysis of the CLP, including cost overruns. Is that an appropriate oversight for the Public Advocate or Comptroller?
James Lane: As the Green Party candidate for public advocate I represent an independent outlook and feel this is 100% an appropriate oversight for my office to own as in many cases the creation of “an independent agency” uses people or resources that are already biased by the wealthy 1% and the two party political system that they control.17. The NYPL Board of Trustees wants to close the Mid-Manhattan Library, the most used in the nation, and alter the landmark 42nd Street Library at a cost of more than $300 million. It would cost less than half that to renovate the Mid-Manhattan. Should the City save Mid-Manhattan and keep the 42nd Street library intact?
James Lane: As the Green Party candidate for public advocate I feel the NYPL Board of Trustees need to be thoroughly investigated as to what their current decision making processes are. It’s as if they’re using our city is a giant Monopoly board and selling off all the public properties that are New York City residents need with the sole motivation lining their own pockets. This blatant disregard for the rights of the people of the city will not be tolerated by me or anyone on my staff at the public advocate’s office. The public libraries belong to the public and if there any decisions to be made in regards to the selling of them then they must go to the fullest extent of properly informing the public of their motives.18. NYPL plans to sell the Mid-Manhattan Library and the new Science, Industry and Business Library. But these buildings were subsidized by City and State taxpayers as well as being financed by donation intended for the public benefit. Should the City hold hearings on the sale of public assets?
James Lane: As a Green party candidate for public advocate I pledge to stop all proposed sales of these New York Public libraries until a thorough investigation of the Board of Trustees and their motives have been completed. The city should always conduct public hearings when ever the sale of a public asset is in jeopardy. These buildings and the spaces they occupy belong to the people and need to be respected as the people’s property and not the property of the rich and powerful few.19. The CLP will demolish the historic stacks that hold 3 million books at 42nd Street. The stacks are not landmarked, but the building is. Should the City insist on the preservation of City-owned buildings?
James Lane: As a Green party candidate for public advocate I believe in preserving city-owned buildings and rather than demolishing them restoring them with new clean green technologies that will help in reducing their operating costs and serve as a model for future construction opportunities. On a personal note as a lover of the interior of libraries and their stacks I would fully support a campaign of public awareness and civil disobedience (perhaps with people chaining themselves to the stacks) against the destruction of these.20. Should public/private partnerships such as those between NYC and NYPL suspend the ordinary rules requiring competitive bids, union and minority participation, and public scrutiny? How would you reform public/private partnerships?
James Lane: As the Green party candidate for public advocate I will closely monitor and report back to the public all findings that my department gathers in these public/private partnerships. My role as public advocate is to serve as the people watchdog and I feel that this job can be much more effective than our current public advocate has chose to make it.
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Again, to find out what other candidates provided responses (and navigate to them) go to the Citizens Defending Libraries August 13, 2013 posting.