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, April 28, 2014

April 28, 2014 City Council Subcommittee on Libraries Hearing: Testimony By Citizens Defending Libraries and the Committee To Save the New York Public Library- More

City Council Member Laurie Cumbo asking about library board members and their conflicts of interest
This page (which may be updated) provides testimony in video form (and some in written form) that was given by Citizens Dfending Libraries and the Committee to Save the New York Public Library at the New York City Council Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations and Select Committee on Libraries hearing about: “Tracking How the Department of Design & Construction Spends, Monitors and Discloses Capital Funding for Library and Cultural Projects.”

Video of the entire hearing vailable at the City Council website.

For a Noticing New York article putting some of the numbers discussed at this hearing in perspective see: Tuesday, April 29, 2014, What's Wrong With These Numbers?: The Baccarat Tower's $60M Penthouse and NYC's Library Budget.

Veronika Conant: Central Library Plan Is A Ripoff (Click through to YouTube for best viewing)

Cynthia Pyle: How Did Big Real Estate Usurp NYPL (Click through to YouTube for best viewing)

Charles Warren re NYPL: Transparency & Alternatives! (Click through to YouTube for best viewing)

McIntyre: DDC Testimony Undermines Library Sell-Off Plans (Click through to YouTube for best viewing)

Cumbo re Library Boards & Developers: Conflict of Interest? (Click through to YouTube for best viewing)

Here is are text versions of the testimony delivered:

Testimony of Charles D. Warren
Oversight Hearing, April 28, 2014
City Council Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries, and Intergroup Relations & City Council Subcommittee on Libraries.

I am Charles Warren. I am an architect. I co-wrote the 2-volume study titled: Carrère & Hastings, Architects. (with Kate Lemos, William Morrison, and Mark Alan Hewitt, 2006; ISBN-13: 978- 0926494428). This firm designed the 42nd Street Library building.

Hovering over this Hearing are the events now unfolding at the Queens Public Library. That should be an object-lesson to all of you. Council Member Elizabeth Crowley asked for Transparency. Council Member Stephen Levin asked for Alternatives. Both of them should be heeded. We have heard testimony from the DDC [Department of Design and Construction], which is entirely competent in delivering public projects.

The New York Public Library (NYPL) is owned by all of us; it belongs to the City, not to the NYPL trustees. The DDC is the appropriate agency to carefully monitor any construction project there, they are the ones to explore alternatives, provide independent cost estimates (or at least check them). It is an agency representing the People of New York City. We should be able to rely on DDC to look after our interests. Pass through projects escape their full scrutiny and prevent needed transparency.

We have been waiting for nearly a year for a promised analysis of costs for the Central Library Plan [and its successor plans] and information on alternatives to this wasteful, destructive plan. We have been waiting a year, and still NYPL Trustees stall and stonewall. The Alternatives and Transparency called for earlier by members of your Committees are absent from this process.

It is incumbent upon this Committee, upon all of you, and upon us as citizens, to demand that this proposed desecration of one of the great buildings in the City of New York, this emptying out of its resources and sending them out to another state, be carefully examined, prospectively, not retrospectively. You have the power to withhold the $151,000,000 of our money. Withholding that money will stop this process cold. You have the power to compel NYPL to maintain this building - our building. It is a civic resource and cultural treasure that must be protected.

It is incumbent upon you to make this a transparent process, so that our cultural resources are protected and maintained for future generations. They do not belong to the NYPL Board. They belong to the City of New York. I insist, and it’s time now, that you demand transparency in this process from the NYPL. You must no longer accept their method or their assurances: “We’re going to produce some new plans, and we’ll let you know.” Or, “We’re going to analyze these costs and we’ll let you know.” They must do better than: “We’ve looked at all the alternatives, and we’ve
picked the best one. Trust us.” That is not the way this should work.

They should be before this Committee. They should be asked every question that you have asked the DDC. The DDC -- a great resource of this City in analyzing construction costs should be part of this process, now, prospectively, during the process, and retrospectively – should help our government and our citizens analyze this opaque proposal. They should be looking after our
pocketbooks. And you should be looking after our cultural resources.

Respectfully Submitted,

Charles D. Warren
New York, NY 10025

New York City Council Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations and Select Committee on Libraries

Oversight: Tracking how the Department of Design and Construction spends, monitors and discloses capital funding for library and cultural projects
Monday, April 28, 2014
Testimony by Veronika Conant.

I am Veronika Conant, a retired academic librarian and a member of the Committee to Save the New York Public Library. I am also past President of the West 54 - 55 Street Block Association, a group active during the disastrous sale of the Donnell Library in 2009.

Thank you for holding this very interesting hearing. The DDC is doing a great deal of useful work on libraries. It was the first time that we heard actual cost estimates, breaking down costs to units of cost per square foot. According to DDC, for libraries the average cost of a simple interior renovation is $150 per square foot; the average cost of new construction is $700 - $850 per square foot.

NYPL’s Central Library Plan (CLP) will create an about 100,000 square feet new circulating library in place of the current book stacks at 42nd Street. The plan will destroy the research library’s book delivery system (7 floors of historic and functional book stacks, which can hold millions of research materials, and hold up the Rose Reading Room above), sell off two popular public libraries, shrink their contents into the new space created, and move millions of research materials off-site. The estimated cost is $350 million, with $151 million from City funds.

The cost of $350 million for 100,000 square feet of library space means $3,500 per square foot, an outrageously expensive undertaking compared to DDC’s $150 per square foot cost for interior renovation and $700 - $850 per square foot cost for new library constructions.

The 7 floors of book stacks at the 42nd Street Library are in working condition, were air conditioned in the ‘80s and received a sprinkler system in the ’90’s. Using DDC’s figures of $150 per square foot for interior renovation, their upgrade to current standards would cost $24 million (for 160,000 square feet densely placed existing shelving).

Using DDC’s figures, the close to 160,000 square feet present Mid-Manhattan Library’s interior renovation would cost $24 million (at $150 per square foot) while a new Mid-Manhattan library of the same size would cost, using $850 per square foot, $136 million. It could even be larger, leaving space for growth.

Both versions are significantly less expensive ($48 million for simple renovations or $160 million, including a new Mid-Manhattan) than the present estimated $350 million. They would preserve the historic book stacks, filled with over three millions of books, allowing them to continue to serve researchers all over the world as they have done for over 100 years, Two popular public libraries would continue to remain in use, serving the needs of millions of library users.

We would like to get an estimate from DDC for the plans mentioned, and would
very much appreciate if you could explore the alternative plans now.

DDC stated that since the NYPL plans are pass through, they do not have control over the funds until after a contract has been signed. The plans can be modified by NYPL only prior to the signing of a contract. After that they are locked in. We would like to make sure no contract gets signed for the present plans.

Thank you.

Veronika A Conant, M.L.S. retired from Hunter College Libraries
New York, NY 10019
Below- Testimony of Feniosky Peña-Mora, the head of the city's Department of Design & Construction (DDC).

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