Testimony of Citizens Defending Libraries appears below following the (coming) report of the hearing. (The City Council's video for the entire hearing is available at its website.)
The City Council hearings on the proposed library budget for the city’s upcoming fiscal year was held in two parts: The City Council taking testimony from the library heads and asking “questions” on the morning of Tuesday, June 3rd, and the taking of public testimony about the libraries (and everything else related to the budget) on Friday, June 6th.
The first part of the hearing in particular was pretty disheartening. CDL’s Carolyn McIntyre wasn’t at the Tuesday portion of the hearing, but after hearing from another of CDL member who was, she paraphrased the secondhand account she got saying that it sounded “like the kind of hearing you get when your government has been hijacked by the 1%.”
Is that fair to say of our new, supposedly more “progressive” City Council? Here’s more information for you to decide.
The proposed sale and shrinkage of city libraries raises really big issues but, virtually no questions about this were being asked, except for those Public Advocate Tish James asked. Ms. James didn’t have time to ask many questions, only five minutes, still, she used her time to ask some good ones.
Aside from scrutinizing proposed sales in Brooklyn, City Council members should have been especially interested in asking questions given that:
• Since the council had last met on these matters, the NYPL, in a an embarrassing turnaround, had been forced to abandon its mega-deal Central Library Plan. It happened the day before Mayor de Blasio brought out his revised budget.
• The day before the City Council hearing the NYPL revealed:
• Revealed the Central Library Plan would have cost a half billion dollars, hundreds of millions more than previously admitted.
• Said it had vague new replacement plans that would absorb all the money they previous said they wanted from the city.
• Days before the hearing, a foot-wide, melon-shaped piece of the ceiling in the 42nd Street Central Reference Libraries recently renovated Rose Reading Room fell down forcing weeks of closure. This is interesting in that major construction had been proposed to happen under this room without considering it at risk or delicate and one also wonders whether anything already going on, including the sudden removal of three million books below could have been a factor.Although the city council was well supplied with lots of good questions to ask courtesy of Citizens Defending Libraries and chums, those City Council members who were there didn't ask them and others who might have more obligated to ask questions simply didn't show up. The city council members there were a fairly somnambulant group, far too ready to participate in prearranged congratulations (particularly from City Council member Lander) for the library heads.
It really seemed as if the hearing was being stage managed to sidestep the possibility of any awkward moments or serious confrontation with the library heads. Queens library head Tom Galante sent a representative instead of showing up personally. The library heads usurped the limited time scheduled for these library budget matters (about a half hour) beginning with a video that ate up more than 10 minutes (the video was already posted and available on the since at least May 16th).
The video communicated that libraries are good, something nobody disputes. Jimmy Van Bramer chairing this part of the hearing seemed disconcerted when more than halfway through the video there was laughter at the ridiculous way they were running out the clock. (For more on this and a link to the video see the testimony of CDL’s Michael D. D. White, following this report.)
Sale and shrinkage of libraries did come up, by virtue of the questions Tish James asked, and because Councilman Brad Lander went out of his way to express emphatically that he is proponent of selling and shrinking the Brooklyn Heights Library. Lander did this when Councilman Steve Levin, in whose district the Brooklyn Heights Library is, was out of the room. Levin was out of the room for most of the hearing. Beyond that City Councilman Antonio Reynoso asked BPL president Linda Johnson about what funds would be received from a sale of the Brooklyn Heights Library but got no answer. Johnson may not want to get into this because the BPL would probably net a lot less than might be suspected: half the site’s development rights were conveyed out to developer Forest City Ratner in 1986. A full-scale “replacement” of the Brooklyn Heights Library would cost on the order of $40 million and there are multiple other downsides to the public that would properly have to be netted out in a proper financial accounting. The library would also have to net out any amounts intercepted by the city.
After the hearing Lander suggested that any jeopardy the Brooklyn Heights Library is in is really not from him but from Mayor de Blasio, who as a candidate last July called for a halt to the library sales. Is it possible Lander is trying to steer the council on this matter by saying de Blasio has switched positions? Saying it doesn’t make it so, but this is a commonly used sort of tactic when people pursue their own agendas during changes in administration.
During the hearing highlights were tweeted.
Tish James asked BPL president Linda Johnson about her plans to sell off the rest of the library system as is set forth in BPL’s strategic plan. Johnson, more frank than she has been before, actually admitted that she was, in fact, looking at all the libraries for “opportunities.” When she speaks in terms of these deals she says she is looking for "partners."
Public Advocate James was unable to get much in the way of specifics about what other libraries were going to be sold. When Tish asked what was immediately next after a sale of Brooklyn Heights Ms. Johnson said that the BAM South project was next on her list. That led quickly to an exchange about the Pacific Branch Library because the BPL heretofore been saying it wants to sell Pacific to partially pay for the outfitting of the BAM South project. When asked about Pacific Street, Ms. Johnson said she was looking for a “partner” for Pacific Street. The Brooklyn Heights Blog reporting on the hearing quoted Ms. Johnson’s remark that the building's condition “keeps us all up at night.” (See: BPL's Johnson Goes to City Hall, Hat In Hand, by Michael Randazzo on June 4, 2014.)
The BPL’s play with respect to the preservation of Pacific Street, the NYPL’s play with respect to the preservation of the 42nd Street Central Reference Library’s research stacks and Mid-Manhattan and the Cuomo administration play with respect to Long Island Collage Hospital may all turn out to be rather similar. In all three cases the real estate industry is circling in on deals. In all three cases you get an interim situation where the community is told `it has been heard.’ But then administrators throw their hands up saying they don’t know what to do with the asset and refuse to cooperate in its continued use or preservation. Later, things change as they move in for the kill and ultimate real estate grab.
In that regard, Johnson at the hearing was telling Public Advocate James about the Pacific Library, “we will preserve that beautiful building” even as she has often said that she does know what to do about it. What may happen, what Johnson may have in mind is preservation of the building, without preserving it as a library. It might be landmarked as it should be, and as the community has asked since the 1970s, being the first Carnegie Library built in Brooklyn. As was expected by those reading the development tea leaves, the city is now selling the property immediately adjacent to the library, “one of Brooklyn's few Medicaid offices.” (See: Park Slope Medicaid Office Building With Lots of FAR Sells for $25,000,000, by Rebecca of Brownstoner, 06/05/14)
Air rights could easily be sold and utilized on that adjacent site without incurring the expense of tearing down (or replacing) the landmark building. But this doesn’t mean that the library would remain a library unless the community asserts itself. As it is, Citizens Defending Libraries is getting reports that this summer the BPL is shuttling down programs at Pacific Street and refusing to do proper maintenance.
One has to wonder whether the $25 million that the Medicaid building sold for wasn’t rather low. In a few weeks we will probably see what the sale of Junior’s site, a few blocks away, brings in for comparison.
The day before the hearing the BPL sent around an email advising people to listen to Linda Johnson's testimony. Apparently they were convinced that she had it in the bag ahead of time. Watch the video, and see what you think.
BTW: When Councilman Lander talks about the Pacific Branch library he sounds just like the BPL’s Johnson.
After the hearing, Brad Lander told us after the hearing that he thinks that everything at the BPL is very transparent and that there really aren't any significant lessons that have to be learned from the NYPL situation, or parallels that should be perceived. That’s interesting because in an article published the week of the hearing in the Brooklyn Heights Blog is about how BPL spokesperson Josh Nachowitz wants to hold up the NYPL’s Battery Park City branch library as a template for the future of the Brooklyn Heights Library. (See: What Exactly IS a "21st-Century" Library? By Michael Randazzo on June 7, 2014.)
There are several problems with this: design and genesis of that Battery Park City Library with “plenty” of books hails back to the Guiliani administration when we were expanding libraries, before Bloomberg wanted shrinkage to be the new fashion. Another problem, is that when Nachowitz holds up this small branch library serving a wealthy, hard to get to, waterfront enclave of a community as the suggested replacement for a central library serving all of Brooklyn, he is likely trying to make a subliminal appeal to the well-to-do of Brooklyn Heights about excluding their neighbors.
Want a library with “plenty” of books? Johnson wants to get rid of them. Two days after Johnson testified at the hearing as part of the PR onslaught for selling the Brooklyn Heights Library the BPL circulated a letter signed by its chief librarian defending the shrinkage of the library characterizing having books on premises as essentially useless “storage” part of functions “functions that are no longer taking place in a modern library setting” where you “do research on a computer.”
Ms. Johnson has been enthusiastically describing her vision of a different BPL system that will change "the focal point . . away from books" with "smaller libraries serving neighborhoods."
“many of the books will need to be stored off-site, where they can be preserved in more favorable conditions. Visitors who still wish to get a book from the library will be able to request it and have it delivered within 24 hours.”Even if this were a good thing (which it isn't), if this new arrangement is foisted upon us by those who would wield this power, the consoling promise that we will get particular absent books back within 24 hours upon request is not likely to be honored. Recently requested books have taken up to eleven days to be delivered, and that's if they are not reported as missing entirely.
While Councilman Brad Lander defended Linda Johnson yesterday telling us that he absolutely didn't see Johnson as using the same play book as the NYPL, but doesn't this statement about removing books from the libraries to preserve them "in more favorable conditions" sound exactly like what the NYPL was saying as it emptied out and exiled to New Jersey three million research books from the stacks of its Central Reference Library as it prepared to sell and shrink libraries?
Speaking derisively about books Ms. Johnson says: “Any new library would not be a repository of books by any stretch.”
In the article Ms. Johnson envisions that the Grand Army Plaza library will be amongst those involved in these space reorganizations as libraries are shrunk and books eliminated. Indeed, in that library Ms. Johnson is planning to vastly reduce the books and allocated space in its History, Biography and Religion section, one of the most popular and used sections of the library. In reported connection with that shrinkage a decision was made, in the last few months, to empty over 120 shelves worth of music scores, sheet music, and pedagogical materials, in the Arts and Music room of the library. Is that because the wonderful collections of scores were allegedly not being accessed frequently enough by enough individuals? Don't believe anything those who are marshaling the sale of the BPL's real estate are apt to tell you, but when the music director of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation finds music to play in the library and entire congregation benefits.
To read more about Johnson’s `vision’ go to: New York Libraries Updating for the 21st Century, Posted by Shari in Technology.
The way the reporting of the hearing was handled, you might not think that what is going on in terms of the city budget this years involves shrinkage of the libraries at all. City Limits reported with a big fat headline and very brief story about a “Big Expansion.” (See: Libraries Pledge Big Expansion if City Boosts Funding, by Jarrett Murphy, June 3, 2014.)
Who helped Johnson out directing everyone’s attention to make sure that her power point page generated this story at the hearing? Councilman Brad lander.
To be fair to Lander (in a sense), back in April he admitted to us privately that it was unfair to say the Brooklyn Heights Library wasn’t being shrunk without admitting that the way this was reasoned to be a correct statement involves ignoring that the Business and Career Library is proposed to be exiled for it.
What about the NYPL at the hearing? NYPL president Tony Marx introduced NEW new nomenclature. The Central Library Plan has gone through a series of names. Last seen it was the “42nd Street Library renovation.” The sale, shrinkage and conversion of use wasn’t like anything one could properly call a “renovation,” but the new phrase trotted out by Marx, “Revised Mid-Town Renovation,” strived to suggest the use of the term "renovation" back then wasn’t as bogus as it actually was.
Public Advocate Tish James asked NYPL president Marx when the NYPL knew Central Library Plan was going to cost $500 million, a half billion dollars, and why the City Council had not been told. These are questions raised in an article that was out in Melville House, see the testimony of Michael D. D. White below. President Marx danced, not answering the question in his response. One thing indicated in his response, however, was that that the half billion dollar estimate, although commissioned the previous June was not for the first Norman Foster plan extant at that time, but for the improved (cheaper?) replacement Norman Foster plan that Marx indicated was completed (but not made public?) nine months prior to the hearing. Was the original plan in place when the NYPL rushed to empty the stacks much more expensive?
Public Advocate Tish James asked NYPL president Marx about Stephen A. Schwarzman's $100 million dollars, the naming rights to the library that had been associated with it and whether there wer any string attached to it, whether the money would have to be given back to Mr. Scahwarzman because the Central Library Plan in connection with which Mr. Schwarzman said he had provided that money did not proceed. Marx danced a bit but said that the money was all transferred from Schwarzman and did not have to go back. If so, why wasn't the Central Library Plan killed far earlier? Was there ever a question about whether it had to go back to Schwarzman. You wouldn't know form the hearing.
Tish James also asked NYPL president Marx about information in the NYPL's recent filed IRS 990 form about fundraising commission that seemed excessively high, a $17,000 commission to raise $22,000 in funds.
The public had to wait until Friday afternoon to testify. When you signed up to testify was unrelated to when you wound up testifying. For instance Michael White was one of the first to sign up (at 3:00 PM), but didn't testify until the second to last panel close to 8:00 PM, after many people who had arrived and signed in late in the evening. Carolyn McIntyre arrived very late and testified last on the last panel. Cynthia Pyle was the first to testify about libraries and then later there was a panel comprised exclusively of those criticizing the sales and Central Library Plan problems: Paula Glazer, Marsha Rimler, Rita Bott, Vera Conant and Greg Homatas. This panel was told by Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer that he felt like he knew them but that he didn't agree with everything they said. He complimented the democratic process.
Michael White came with a prepared video he was going to substitute for his own actual oral testimony as a mocking reference to the way that the library heads had killed time substituting a video for real testimony. We may be in a technological age but Mr. White did not surmount the necessary technological hurdles to make this work. His testimony still made this point though.
Here then is the testimony that was submitted by Citizens Defending Libraries on Friday of the hearing.
Michael D. D. White (oral testimony) Faults City Council For Coddling Library Chiefs (click through to YouTube for best viewing)
Hearing Testimony of Michael D. D. White
June 11, 2014
James G. Van Bramer, Chair
Committee on Cultural Affairs,
Libraries and International Intergroup Relations
Costa Constantinides, Chair
Subcommittee on libraries
Julissa Ferreras, Chair
Committee on Finance
City Council Chambers
City Hall, New York 10017
Re: June 3rd-9th, 2014- New York City Council Fiscal Year 2015 Executive Budget Hearings
I begin my Citizens Defending Libraries testimony here for this City Council’s Finance and Library subcommittee hearing on the library budget by noting the following, a fact that’s most odd and significant about this hearing. . . something that cries out for City Council examination. .
. . . On Monday, just one day before the City Council would commence and `take testimony’ at this hearing from the three library presidents about the library system budget needs of the city, copies of The New York Times arrived on the public’s doorstep with a major story about New York City library system budget needs, apparently fed to the Times by the New York Public Library, intentionally at the very last minute:
• Library Reveals Details and Costs of Upgrade Plan, By Robin Pogrebin, June 1, 2014.According to the Times: “officials, for the first time, revealed that the original plan, mostly scrapped last month in large part because of questions about the price tag, would actually have cost more than $500 million, according to independent estimates they commissioned last June.”
“Last June?”- And this news was coming out a day before the hearing?
Melville House was able to quickly relay the Times report with its own article bearing an appropriately sarcastic title:
• Now they tell us: NYPL admits that the Central Library Plan would have cost $200 million more than estimated, by Sal Robinson, June 2, 2014.The Monday revelation in the Times confirmed something that reports of the demise of Central Library Plan the previous month also confirmed: That Citizens Defending Libraries, and other critics of the Central Library Plan were right, that we have been more than right, as we insisted that there was a panoply of questions imperative to ask about this expensive and obvious real estate boondoggle plan to sell off, shrink and destroy New York City libraries, banishing their books.
Even as the Times report confirmed how extremely on target the questions that we long demanded be asked were, it raised formidable new questions as it reported how, suspiciously, just in time for the hearing, the NYPL had a new vaguely described (and not yet examined) “revised” set of plans with an “anticipated budget” that just so happens “matches what the library had originally suggested [in] its previous plan — to insert a circulating branch at its main library at 42nd Street — might cost.” Yes, that’s right, a new “black box” from the people who brought you the Central Library Plan (and Donnell) . . . The people who fought to convince the public to accept this scheme for five years, engaging high-paid lobbyists and consultants to help.
The Melville House article pointed out some of the other questions now standing out in stark relief by virtue of the Times report:
Among the many questions this revelation raises is when library officials knew this information and why it wasn't made public earlier. Did the library have these numbers even as it went ahead with emptying the stacks, and trying to drum up or lobby into being support for the plan? Pogrebin's article is mum on this, nor do the estimates appear to have been made available for public scrutiny. In short, it's an admission very much in keeping with the way the NYPL conducted the entire renovation program to begin with: move along folks, there's nothing to see here, except that $200,000,000+ we might have accidentally been about to spend.That Melville House article noted that among the “numerous questions left” are four listed by Scott Sherman in his “post mortem” of the Central Library Plan in The Nation on May 14, 2014:
First, will Marx repair the decrepit Mid-Manhattan Library, or will he let it deteriorate even further so as to sell it down the road under a more developer-friendly mayor? Second, in 2013 the NYPL hastily removed 3 million books from the stacks in preparation for their demolition. The Wall Street Journal has reported that the stacks will remain empty, an unacceptable outcome for a building that was designed as a splendid machine for book storage and delivery. Marx should convene a public meeting in the library’s Celeste Bartos Forum to discuss the future of the stacks and the various alternatives for them. (He must also clarify how many books and photographs were damaged when the stacks were emptied.) Third, Norman Foster has already received $9 million for a design that was partly scrapped—a reckless disbursement of funds from a library system in chronic financial difficulty. Marx has refused to reveal the source of that money. Did it come from the NYPL, or from one or several of its trustees? Last, will the NYPL’s eighty-eight branch libraries, many of which are in poor neighborhoods, now receive the funds they need to flourish?(See: The Battle of 42nd Street- The demise of the New York Public Library’s Central Library Plan is the end of a Bloomberg-era castle in the sky)
Obviously there are many, many hard, delving questions the City Council should be asking of the library heads in order to properly acquit itself of its responsibilities in providing and overseeing budget funds to the New York City libraries this year. Attached, and made part of this testimony, is a far from entirely inclusive list of the kinds of questions City Council Members should have been directing to the library heads at this hearing, but almost entirely failed in doing so. In addition, I am including and incorporating by reference the Citizens Defending Libraries testimony given at the earlier March 11, 2014 hearing, also in connection with preparation of this budget, which likewise serves to raise all of these sorts of questions for asking.
What the City Council did instead of asking any of these imperative questions should be regarded as a disgrace. Setting aside approximately a half hour of time for the heads of the libraries to testify and be questioned about budget matters, the City Council allowed more than ten minutes of that time to be taken up by the library heads playing a highly-produced, PR-style video that ran and churned up more than 10 minutes of hearing time. The theme of the video that had been up on the internet for at least a month?: That libraries are good. (See- Vimeo Video: Libraries Now: A Day In The Life, by Julie Dressner and Jesse Hicks, May 16, 2014.)
Rather than ask the necessary questions, the substitute of showing the film ran out the clock and worse.
We all agree that libraries are good. There is no controversy about any points the film made to that effect, but the film provided little edification and was so inconsequential to the key issues now needing to be considered with respect to New York City libraries and serious jeopardy they are in, that Citizens Defending Libraries did not circulate the video to our members when it appeared.
The film, is actually more deceptive than anything else. With its focus on local library branches, beginning with the opening sequence shots of libraries in Brooklyn and Queens, it likely provides a sense of false security to the public that this is the direction in which city budget funds are being directed, rather than acknowledging how we were instead on the verge of misdirecting a half billion dollars into the Central Library Plan boondoggle and how other real estate boondoggles now threaten to rob the public of significant assets.
When I delivered my oral version of this testimony at the hearing I was chastised for saying that the City Council had not done its job by a City Council member who suggested that the City Council had actually had a hand in investigating and killing the Central Library Plan. Is that actually true and did that City Council member mean to take any personal credit for doing the right thing? Any evidence to that effect that is openly available and public is to the contrary.*
(* For instance, City Council Member Brad Lander is considered a "progressive" leader in the City Council. On April 24, 2014, at political club meeting where I questioned Mr. Lander about his position about selling and shrinking libraries Mr. Lander said he still didn't know enough about the Central Library Plan to have any idea of whether that plan was a proper use of the proposed massive amount of funds involved or whether those funds being used sell and shrink would better used elsewhere for other purposes. That was less than two weeks before abandonment of the Central Library Plan was finally forced and, at the time, other key City Council Members were also claiming noncommittal ignorance. It is anomalous that, at such a very late juncture City Council Member Brad Lander was too ill-informed to oppose the Central Library Plan, yet he, as a general proponent of library sales, considers himself well enough informed about the proposed Brooklyn Heights Library sale, another similar plan for library shrinkage to generate a real estate deal to promote it. This is something he did at this hearing. He did it while City Councilman Steve Levin, in whose district the library lies, was out of the room.)Later in the hearing that same City Council member who had just chastised me told Carolyn McIntyre of Citizens Defending Libraries that the Donnell Library sale was inexcusable and would never be repeated. But past is prologue and it's vitally important and urgent to understand the past in order to understand and properly deal with the present. Nevertheless, this same City Council member defending the City Council said that the council shouldn’t be asking questions about Donnell or its investigation even though the City Council has never investigated or figured out what happened with respect to the sale of that important, destination library.
That council member specifically dismissed the questions provided herewith as not worth asking. Maybe it's not fair to think that every City Council Member ought to believe that every one of the questions suggested below is worth asking, but surely at least a fair number of these question should be considered worth asking as Public Advocate Tish James did.
Citizens Defending Libraries and our fellow critic of library sales have been right in asking the questions we asked before, and because we were so very right the questions we ask now should be considered with equal seriousness and urgency. . . Plans are afoot to sell and shrink New York City libraries, to exile books from the premises of our libraries and banish librarians. Why city and library administration officials would do this for the purpose of creating real estate deals, not for the benefit of the public needs to be investigated and deeply scrutinized by the City Council. Among other things, it is essential to a proper administration of the city’s budget. But the City Council has fallen down on the job, neglecting its duty to protect and represent the public.
Michael D. D. White
Citizens Defending Libraries
Questions For Library Administration Officials*
(For Tuesday June 3, 2014 City Council hearing)
(* NOTE: Per the request of certain City Council Members who had requested to be furnished with appropriate questions to ask, a number of these questions are followed by an indication of what the responses from the library heads were apt to be, so as to guess at the best follow-up questions.)BREAKING STORY NYPL FED NEW YORK TIMES DAY BEFORE BUDGET HEARING
1. Mr. Marx- You finally released information just in time to appear in yesterdays’ New York Times that, according to the independent estimates the NYPL commissioned last June, the Central Library Plan would have cost an estimated $500 million, $200 million more than was being previously estimated. When did library officials knew this information and why it wasn't made public earlier? Did the library have these numbers even as it went ahead with emptying the stacks, and trying to drum up or lobby into being support for the plan?
a. At the same time you released information that your brand new plans, not yet public released or discussed, will cost $300 million which the New York Times noting in its coverage just happens to `match’ what you previous wanted the city to participate in spending with you, supplying $150 million in taxpayer dollars. Where is the transparency in this process? Why should we be trusting in figures that are released in this way?
ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM- SCHWARZMAN $100 MILLION & CLP PLAN
2. Mr. Marx, Stephen A. Schwarzman said on Charlie Rose that he transferred $100 million to the NYPL upon being assured that it was for the Central Library Plan. Was there ever (or is there now) a quid pro quo or document that gave Stephen A. Schwarzman the right to ask for his $100 million back if the CLP does not proceed?
a. If there is such a document- Does that now mean that because of that conditionality money might be sent back to Schwarzman (and is it possible his name would come off the 42nd Street Central Reference Library)
b. If there is no specification- Then shouldn’t the alternative plans to the Central Library Plan and better use of the money been considered far earlier?
ISSUES RESPECTING NAMING RIGHTS AND PRIVATE MONEY AS SOURCE OF ADDITIONAL FUNDS
3. Mr. Marx, institutions, charitable and for profit, sometimes think about “naming rights” as a potential source of additional funds- I suppose that the library systems have looked at such opportunities? Yes.
a. In a way the Schwarzman on the 42nd Street building is sort of an example of that, correct? I suppose.
b. But if something is mostly paid for by the taxpayers, putting somebody else’s name on what the taxpayers mostly paid for, may not be such a good bargain, partly because it gives the taxpayers a misimpression or lack of information about the importance of what their taxpayer dollars pay for, right. [Yes, such policy matters bear consideration.]
c. That would be especially true when funds for naming rights close only a very small gap, one that perhaps, under those circumstances, it would be better for the Mayor and the City Council to close with a few more additional dollars. [We’d love it if you’d always do that.]
d. In addition to what the taxpayers pay for and what any new prospective donors may pay for, there is also the consideration of what past donors have paid for, like Andrew Carnegie. Yes.
e. And in the case of the 42nd Street Central Reference Library that, in the past, was largely established through the generosity of Astor, Tilden and Lennox gifts- Isn’t it true that in their time, for that time, those gifts far exceeded funds Mr. Schwarzman may have recently transferred to the libraries. [Absolutely true, but will this be admitted.]
f. When it comes to naming libraries there can be policy questions involved such as whether the name is the name of an individual or a corporation, whether the individual is alive or dead, whether the naming is more a record of generosity of spirit or a form of advertising. [Yes, there is much to consider.]
g. We might not want to `advertise’ the name of a corporation that doesn’t have a good public reputation? [We might not.]
h. And instead of Mr. Schwarzman’s name now on the 42nd Street library it might have been the Blackstone Group of which he is head and the source of his wealth? Yes.
i. To a certain extent you might even now view Blackstone’s name as being implicitly on the building along where Mr. Schwarzman’s name appears? [That’s not exactly what the NYPL did.]
j. And without getting into it too thoroughly, Blackstone, a very large company, is involved with many enterprises and their promotion, which many New Yorkers might find highly objectionable [hydro-fracking, privatization of prisons, making political contributions to get local pension fund investments placed with them, etc.], correct? [Different people will always have and be entitled to their views.]
k. Should the city, through the mayor and the city council, be involved if publicly paid for assets are going to be the subject of naming rights? [That’s certainly worth discussing.]
FUND-RAISING & IMPLICIT PROMISES TO KEEP ASSETS FUNDED
4. Mr. Marx, as noted, Stephen A. Schwarzman’s name is on the 42nd Street Library correct?- Yes.
a. When you are building a new library or constructing new space to substantially improve a library substantial government money is frequently involved, correct? Yes.
b. Like the CLP and SIBL (Science, industry and Business Library)? Yes.
c. And is it also typical to solicit contributions from private benefactors? Yes.
d. Who often get their contributions recognized with their names appearing in certain places on the new buildings. Yes.
e. Like SIBL. Yes.
f. Isn’t there then an expectation or trust that new building or asset will be maintained? Yes.
g. And when contributions are received doesn’t that also extend many times to legal obligations? Yes.
h. Implications and promises that the building won’t be sold, and even if the building is sold aren’t there often obligations that follow those sale proceeds requiring that the original purpose for which those funds were donated be observed? Yes.
i. Isn’t it therefore problematic and present hurdles when buildings are sold, especially recently completed buildings like SIBL?- Have you had to negotiate with those who donated to build libraries (including governments funders and private philanthropists), SIBL included, in oder to sell them?
j. Doesn’t it make it more difficult to solicit for the building of libraries if these assets and their maintenance is viewed as so insecure and temporary?
TRANSPARENCY AND NEED FOR ASSURANCE OF OBTAINING VALUE IF LIBRARIES ARE SOLD
5. SIBL was completed not all that long ago, in 1996, correct? [That’s coming up twenty years in a world that is changing fast.]
a. SIBL was considered a success and an achievement when it was opened, cost about $100 million correct?- yes.
b. And it is at 34th Street between Fifth Avenue and Madison Avenue not far at all from the Empire State building?
c. Would you say that real estate has been doing well in this city and Manhattan, going up in value?- yes?
d. And it’s been doing very well in this neighborhood?
e. Much of SIBL has been sold? Correct.
f. About 87% - Yes.
g. It was sold in 2012 for just $60.8 million, correct? Yes.
h. Does that seem like a fair amount? (They will probably say that what remains is the most valuable part of SIBL because it is at street level and can be used commercially)
i. That much of SIBL was sold with very little fanfare? Yes.
j. Secretively? [I wouldn’t say that.]
k. But it was a major public assets for which the public had paid a lot of money and there was virtually no discussion beforehand about its being sold or about who it would be sold to or the process that would be used to ensure a fair price. [Answer: selling it was envisioned as part of the Central Library Plan.]
l. The Central Library Plan that was abandoned and is not now funded because it was deemed unwise and never finalized? Yes.
m. So wasn’t it premature to sell SIBL and unwise to do that without public input?- Perhaps.
n. The NYPL board approved that sale?- [Presumably?- When]
o. SIBL is in the same building as CUNY, correct? Yes.
p. And wasn’t that, in part, because that co-location was intended to benefit CUNY and perhaps provide other synergistic benefit? Yes.
q. Doesn’t the sale of SIBL leave CUNY high and dry? [Things change?]
r. The portion of SIBL that was sold was sold to a church pension fund? Yes.
s. Was that church pension fund was in leased space in 445 Fifth Avenue, the building right next to the Mid-Manhattan Library on Fifth Avenue? Correct.
t. So the pension fund moved out of that space- And did the NYPL take over that leased space in 445 Fifth Avenue from the pension fund? Yes.
u. It’s a twenty year lease? Yes.
v. Is that the 39th Street and Fifth Avenue subleased space that NYPL board voted to buy the lease of at the last NYPL board meeting? Yes.
w. The NYPL board meetings are subject to the New York State open meetings law a sunshine law for the purposes of public disclosure? Yes.
x. Is it correct that at the last board meeting at which the board vote was taken to purchase the lease from the pension fund, it was not mentioned that the pension fund was the one selling the lease? [Not sure I remember?]
y. The lease was purchased right after the abandonment of the Central Library Plan was announced: Was the sale of SIBL connected to the purchase of this lease? [Maybe?]
z. Was that fact discussed or disclosed to the board members in connection with the meeting at which purchase of the lease was voted upon? [Maybe?]
aa. What about the public and the press? [Maybe?]
ACCOUNTING FOR THE DISAPPEARANCE OF BOOKS, THE MOST CORE ASSETS OF THE LIBRARY
6. Are books still at the core of a library’s function and is it important to have books in the libraries and on the premises in Manhattan? Yes.
a. Physical books are still an important part of libraries mission so that having the physical infrastructure to hold books is still important? Yes.
b. Is the library encouraging the public to switch to digital books because, from what I read, the public still prefers physical books. Yes/No.
c. What percent of the libraries circulation is physical books? [Should be about 93%]
d. What percent of the library’s reference collection has been digitalized? [Not much.]
e. What percent does the library have a right to digitize and redistribute digitally? [Very few]
f. A digitalized book is often not a complete or acceptable substitute for a physical book, correct? Correct.
g. Does the NYPL digitize books before it “weeds” them? [No.]
h. Are books considered substantial assets fo the library? Of course.
i. Does the NYPL/BPL keep a careful record of all books that it “weeds.” [??]
j. The architect who appeared before community Board 5 in Manhattan to present plans for the “replacement” Donnell said that the NYPL had given the architectural firm doing the designs no specifications about the number of books the space would hold or the NYPL’s goals in this regard. If books are still vitally important and respected why would this be so? [???]
k. After SIBL opened in 1996 there were a number of central libraries and facilities in the mid-Manhattan holding books, correct?: To wit- SIBL, The 42nd Street Central Reference Library, the 42nd Street Annex, the Mid-Manhattan Library, the Donnell Library and the Lincoln Center Performing arts Library- There is also the Schomberg Center library uptown. Yes.
l. Do you have a conception and do you have sets of figures for all the books and materials that those libraries held back at that time (1996/1997) and a few years later, say 2002/2003 before Donnell was sold and then again after the Donnell sale? [A conception, not exact figures.]
m. What is your general understanding of how many books and materials there were and can you also follow up with specific data, broken down library by library, after this? [??]
n. The 42nd Street annex which used to hold materials (and where researchers could go to read them) has been sold, correct? Yes.
o. And Donnell was sold- How many books and others items were in that 97,000 square foot library? [Not sure]
p. And Donnell’s materials and collections where supposed to go to Mid-Manhattan and the Lincoln Center library?
q. Was there room for those materials that went to the Lincoln Center Library? [Yes/maybe?]
r. Room without “weeding’? What if the Lincoln Center Librarians say there wasn’t so much room? [Don’t know.]
s. And the Donnell materials that went to Mid-Manhattan would have been consolidated as part of the Central Library Plan, correct? Yes.
t. And the books and materials from SIBL? Yes.
u. The stacks under the Rose Reading room formerly held and are supposed to hold about three million books, correct? Yes.
v. And the space under Bryant park was built at considerable public expense and inconvenience as Bryant Park was excavated- The first phase of that Bryant Park expansion of the library was supposed to open and in short order hold about 1.8 million books and items, correct? Yes.
w. Wasn’t the Central Reference Library, as expanded by the work done at public expense in Bryant Park, supposed to hold a total of about 6.2 million books? Yes.
x. But NYPL President Tony Marx in his March 11, 2014 City council hearing said that with the recently abandoned CLP the NYPL was working toward a goal of new Central Library the CAPACITY for ONLY 4.2 million books."Capacity," NOT actual books and even that hadn’t yet been achieved and wasn’t promised. Where are all the books going? How can it even have been conceivable that ALL the books from SIBL, from Mid-Manhattan including the books that were transferred from Donnell to Mid-Manhattan, from the 42nd Street Annex would reduce to fewer than 4.2 million?
y. Didn’t SIBL have well over a million books and items, 1.3 million or more? Yes.
z. Didn’t just the 42nd Street Central Reference library collection at one point hold well over seven or eight million books, not even counting its government books and law books?
RELEASE OF NYPL CLP FINANCIAL REVIEW & RELEVANCE TO BUDGET ANALYSIS AND FUNDING
7. When will the NYPL release and furnish the City Council with the independent financial review of the Central Library Plan that partially formed the basis for abandoning the Central Library Plan? Do you have a copy here today? [??].
a. The City Counsel is right now trying to review and advocate for what would be appropriate funding for the city’s libraries. Would that independent financial analysis have numbers and information in it that would be extremely relevant to the job the city council is attempting to do right now? [Yes, whether or not they admit it.]
b. In what ways might it be informative and relevant?
NEED FOR TRANSPARENT ALLOCATION OF CITY FUNDS AMONGST THREE SYSTEMS
8. Linda Johnson, I understand that at a recent trustees meeting in April you explained the city budgeting process for capital expenditures to your trustees saying that the three library systems negotiate collectively with the city for the capital funds to be received and that the money is then allocated between the three systems, is that correct? [Answer should be yes.]
a. Is it transparent to you what the capital needs of the other two systems, the NYPL and the Queens systems are? [Who knows]
b. If it was transparent to you then are you suggesting that you had a clear understanding of how the Central Library Plan was absorbing funds in what now appears to have been a very costly plan to sell and shrink library space? [No.]
c. If the other two system’s needs are not actually transparent to you, (or yours to them), then what is the basis for dividing up and allocating those capital funds among the three systems? [We talk- negotiate?]
d. Are all the libraries in all the three systems subject to the same city engineer reviews and assessments and common standards (say reviews by the City Department of Design and Construction) and building practices as each other? No.
e. Then how can the relative capital needs of those three systems be compared and assessed and compared by you or the City Council? [It might not be perfectly easy but we do our best.]
f. The demise of the Central Library Plan frees up many millions of dollars, perhaps $350 million altogether with about $150 million that was supposed to come from new taxpayer dollars- Do you have a sense or statement about how much of that money should perhaps be reallocated to Brooklyn libraries? [??]
g. You and your administrators have said that the Brooklyn Heights Library needs to be sold due to inadequate funds. When asked about funds that might now be available from the Central Library plan as an alternative solution BPL spokesperson Josh Nachowitz said in a recent interview,: “the Brooklyn Public Library institutionally would no more publicly request that money for us than NYPL or the Queens Library would make a request that any money that's appropriated to the Brooklyn Library be re-appropriated to them” - If such requests are not made and publicly discussed then how can the City Council review and evaluate relative need? Should the allocation of these funds just be a private affair between the presidents of three systems? [I am not sure what to say.]
h. While the city contributes substantial funds to the library system’s capital program private contributions are also taken in, correct? Yes.
i. Is that taken into account, do the library systems respectively get credit for raising capital funds this way so as to benefit from the funds they receive? [probably yes]
i. If not, could that a problem for your private donors, knowing that their contributions will likely be cancelled out by money getting redistributed to other systems?
ii. If so, doesn’t that mean that libraries in wealthy areas with wealthier more attentive donors are likely to do better as a result?
SO-CALLED “FRIENDS” GROUPS AS PROBLEMATIC SOURCE OF ADDITIONAL FUNDS, SUPPORT, TRANSPARENCY
9. Ms. Johnson, I know that the lion’s share of funding for the libraries come from the city, but are contributions from members of the public also important? [They are important.]
a. For instance, contributions can come in through what are known as “Friends” groups- Are they important? [Yes- waxing enthusiastic- and they build up the community of support for the libraries!!]
b. Do you find that it is a problem to solicit funds in such ways, if people understand that you are selling and shrinking their libraries? [It can be a factor.- I have testified in that past that insufficient city funding can discourage private donations.]
c. Is it true that “Friends” groups involved with the BPL’s libraries must support any decisions of the BPL, including decisions made by the BPL to sell and shrink libraries?- I am told that both you and the people from the `friends’ groups have said this and that it was a topic at a meeting held by the Brooklyn Borough President about funding libraries. Yes.
d. At a hearing here this past September 30th you described a “Community Advisory Committee” process as being an open and transparent process “to get a sense from the community about what the library should be, how it should function, how it should play a role in the community, and ultimately, when we get there, what the library should look like.” - But how can that process work and be transparent if that committee is co-chaired by a “Friends” group to represent the public that has agreed to support the BPL’s agenda? Are your really then going to be able to find out what the community wants in terms of a library, whether it truly wants it sold and shrunk? [Err. . . ]
e. If Friends groups raising funds for the libraries must support the selling and shrinking of libraries won’t they be in danger of losing membership and funding as result? For example, didn’t the Friends groups supporting your proposed sale and shrinkage of the Brooklyn Heights Library suffer a huge drop off in membership- going from being over 400 members strong to fewer than 200 members? [Err....]
f. Isn’t there an inherent problem with using Friends groups for support (beyond the fact that they may be constrained to support the BPL agenda and not the communities) that money and actual support from such Friends groups is likely to disproportionately benefit wealthier neighborhoods with far fewer groups forming in neighborhoods straining for resources?
INVESTIGATION & OVERSIGHT OF GOVERNANCE, SALES BY STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL + NEW WHISTLEBLOWER LAW
10. Mr. Marx, I believe you and your NYPL general counsel, Michele Coleman Mayes met with the New York State Attorney General the week of May 12, 2013 for a discussion about NYPL governance, is that correct? Yes.
a. Who else was at that meeting?
b. I understands NYPL counsel Mayes assured the NYPL at the last NYPL trustees (based on the meeting with the AG) that is was “safe to say” that the NYPL falls into the category of an organization that is “doing the right thing” with whom Mr. Schneiderman is looking to “work collaboratively with.” Did the Attorney General, in fact, offer you any assurance that he considers that the NYPL is “doing the right thing” and that the Attorney General would be working “collaboratively” with the NYPL?
c. Was there any indication from the A.G.’s office that they have concluded that they will NOT be looking into the real estate dealings of the NYPL, including the sale of the Donnell Library and Science, Industry and Business Library properties or into other issues of NYPL governance?
d. Are you aware of any legal doctrines whereby funds can be recaptured for the charity’s benefit if there was undue private benefit, or if a charitable organization’s assets were not properly stewarded? [Don’t know?- but there are.]
e. But if there were a possibility of recapturing funds for the libraries, then it might even be beneficial for the Attorney General to investigate such matters?
f. Was that discussed?
g. Pursuant to the a new law (the New York Nonprofit Revitalization Act), the NYPL just had to adopt a new (its first?) whistleblower policy, correct? Yes.
h. And the NYPL has also in recent years been requiring librarians sign “non-disparagement” agreements if they are departing and sometimes loyalty statements if they are not, correct? Yes.
i. Would the whistleblower policy supercede those agreements if NYPL employees wanted to bring to light or otherwise criticize things they deem improper, for instance, the library real estate deals, or treatment of the books and collection, or any use of city funding or donations? [I don’t know, but to the extent that the law must supercede, I suppose it must.]
j. Are you notifying your staff and retired employees to this effect? If not, you will you consider doing so?
HIGH COMPENSATION OF LIBRARY PRESIDENT- NYPL’S MARX THE HIGHEST
11. Mr. Marx, you are compensated as NYPL president at a level considerably less than your predecessor was when your predecessor left office (whose all-in compensation was $1.4 million the year of his departure)? [That’s correct.]
a. The form 990 just filed for 2012, your first year in office, reports that your total annual compensation for that year was $781,000, correct? Yes.
b. Does that figure include your expense account? [Not sure.]
c. Does it include the value of the automobile with which you are furnished?
d. You administer public assets that are largely funded by the city and yet your compensation far exceeds the mayor’s and probably that of any city or public official reporting to him. Same thing with the state. Does that make sense, and, if so, why?
e. Of the three library heads I believe you are the most highly compensated, why is that?
f. Your library system has also had the largest real estate transactions going on- the sale of Donnell, SIBL, the proposed sale of Mid-Manhattan- does that have anything to do with it?
g. The New York Times article about your salary says that you are compensated with “private funds”- Is that true? [Yes?]
h. How would we know that is true? [?]
i. Money is fungible and the city pays the lion’s share of the library budget- why should we think of you as being paid `privately’?
j. If the city pays the lions’ share of he library funding and you are thought of as being paid for by the private funds then who are you accountable to?- Do you know the expression: “He who pays the piper calls the tune?”
k. Where are the private funds paying you coming from?
l. Mr. Marx, can you specify whether your compensation includes an apartment and/or a housing allowance? When Vartan Gregorian moved to New York the NYPL purchased an apartment for him to live in, so that he could entertain donors in the lavish style to which they were accustomed, according to the memoirs of Andrew Heiskell. Do you occupy that apartment or a similar apartment? What is the zip code? How many rooms? How is this accommodation valued for tax purposes? How is the valuation updated to account for escalating real estate prices?
SELLING CAPITAL ASSETS TO FILL SHORT TERM FUNDING NEEDS
12. Linda Johnson, I understand that in the Brooklyn press your BPL spokespersons have now been saying that one of the reasons to sell the Brooklyn Heights Library is to buy “new furniture” Isn’t furniture, by comparison, a relatively short term asset and do you consider it good practice to sell a long-term capital asset in order to pay for something short-term, maybe just a fashion item, close to decorating and almost a minor maintenance item? [Furniture lasts a long time?]
a. Doesn’t the creation of capital asset items like libraries take years to put in place, involving a lot to achieve, and are they consequently expected to last a long time and be protected? [That’s relatively true.]
b. It is my understanding the Grand Army Plaza library took almost sixty years to put in place and complete, from 1898 until 1955, is that correct? [I don’t know.]
c. If the Brooklyn Heights Library is sold, is it correct that you are planning to remove a substantial part of that large library, the Business and Career Library to the Grand Army Plaza building? Yes.
d. But you are not building any new space there to house what would be moved there, essentially half the Brooklyn Heights Library, correct? [No, we are not.]
e. But you think there is plenty of room to move the the Business and Career Library there in order to shrink the Brooklyn Heights Library. [There is a lot of space we don’t need in the Grand Army Plaza building that could be put to better use.]
f. Do you have plans to substantially shrink the book collection now available to patrons in the Grand Army Plaza branch? For instance, do you plan to substantially shrink the Biography, History and Religion room and collection now on site and replace it with other space? [They do, if they will admit it.]
g. I understand that sheet music that was readily available in the Grand Army Plaza library will be relocated to become available only upon request. In the last few months, a decision was made to empty over 120 shelves worth of music scores, sheet music, and pedagogical materials, in the Arts and Music room of the Central Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. Is this related to the reduction of space devoted to the Biography, History and Religion room books, a combination or consolidation of that space or something like that?
h. If you have to do this, or are banishing books from such important sections of the library, doesn’t that mean that your space is at a premium and is inadequate and that you should not be moving the Business and Career library there for that very reason alone?
i. Are you aware that while library shelves are empty at the Brooklyn Heights Library, library books that appear to be in good condition have been found discarded outside of several branches? Are you keeping records of all books that are decommissioned or discarded? Are you aware that there are book rescuers working to collect the books you are discarding and send to libraries other countries.
SELLING LIBRARIES TO DEAL WITH SUSPICIOUS DISAPPEARANCE OF BOOKS
13. Ms. Johnson, I understand that another reason the BPL's spokesmen have been saying the Brooklyn Heights library should be sold is to buy new books for that library, correct? Yes.
a. If this is the way you propose to pay for book collections, does this mean that only libraries that can be sold will have books?
b. Don't books get moved around? Didn't this Brooklyn Heights library previously have books, and if so, where have they gone? Why is it that they are not there on the shelves now?
c. Do you think that some members of the public find it suspicious that the offer of putting books on the shelves is being used as an enticement to sell this library not long after the books have disappeared from it?
LACK OF TRANSPARENCY- SELLING LIBRARIES & LONG TERM CAPITAL PLANS
14. Ms. Johnson, the BPL published a strategic plan calling for ALL of its real estate assets to be leveraged- What does that mean in terms of how many of your real estate assets you eventually plan to sell, shrink or in otherwise modify? I believe you have 60 libraries all together. [We only plan to sell the Brooklyn Heights and possibly Pacific branch right now.]
a. That’s what the public has actually been told about right now, but isn’t there usually a substantial gap in time before the public finds out about the BPL wanting to sell a library? [I don’t think so.]
b. Wasn’t the decision to move the Business and Career library out of Brooklyn Heights, i.e. shrink and sell the Brooklyn Heights Library, made back in 2008 or before? [They should admit this]
c. But that decision was not announced to the public until the beginning of 2013, correct? Perhaps five years later? Yes.
d. When was the City Council first told about these sales and how approve a budget without being fully informed?
e. Weren’t developers looking at a number of library sites for `redevelopment’ back in 2007? [Don’t know if they will admit this]
f. The public was told that the air conditioning in the Brooklyn Heights Library had broken down and that it couldn’t be repaired in the summer of 2012, just about a half year before it was finally revealed to the public that there were plans to sell the library, correct? Yes.
g. But when the public was told that the air conditioning wasn’t going to be fixed, the public still wasn’t told that there were long-standing plans unfolding to sell the library, correct? [No the public wasn’t told.]
h. Doesn’t that reflect a lack of transparency about these sales? [Maybe.]
SUSPICIONS, MISSING DOCUMENTATION, REGARDING CAPITAL NEEDS FOR BROOKLYN HEIGHTS LIBRARY
15. Ms. Johnson, this past summer you used the failure to repair the air conditioning at the Brooklyn Heights library, a library you want to sell, as a reason to cut the hours that library was open by about half, made the library’s hours unpredictable, similarly cut the staff and you relocated programs from it. Why didn’t you supply that library with temporary air conditioning instead? [I don’t think that was possible.]
a. But how can that be when you are using temporary units to air condition the Clinton Hill library?
b. The Clinton Hill Library’s air condition system is being replaced at an estimated $700,000 and estimates for such air conditioning in many other Brooklyn Libraries are similarly in that range- Doesn’t it therefore seem that you estimate to fix the air conditioning in Brooklyn Heights library, now in the $4.5 million range might be excessive? [No.]
c. Isn’t it true that only a portion of the Brooklyn Heights Library air conditioning system is currently broken? Yes.
d. But, your very high estimate involves replacing everything, nevertheless? Yes.
e. Over the years the NYC department of Design and Construction has assessed the air conditioning status and needs at the Brooklyn Heights library- Why have you not released those previous assessments?
SPENDING MONEY ON HIGH-PRICED LOBBYISTS AND CONSULTANTS TO MAKE BAD PLANS AND POLICY LOOK GOOD
16. Mr. Galante, at the March 11th hearing City Council member Elizabeth Crowley asked "Are we using city dollars, tax-levied dollars, to pay for private attorneys and these P.R. firms to make the library look better?" Do you have figures for what you are spending for this?
a. Can you get back to us with that information?
17. Mr. Marx, how much does the NYPL spend on consultants and lobbyists? [Don’t know.]
a. Can you get back to us with that information?
b. Reportedly $18 million was spent on the failed Central Library Plan. About half of that was spent on the architect. Wasn’t a lot of that money spent on consultants to provide reports assuring (incorrectly) that the Central Library Plan was a good plan and on lobbyists to sell the public on the idea that the Central Library Plan was a good idea. [This was the case with millions being spent.]
18. Ms. Johnson, how much does the BPL spend on consultants and lobbyists?
a. Can you get back to us with that information?
b. One of the lobbyists you are using to represent you in connection with presenting the proposed library sales to the public is Jodi Yoswein, the same lobbyist who is representing the Walentas firm, the developers building the BAM South project. You have proposed that you wanted the BAM South Library to replace the Pacific Branch Library and that the sale of the Pacific Branch Library would help pay for the BAM South library. Isn’t that a conflict of interest and I would like to know how much you pay the Yoswein firm? [Err.- We don’t really believe so because. .] .]
c. You also hired BerlinRosen a public relation firm specializing in crisis management- That firm has issued statements on behalf of both you and that developer respecting the BAM South project. How much have you paid BerlinRosen?
UNCERTAINTIES AND COSTS ASSOCIATED WITH SELLING LIBRARIES AS MECHANISM TO FUND CAPITAL BUDGET NEEDS
19. Ms. Johnson, you haven’t released information about how much money you would bring in from a sale of the Brooklyn Heights Library, either the estimated gross amount or the estimated net amount.- Doesn’t that make any capital funding plan based on such a sale unpredictable, unreliable and hard to evaluate? [We won’t know until we know.]
a. Will you also be releasing information about how much other private parties will be comparatively benefitting form this sale?- The public won’t make as much from the sale because about 50% of the development rights were transferred out to Forest City Ratner (which still holds some of those rights unused) in 1986 and some of the tower replacing the library would be done with rights transferred in from other private parties who want to participate in the transaction.
b. In terms of funds generated for the city, any gross proceeds collected by the city and the BPL upon a sale would have to have netted out against it the cost of reconstructing and furnishing a replacement library together with the social and other costs of all the disruption, demolition, rent and furbishing for a temporary library. Looking at the example of what the NYPL is spending to “replace” Donnell, to put back a Brooklyn Heights Library of the same size as now, just the construction and furbishing, would cost on the order of $40 million. Do you have an over all estimate of ALL of these costs that would have to be netted out from the gross price the city would receive for any sale of that library? Because if you don’t or if the estimated net is too low for a sale to be credible (or for a smaller library) the City Council should be planning a library budget that would be based on keeping the library, not selling it.
c. Library use is up significantly, 40% programmatically and 59% in terms of circulation. Why then do you want to sell and shrink libraries? [Err.]
d. Since a BPL library like the Brooklyn Heights Library is owned by the city, proceeds from the sale would go to the city and would constitute a small fraction of the money the city annually funds the library with. Isn’t it true that there is absolutely no way to assure that if a library is sold any of that money would ever come back to the library, that the city would not in the end still decide how much money overall would go to the library in any given year, freely deciding whether it should be more or less? [Whether admitted or not, there is no way to assure sale proceeds would benefit the library in the form of increased funds.]
BPL NOT USING FUNDS FOR LIBRARIANS
20. Ms. Johnson, at the last March 11th hearing you said that if the funding cuts that had caused you to fire librarians were restored in the new city library budget you would not necessarily rehire those librarians. Are you aware of the recent PEW study that says that having librarians in the libraries is among the highest priorities of the public and library patrons? If so, why wouldn’t you be hiring librarians back?
TRUSTING THE TRUSTEES?
21. Mr. Marx, Ms. Johnson and Mr. Galante- This may not be a fair question to ask you here because you report to them, but the question lurks whether we have the right trustees running our systems. Without asking you to comment further here it must be noted:
a. Questions have been raised about whether the Queens system trustees were too lenient in dealing with issues that have come up with respect to Mr. Galante and his employment.
b. The BPL trustees now in place by virtue of the Bloomberg administration era have been busy appointing new trustees, some involved in real estate, not necessarily reflective of what the public, the mayor or the borough president might prefer- And Ms. Johnson has spoken of seeking trustees like the head of Goldman Sachs who speaks derisively about the public’s undue sense of entitlement when it comes to benefits coming through government.
c. The head of the NYPL nominating committee for selecting new NYPL trustees, an elite group selected with virtually no input from the public, is Stephen Schwarzman.
Also submitted and provided with this testimony, incorporated by reference, is the the Citizens Defending Libraries testimony given at the earlier March 11, 2014 hearing available on the web here: Report on Tuesday, March 11th City Council Hearing On Preliminary Budget For NYC Libraries Plus Testimony of Citizens Defending Libraries.
Caolyn McIntyre: Blackstone CEO Pushes NYPL, BPL Sell-Off Deals (click through to YouTube for best viewing)
C. M. Pyle, Scholar (oral testimony): Withhold NYPL Capital $$$ Pending City Oversight (click through to YouTube for best viewing)
Testimony of Cynthia M. Pyle
Testimony at the Hearing held by the New York City Council Committee on Finance Jointly with the Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations and the Select Committee on Libraries Tuesday, June 3, 2014 and Friday, June 6, 2014 (Public Comment)Testimony of Peter Rooney
Cynthia M. Pyle, New York City (Active Independent Scholar; Fellow of the American Academy in Rome; Co-Chair, Columbia University Seminar in the Renaissance; Life-long user of the Main Research Branch of the New York Public Library)
Chairwoman Julissa Ferreras, Chaiman Van Bramer, Chairman Constantinides, Members of the City Council:
Having testified in the past on the importance of our formerly great and inspiring Public Research Library, I have only questions today -- questions relevant to the funding of the Library’s Main Research Branch in the Budget of the City of New York.
---Why is an individual with no scholarly or research interests -- who was quoted in The New York Times (June 1 & 2, 2014) as saying he “never felt a reason to come into this building” as a young person -- why is such a person now presiding over the management of a cultural institution which, when it functioned properly, attracted millions of people, young and old, from our City, and from around the World, to bathe in its inspiration and resources?
I myself was first deeply inspired by the Library as a high school student, when the Library employed binders to bind paperbacks and conservators to repair damaged books, when it employed erudite curators of its great collections, when it employed armies of dedicated reference librarians -- when it held at least 4 million books for ready access.
---Why are the books -- the essential core of a humanities research library -- being neglected, left unbound, unrepaired when they are falling apart? Yet the budgets requested are never for those fundamental books, but only for capital projects?
---Why are curators of collections and expert librarians of the Main Research Branch excluded from Board Meetings -- i.e. the “Executive Sessions” when the general public is asked to leave?
---Why has the staff of expert curators and librarians and technical binders and conservators been cut?
---Why has a person who let 250 people go from the Harvard University Libraries been hired by the New York Public Library’s Main Research Branch?
---Why are people in Real Estate and Finance making decisions about professional resources they never use, in a professional area foreign to their own?
---Why are those on the Board of Directors with some intellectual pretensions -- editors of important journals of opinion, for example -- so silent?
---Why are not at least one-half of the members of that Board appointed by the New York City Government, since the Government pays 50% of the Library’s Budget?
And, closely related: Should the NYPL be allowed to raise private monies, when such independence makes it ever less responsible to the Citizens of New York for whose benefit it was founded?
---Why is there so little New York City Oversight (by the Department of Design and Construction, for example, a thoroughly qualified body), of this institution, which was founded for the good of the Citizens of New York?
---What happened to the 1999 Architectural Plans to rebuild the Mid-Manhattan Branch, including high-rental income spaces which would support the Mid-Manhattan and the Main Research Branches of the NYPL?
---The Stacks in the Main Research Branch are in perfect condition, were upgraded in the 1980s and 1990s, and would cost a pittance of what is being requested for capital improvements (largely cosmetic) to return to perfectly functioning order, with re-renewed air conditioning and sprinkler systems. Why is this easily affordable solution, which could restore this great research library to its full and proper function, with 7 million books on site, not the plan?
---Why did a chunk of ceiling fall (after hours, so no one was hurt) just days before this budget hearing? Who has seen or photographed this chunk? Did it make a noise when it fell (like the hypothetical tree in the forest of the well-known philosophical conundrum)?
If it did indeed fall, one recalls other documented instances of non-maintenance in order to enable begging for money.
---Who exactly is conducting the inspection during these weeks of closure of the Main Reading Rooms and the Catalog Room? (Where apparently another chunk fell 10 years ago – also after its restoration -- and has still not been repaired.)
The City should and must withhold monies for any capital projects at the NYPL -- especially at the Main Research Branch -- until all questions about the use of funds, including Operational Funds, by this Board have been satisfactorily answered, and until City Governance has been put in place on the Board to perform the City’s Oversight responsibilities.
C. M. Pyle
Intellectual and Cultural Historian
Co-Chair, Columbia University Seminar in the Renaissance
(Ph.D. Columbia University;
Fellow, American Academy in Rome 1978;
NSF Individual Grant 1988-89;
Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts iii-iv2001;
Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study 2002-3)
This testimony is submitted to the New York City Council, regarding its hearing of June 6, 2014, on library budgeting.Testimony of Therese Urban
I am a book indexer by profession. In the past, I've relied on the 42nd Street Main Library to fulfill my research needs when working on a new indexing project. I look for sources in which to check my author's terminology and to get ideas for indexing the new book. Starting about December 2012, I have found there is very little use in going to the Main Library because most of the books I will be looking for have been moved offsite to New Jersey, as part of the so-called Central Library Plan. The Main Library has become quite hopeless as a source of ready information on any deep level.
Why is this happening? It's quite apparent that this is a real estate deal in the works, part of a larger movement to sell off public assets to the benefit of the few. In May, the NYPL reversed itself, saying it has abandoned the Central Library Plan, but does a leopard really change its spots? The New York Public Library was founded on the basis of advancing knowledge - not as an asset to be mined. Moreover, the Brooklyn and Queens library systems are quite unaffected by the NYPL action, and are continuing on the same path of selling assets to developers.
Re the City Council hearing on libraries of June 6, here are my thoughts:
1- Tony Marx and the top-level administrators of NYPL should resign. They have shown themselves to be incompetent to budget and spend money wisely.
2- Most if not all of the trustees should be dismissed, for the same reason.
3- the 42nd St. stacks should be upgraded, if necessary. (Doubtful it costs as much as they say.)
4- the books in New Jersey must be returned to 42nd St.
5- a funding stream needs to be established.
And here's a controversial idea, perhaps:
6- there should be a yearly charge for a library card. This would be subsidized for students and low-income people - they might pay nothing. But I think the average citizen or family could well afford a modest fee. This would stabilize the income and free the library from budget games.
Written testimony submitted June 10, 2014 via email to the NY City Council
Hearing on Budget considerations for the New York City, Brooklyn & Queens Public Libraries
By Therese Urban
member: East Pacific Block Association
Boerum Hill Association
Regarding the need for financing repairs and ongoing maintenance of our libraries with taxpayer funds and private donations, rather than the permanent disposal of land:
I want to impress upon all City Council members why they should be insisting that all our library caretakers, Brooklyn, Queens and New York City, continue to value our presently threatened libraries with the same honorable egalitarian foresight that created them, and why it's important to keep those libraries open, well-maintained, and, especially noted in this testimony, situated on the land they already own.
I particularly address the current plan to demolish 2 library buildings in Brooklyn (The Pacific and Brooklyn Heights branches) and sell the land under them to private developers. The most obvious public disadvantage to our libraries selling off their land is that once sold, the library will never get it back; it's gone forever. That should NOT be an option.
The `Public/Private Partnership' Model is Not A One-Size-Fits-All Model.
The plans for these land sales look to follow the pattern that has been implemented in recent years: "public/private partnerships". This model threatens to become the politically favored method of funding all public services in New York City, services that have traditionally been provided by taxes. We currently have library directors and boards who believe in and apply this model to our most valuable free institutions; they have skewed their budget estimates and funding solutions to support the prevailing corporate vision of a future based on a need to show a profit center in all corporations, even those distributing public services.
You, as elected public servants, should not reward the destruction of already existing public services that simply require a return to an ethically sound City Council response, to wit, a return to tax- and donation-based support for the ongoing maintenance and necessary upgrading of our public libraries.
The City does not have to profit from public services like libraries; developers do have to profit from their buildings. That competing interest should be avoided.
Corporate interests are always going to be aligned with profits. Placing libraries in a space that's owned by private enterprise will inevitably subject a vital public service to changes in future management and business strategies as decided by that enterprise. Today's promises are profit-driven; tomorrow's will be too. There will be no guarantee of meeting a library's financial needs, 20 years, 30 years, 100 years from now, any better than there is now, when they own their own sites. Why should we take that risk?
Case in point: After selling the site to a developer, the rebuilding of the new Donnell Library space is delayed for several years due to certain private business decisions made by the developer in the owner's self-interest. Also, the Donnell has permanently dissolved its children's and young adults collections because they don't fit into the new digital model of library space, as it is drastically reduced from the lovely space it used to inhabit. The City itself is now admitting the error of that sale.
The allowances of greater density (FAR), various taxpayer subsidies and City property tax abatements to developers in exchange for public space has been questionably negotiated by the City in the past. While new public amenities may be worth the exchange, many agreements benefit the private sector much more than their `donations' deserve, while abatements further erode our future tax base instead of increasing the taxes these desirable new properties should be remitting to sustain a civilized city - and our libraries. One look at the true economics of the disastrous (only for the public sector!) Donnell Deal is sufficient proof of that!
The exchanging of tax relief and greater FAR for public amenities might indeed serve to enhance the public good if these were new services; but these libraries are not, they are replacements being touted as `new'. And with all the extra density developers negotiate for, NEW public services should be required for the population expected, not replacement ones, especially not smaller replacements, and especially not replacements which will require the re-investment of the funds the Library reaps for the sale of the land in the build-out of the facility!
The developers wind up with everything they want - taller buildings with more profitable luxury apartments in the sky and low taxes for years - and we get the library facility we should have had anyway, but now without owning the land.
To sell a library's land and award substantial benefits to the private sector for re-supplying one, all in the name of finally serving a great public need, after political interests have intentionally cripple the library system for years, is abhorant to intelligent New Yorkers, rich and poor. Prior short-sighted economic manipulations must be considered as causing the current scrutiny of library land values, and the City Council must not allow more of the same to erode this unique legacy.
Libraries were built on valuable land because they were meant to inspire people to reach for personal excellence.
We all understand the first 3 criteria of real estate value: "location, location, and location". Land in New York City is finite, and has always been coveted by people who envisioned future demand. And the land under both the Brooklyn Heights and Pacific libraries is admittedly very valuable. And why should they not remain the proud owners of it?
Carnegie libraries were placed in highly visible and accessible locations, and given formal architectural prominence in order to accomplish their several missions: to augment expansion of free education to the general public and the social advancement of minorities and the underprivileged, and to heighten public understanding of the particular needs of children in society.
Carnegie libraries had a very important function, a very new function in a time when allowing the public to browse through stacks of books and freely choose to read whatever sparked their interest was unheard of, when only wealthy people had such open access to information.
Social Engineering wears many faces, has many arguable practical considerations, but the Carnegie Foundation's idea in providing unique spaces to move inspiration to aspiration is one of our country's finest philanthropic legacies, and should not be hijacked to current monetization trends.
The Pacific Library has served that purpose for 109 years. The Carnegie mission is as relevant now as it was in 1905. Nothing has changed - except that now, what masquerades as `philanthropy' in NYC negotiates a price: influence, zoning overrides, tax breaks.
Current promotional media reminds us that Andrew Carnegie is dead, that all possibilities for Profit must be pursued, that Profit is now required of all enterprises, and thus all public service deliverables should now be monetized. My community says "NO".
The Pacific Library land should be held in the public trust, not monetized.
We have a building boom of mostly luxury housing going on in Downtown Brooklyn. It is internationally recognized.
The massive Atlantic Yards Project (although it is now being sold to the Chinese government without having achieved any of its promise, only the arena's profit), controls the land across Pacific Street from the Pacific Library site, known in their plan as `Site 5'. It has not been developed yet. Additionally, the Church of The Redeemer is looking to monetize its site on the opposite corner. Understandably, developers are salivating for this library's valuable land, the same as they're coveting the land under the Brooklyn Heights branch! In fact, the same developer also owns property adjacent to the Brooklyn Heights site.
The Pacific Library sits on 1/3rd of the block fronting on 4th Ave; the remainder of that block has very recently been bought by a developer. Coincidentally, I understand the City of New York leases it, and that lease will expire in time for the Two Trees development, the "BAM South" building, to be realized across Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues.
That developer already has an `approved plan' to give space to the Pacific Library in exchange for whatever benefits were on sale that day. Supposedly this is a "done deal". The plan calls for `moving' the Pacific Library into a new space, but the sale of the land under the present library will have to pay for the build-out. So it's only ground floor space, in return for potentially massive profits, literally `sky high'.
Aside from other considerations, it is worth noting that at the last Council hearing I heard the Brooklyn director present an opinion that the land under the Pacific Library wouldn't bring in very much money - not enough money to actually fully build out a large new space because it was `a small footprint'; additional money would have to be found to complete moving this library. Such misrepresentation of that parcel's value exemplifies the behind-the-scenes effort to obscure the financial negotiations. This same spin continues to be presented by the Research Library, the Midtown Manhattan one, and in Brooklyn Heights.
While it is true that Pubic Advocate James, when she was a Councilmember, had received some vague assurances as to the `safety' of the Pacific Library after that hearing, no real estate is `safe' in this climate. We all know representatives and representations change, how competing agendas can be decided by economic expediencies. We cannot discount that Two Trees says it has an `approved plan'!
We need the City Council to budget for the necessary repairs and maintenance for our libraries, so that we can be assured of a firmer guarantee of `safety' for all our library land.
The Pacific Street Library is especially significant as it is.
The architecture of this beautiful building is symbolic in the way of all Carnegie architecture: the impressive doorway is designed to impart the idea that learning elevates one's station in life, and it's flanked by lamp posts symbolizing enlightenment. Maybe that's hokey in the 21st Century, but all architecture uses visual notes to make its music and the music of the past is not irrelevant to the present. It should inspire, if only as a reminder that someone long ago thought underprivileged people deserved to be fed at a beautiful table, and we should demand that today's caretakers still value and promote that public ideal.Testimony of Lucy Koteen
Several attempts have been made by Park Slope and Boerum Hill community groups within the last 15 years to landmark it, but the applications suffered pocket vetoes by people with other agendas. Again this year, the Park Slope Civic Council has voted unanimously to have the library landmarked, and across 4th Avenue, we in Boerum Hill joined in that application and again hope for success. We have never heard anything encouraging for our efforts.
I have heard Linda Johnson, BPL Director, say that the Pacific Library's structure is just plain unusable, with small `rabbit warren' rooms. Well of course it is! Because this particular library, the first Carnegie Library in Brooklyn, had an interior designed specifically for children! And an exterior designed to impress and inspire them to excellence. It was built for children, and one size does not fit all: The street façade is straight, but behind that classic façade, the building is rotund. On the main floor, stacks radiate in from the curved walls toward a central librarian, so children can be easily helped, taught and supervised. The lower and upper floors are large windowed rooms, presently used for and by numerous community groups. There's a grassy surrounding yard, and a rear driveway entrance. This library is intimate, charming, and inviting - and it doesn't fit adult users.
We need to keep the Pacific Street Library where it is. Thousands of new apartments have been built or are in the Downtown Brooklyn pipeline, and all residential services in the area will certainly need to be expanded. In exchange for the increased FAR they dearly desire, because profits must be maximized, the developer should trade space for a new library that serves the new population; the Pacific "children's library" doesn't have to be a part of that conversation. The developer shouldn't be concerned with which library is housed, only that they can trade public space for the more valuable higher floors.
Let us keep ours! Within a 5-block radius to the south and southeast of this library, in the neighborhoods of Boerum Hill and Park Slope, we already have 3 NYCHA public housing developments (Gowanus South Colony Houses, Wyckoff Gardens Houses, and Warren Street Houses) and 5 public schools (PS 216, 38 and 133 elementary, Middle School 447, and the Brooklyn H.S. of the Arts). Almost all of these children already live in the neighborhood. And more are moving in every month!
We need this library working for us, not a replacement in another neighborhood. These children, independently or in school groups, shouldn't have to cross the 2 busiest intersections in Brooklyn (Atlantic Ave and Flatbush Ave) to go into Ft Greene for their library. That's just another impediment for them to overcome. Ft. Greene has its own library, and now they can have another one in BAM South. It will house the BAM archives at least! Let it be part of the Cultural District. But we deserve our own neighborhood library.
Additionally, the NYC and BPL central plans for replacement services all entail reducing actual book space to complement an increase in digital access. It's a cost-cutting measure being sold as a benefit to the public.
Digital books are not inspiring to children. Picture books, storybooks, books you can hold, carry and share, books you're inspired to read in bed by flashlight - those are necessary for children. Symbols you can see and feel add understanding, help form ideas, and the physical space that welcomes children, that makes them feel like important people, nurtures lifelong learning habits.
Digital media has its place and libraries should provide it, but many of our children can't afford home computers, can't afford monthly internet fees. They shouldn't be expected to buy e-readers that, in yet another `partnership', require accounts with Amazon or Barnes & Noble to borrow an e-book from what used to be the free public library! Even if e-books are free, access requires an investment.
Instead of destroying this one, the Pacific Street Children's Library could be the jewel of the Brooklyn system! Returning it to its original service, updating it with the technology our children truly do need, this 1905 legacy could shine as a continued promise.
Just imagine! How wonderful it will look, left at its own original corner; what a beautiful counterpoint the old building will be to the modern ones sure to rise on the other corners, and all over Downtown. Anyone who sees it will thank us for keeping it as a reminder of what our great-great-grandparents cherished, and how well this generation nourished Carnegie's public trust.
Thank you for your attention. And long live private philanthropy not tied to government subsidies!
Submitted June 10, 2014 by Therese Urban, Brooklyn, NY
Wednesday, June 11, 2014
Subject: library sell-off
Public libraries belong to the public. They are not real estate assets that are to be used as pawns serving at the pleasure of the library trustees or at the hands of ambitious City Council members anticipating where donations will come from for their next political campaign.
The sell-off of the Donnell Library set the stage for future sales. It was planned in the dark of night and sold under cover for a pittance of what it was worth. It's low selling price benefited the developer allowing him to make a large profit. It did not benefit the library patrons. The sell happened after the recent expenditures at the Donnell of millions of tax payer dollars used to improve the Donnell Library, which was a highly used facility. These tax dollars were wasted money when spent only to serve a building that would be soon sold.
Now we see the same model being used at the Brooklyn Heights Library; a plan hatched in secret long before the public got a whiff of the odor to sell a highly used library composed of two different libraries. We see highly inflated repair costs with no public dialogue as to how those costs came to be, we see the removal of books, we learn of RFP responses that are not shared with the public. How is it that the council has not asked to see the responses to the RFP, that they will not share the price range that the developers offered for the space? How can the council members evaluate the benefit of selling the library if they haven't a clue as to what the library will be sold for, what are the costs of a temporary library and then a new library and the amount of money going to Forest City Ratner who owns 50% of the air rights over the Brooklyn Heights library? How can you weigh a cost/gain benefit with no information.
The council at the hearing on June 3rd asked no hard questions. They allowed for a dog and pony show staged by the three library executives starting with a PR stunt of a movie. With so little time to question the library executives why on earth did they permit this showcase to go up, giving up control of the hearing to the library executives? The only person who asked any challenging questions of the library executives was the Public Advocate.
We need our city council members to ask hard questions. With Tony Marx receiving a salary close to $800,000 aren't the members a little bit curious as to what he does to deserve a salary six times that of their own? Is there no curiosity as to whether he gets his car and luxury house on top of that salary? How is it that the day before the hearing we see in the press, that although the library has put aside the Central Library Plan, which indeed would cost more than $500,000 million, they would still need $350 million for other modifications. They knew that there has been pressure to re purpose the $150 million of public money in the City budget to share with other library systems. Why did no one mention that they had just squandered at least $18 million dollars on an ill-conceived plan and therefore need exceedingly careful scrutiny before they are permitted to spend the public money on the next fool hardy plan? Where is the oversight?
There are 100s of serious questions that could be asked of the library executives, none of which were asked. Please can someone explain that to me? Are hearings just showcases for the executives to ramble on about how wonderful their work is without question?
Five Citizens to Council (Paula Glazer, Marsha Rimmler, Vera Conant, Rita Bott and Greg Homatas): Audit Library Finances, Hold Accountable (click through to YouTube for best viewing)
Testimony from Veronika Conant
New York City Council Finance Committee, Committee on Cultural Affairs,Testimony of Gregory Homatas
Libraries and International Intergroup Relations and Select Committee on
New York City Council Fiscal Year 2015 Executive Budget Hearings - Libraries
Tuesday June 3, 2014, Public Comments Friday June 6, 2014
Testimony by Veronika Conant
I am Veronika Conant, a retired academic librarian and 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.
It was good to hear that the book stacks at the 42nd Street Library will not be demolished and that the Mid-Manhattan Library will be renovated. However, we are concerned about transparency, accountability and oversight.
There are still many unanswered questions regarding the way the $151 million capital funds from the City Council will be used for the renovation plans. Has NYPL asked for a budget modification for the $151 million and if yes what is the breakdown?
In March 2013 over 3 million items were removed from the book stacks in secret, and moved to a distant location in the Bronx where they been stored ever since. The plan is to keep the stacks empty even though they are an integral part of the 42nd Street building’s structure, and a remarkably efficient book delivery system to the Rose Reading Room above. They are in working condition, were air conditioned in the ‘80s and received a sprinkler system in the ’90’s. According to Tony Marx their upgrade to current standards would cost $46 million - a price he considers too expensive.
The stacks provide 160,000 square feet of shelving space. At the cost of $46 million, the unit price is $287.50 per square foot - a bargain.
Is NYPL quoting an independent estimate they have received for the upgrade in writing? According to the DDC’s figures of $150 per square foot for interior renovation, the cost would be $24 million. Has DDC given an official estimate, and if so, what was the value?
While it is appreciated that NYPL will reconfigure the space in other parts of the 42nd Street Library, we want to be assured no space will be taken away from what is needed to allow the book delivery function and to provide air conditioning, humidity controls and sprinklers for the book stacks.
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 recommend the budget modification include the cost of the above upgrades and also the renovation of Mid-Manhattan. We ask all of you to please make sure no contract gets signed for the NYPL plans without these.
• Develop the second BPSE storage area, started during Vartan Gregorian’s presidency with the goal of doubling the available storage space at 42nd Street from 3.5 million to 6.7 million . Cost estimates are $8 - $20 million.
• Do not sell SIBL, do not allow the sale of public libraries in any library system at a time when more people than ever use libraries. SIBL was created for $100 million in 1996, has been wired for technology, with hundreds of computers, and comfortable and expensive furniture. It functions extremely well as a technology center. All it needs is longer opening hours than the present 51 hours per week, a relatively inexpensive investment. (By comparison, Mid-Manhattan is open 88 hrs per week)
On Tuesday PA Tish James asked Tony Marx (TM) was Stephen Schwarzman’s $100 million donation used for the renovations. His answer was no, it was used for the operating budget. However, Robin Pogrebin’s NYT article on March 11, 2008 states it otherwise. Please read it at:
TM’s statement at the hearing that pass though projects which get some private support take half the time at half the cost of publicly funded projects, needs proof. The examples of DDC’s library projects I looked up for cost indicated otherwise. I sent this list to the Library Committee after the April 28, 2014 hearing. Can we see his list?
TM also stated $280 million capital funding has been spent on the branches since 2002. Can we see the detailed list, with break down to public vs privately funded projects?
Finally, the news of plaster falling from the ceiling of the Rose Reading Room has led to a temporary closing for several weeks, speaks loud and clear about the importance of protecting this 103 year old beautiful interior space, used daily by researchers from all over the world. A $15 million interior restoration project, including re-plastering, was completed in late 1998. Please practice your oversight function to make sure inspections are done and the monumental room is restored for use as soon as possible.
Veronika A Conant, M.L.S. retired from Hunter College Libraries
45 W 54 St, 7C, New York, NY 10019
Executive Budget Hearing Fiscal Year 2015
Committee on Finance
Testimony of Gregory Homatas
avid library user of all three systems
June 6, 2014
Good afternoon and thank you for letting me speak. This is the first time I have spoken in front of this august body. My name is Gregory Homatas and I am a lifelong resident of Brooklyn and an avid user of all three library systems. I would like to address the Brooklyn Heights Project in my testimony.
I am appalled at the lack of transparency and lack of public participation in the process of this Project. The existing Citizens Advisory Committee in my opinion, does not reflect a representative cross section of different viewpoints on this Project.
Second, it appears that the Brooklyn Public Library is in the process of selling off the Brooklyn Heights Branch due to a Heating Ventilating and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system that does not work. Would you sell off your house or coop due to a broken HVAC system rather than fix it or replace it? Think about it.
Third, the Brooklyn Public Library should share the Request for Proposal responses and range of bids received for public vetting for the Brooklyn Heights Project. I urge the NYC Council to look into this Project, stop the process and investigate whether or not this is the proper approach given the fact that a petition of over 16,000 citizens signatures were delivered to former Mayor Bloomberg opposing the sale of this and all libraries. This petition was delivered on October 22, 2013 on the steps of City Hall.
Fourth, the Brooklyn Public Library should fix the currently installed HVAC system or provide temporary air conditioning units (“spot coolers”) as the advent of hot weather is approaching which will cause the Brooklyn Heights Branch to be shut down again during the hot days of the coming summer months due to lack of cooling.
I urge the highly qualified New York City Department of Design and Construction (DDC) to renovate the Brooklyn Heights Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library and the New York City Council to appropriate monies to the DDC as they are qualified to do this task. This is preferable to a pass through project which would not be managed by DDC as they have less oversight on a day to day basis which would not be in the public interest. The fact is that DDC can do the job far cheaper than farming it out to an outside entity. This was testified by the current Deputy DDC Commissioner David Resnick in a City Council hearing on the Capital Budget of April 28, 2014.
I would like to urge you to investigate why Brooklyn Heights Branch various building services have not been maintained such as the public bathrooms to make this library a less desirable place to read and study so that an excuse can be made for the selloff by the Owners rather than doing their due diligence and maintaining these public assets so that they would be functional.
I would like to share a spread sheet that I developed from publicly available sources using the Google search engine (listed on the last three pages as items 1 through 51) as I understand you are interested in possible conflicts of interest regards public library trustees. This spreadsheet in particular is for the Brooklyn Public Library and the questions that I would like to raise are as follows:
As per my chart, 7 out of 23 BPL Trustees live in Brooklyn Heights. If they build a new tower in place of the existing Brooklyn Heights Branch of the BPL whose real estate value will go up? Is this not a possible conflict of interest to support such a venture?1) Seated on the board of trustees of the Brooklyn Public Library is Lucille Cole who is immediate past president of the BPL and is currently a trustee. She has a library science degree and various awards as per my spreadsheet. Why is the only qualified librarian no longer the president? Why is the current CEO a fundraiser rather than a qualified librarian and shouldn’t fundraising be left to a separate department? A library is a public good not a profit making company. It should be treated as such.it appears that some of these trustees may make a killing off of digital media if the library system goes digital media wouldn’t you think? Should they really be trustees and can we trust them? The fact of the matter is that statistics have shown that people want and love the feel of real paper books not e books.
2) It appears that some trustees are involved with digital media. Libraries are appearing to be transitioning to digital media as per following quote in the Gowanus Lounge article about the current President. She states as follows in the below cited article:
Any new library would not be a repository of books by any stretch. It’s really about the programming. It’s really about how to use the spaces we have to meet our patrons’ needs.
See the below weblink:
3) One trustee’s husband is a hedge fund manager and many others are involved in real estate and investments. What business do they have as trustees of our library systems?
In short, there are many questions regards the management of our public libraries that need asking that have not been asked by our New York City Council and I would like to urge you to ask these questions. Thank you very much for listening to me.
Testimony of Carol H. Krinsky
Ladies and Gentlemen:
The request for funding by the New York Public Library requires clarification. The following questions are separate from any funding that will be needed to investigate and repair the recent matter of falling plaster in the most essential area of the 42nd Street building.
1. What percentage of funds given by the City will be used for the popular Mid-Manhattan Branch? What percentage of the funds will go to the 42nd Street Research Library? Will any funds be available for other branches, and if so, what percentage?Even if lending services remain at Mid-Manhattan only, the formal school-centered pupil and teacher educational services could be offered in the lowest floor at 42nd Street, as recently proposed.)
2. What is the cost of storage offsite? Apparently, two storage sites are being used. What is the cost of transportation and insurance for books shuttled between the storage areas and 42nd Street? Has any assessment been made of the damage to books in transit? One might guess that improving the climate control and fire safety mechanisms at 42nd Street would save money in the long run, i.e. over the next hundred years. Incidentally, fire safety has not been a problem in the past century. Cellulose in books was regarded as a fire retardant, and some insulation from heat was required for steel structures.
3. Whom will the City appoint as Ex-Officio Trustee to the NY Public Library Board of Trustees? The City should require continuous and complete accountability for public funds.
4. Has the Department of Design and Construction evaluated the figures for constructing storage space under Bryant Park, and for improvement of current air-conditioning and fire safety? It should do so, or the City should employ a fully independent cost assessor to do so.
Exactly what number of books can be stored under Bryant Park? How many books does the 42nd Street building own? (These figures will help you to see how economical the Bryant Park storage proposal is.)
5. Please require the Library to disclose details of the Library's cost estimates so that both your Council colleagues and ordinary citizens can see that City money is going to be spent prudently.
6. In view of the proximity of Mid-Manhattan to the 42nd Street building, will lending services at 42nd Street unnecessarily duplicate services at Mid-Manhattan? To draw the public into 42nd Street, that building can continue to house exhibitions and welcome tourists to the major rooms.
7. Does it make budgetary sense to increase youth and children's facilities at 42nd Street rather than in residential neighborhoods? We all want young people to feel welcome at 42nd Street, but few actually live nearby. I ave seen many teenagers using the research facilities and computers at 42nd Street, so they do seem to know already about what's available to them there.
Carol H. Krinsky
Testimony of Rita E. Bott
Testimony of Rita E. Bott on Proposed Fiscal Year 2015 Executive Budget forTestimony of Ruth Eiss
Libraries, 6/6/2014, City Council of New York
My name is Rita Bott. I am a retired Supervising Librarian and Unit Head whose career was spent providing frontline public service at the New York Public Library, first at the much-lamented, now destroyed Donnell Library Center and then at the recently-reprieved but collections-decimated Mid-Manhattan Library.
First, with respect to the New York Public Library, I would like to call attention to the "Finance Division Briefing Paper" that was distributed at Tuesday's committee hearing on Libraries. On p. 5 we find, "…Plan highlights include $151 million for the Central Library Master Plan which is currently on hold…" That $151 million is parked under "New York Public Library," meaning the branch system, but part of it needs to be shifted by the Council to the category "New York Research Libraries" for the following purpose:
The NYPL has said that state-of-the-art climate control and fire suppression systems are needed for the 42nd Street Library's central stacks. They had tried to create the impression that there were no such systems but there are existing, 1980's-vintage systems that may need an upgrade. The library is claiming the project would cost $46 million. I have not seen any written documentation of that estimate and given the gross inaccuracy of the CLP estimate which the library administration repeatedly said would cost $300 million but which actually turned out to be a whopping $500 million, I strongly urge that the Council prudently demand independent, written documentation for this and any other such budgetary assertions by the NYPL. I ask that the documentation be shared with all interested parties, including the taxpaying public.
If the documented amount really is $46 million or however much it might be, I request that the Council transfer that amount from the NYPL budget to the NY Research Libraries budget, specifying that, as quickly as possible, any work needed in the stack area be performed before any other so that the shelves there can be refilled ASAP with the three million books that were previously removed from them.
Right now, the Council urgently needs to take steps to repair the badly-shaken confidence of the NYPL's users, supporters, and concerned citizens in general by making it a priority to get the nonprofit to put its books back where they belong--in the structural stacks that were designed for them and built by the taxpayers at NYC's world-famous reference library.
From the same document: "In the Brooklyn Public Library's Executive Capital Commitment Plan, there is $93 million shown for BPL capital plans (including city and non-city). Roughly $7 million is planned for the BPL Central Library Renovation and an additional $4 million for a youth services library. Majority of the funding is various critical borough-wide infrastructure improvement projects." $93 million less $11 million is $72 million. There is nothing is specified about fixing the A.C. at the Brooklyn Heights Branch with the entire borough's Business and Career Library present there. The A.C. being broken is the exact same pretext used by the NYPL's former President Paul LeClerc to justify the Donnell Library Center sales and shrinkage debacle-and there too, to my knowledge, there was no evidence presented that funding for this capital need had been requested, per procedure, and denied. I have a question: There is a shiny "BAC" (Baltimore Air Coil Co.) air conditioning unit sitting on the roof of the Brooklyn Heights Branch. The company has a website with numerous replacement parts available for purchase. May we please see a copy of the written statement from BAC that you've been provided with by the BPL, stating that the Brooklyn Heights unit cannot be made operable? If it can't be, how much does BAC say a replacement unit of theirs would cost?
In her testimony, Linda Johnson piled on that the Brooklyn Heights Branch building is "uninspiring." It's an interestingly exact echo of non-architect President LeClerc who suddenly decided in 2007 that Donnell's architecture allegedly wasn't okay on its block and pronounced it as another reason Donnell just had to go. At this time, the BPL's CEO is attempting to continue Bloomberg's third term. She is pushing for the sale and shrinkage of the Brooklyn Heights Branch rather than following procedure and requesting capital budget funds from this Council to fix any problems. Councilpersons, can you please get more involved on this and take some concrete steps to disabuse President Johnson of her peculiar, wrongheaded idea that cannibalizing her system's assets, allegedly to pay bills elsewhere, is an acceptable strategy for a library president to advocate. Thank you.
Rita E. Bott
Linda Johnson was trucked in to oversee turning the Cadman Plaza Branch Library into a cash cow with the stated purpose of funding the other Brooklyn branch libraries; selling public land and assets for high rise development with truncated library facilities. Her testimony was long on platitudes but short on details. These should have included (among other things) an inventory of assets, development rights that could be traded, the process for determining to sell the CPBL versus other branches, names and budgets of responses to the RFP already let, alternate plans to tearing down the library and alternate revenue streams." What is between two covers? Brooklyn Public Library and real estate." Has the Council documented who is profiteering from this sweetheart deal?
Dr Marx indicated that "Queens was well-represented in the house." But what about Brooklyn? Councilman Steve Levin visited briefly but was mute in defense of our library. He had formerly been told that attending a function of an advocacy group, Citizens Defending Libraries, would be "a mistake." Was he made an "offer he couldn't refuse?"
The exalted mission of the Brooklyn Public Library is to be "...accessible 24 hours a day..." The sad reality, however, is of (CPBL) a sweltering facility currently open FOUR hours a day with reduced staff.
One Friday, I visited the CPBL, where a book sale was in progress. For the sum of $1.00, I purchased a circulating book of heartfelt poetry and inspiring illustration in fine condition. Who was the arbiter of the decision to excess this gem? Surely not a librarian or anyone with literary or artistic acumen! And who is tracking where the proceeds go?
Linda Johnson fancies herself "rolling up her sleeves" to provide funding for the balance of the borough's branches by selling the CPBL for high rise development. She asserts that her plan would make CPBL among "the largest in Brooklyn." Reality speak of a library 25%-33% of the current space.
The 16,000 signatories of CDL's petition and the vast number of it's needy patrrons have spoken: WE WON'T BE THE SACRIFICIAL LAMB!