Why Is New York City Planning to Sell and Shrink Its Libraries?

Defend our libraries, don't defund them. . . . . fund 'em, don't plunder 'em

Mayor Bloomberg defunded New York libraries at a time of increasing public use, population growth and increased city wealth, shrinking our library system to create real estate deals for wealthy real estate developers at a time of cutbacks in education and escalating disparities in opportunity. It’s an unjust and shortsighted plan that will ultimately hurt New York City’s economy and competitiveness.

It should NOT be adopted by those we have now elected to pursue better policies.

Monday, December 28, 2015


Levin said that 95% of his constituents were against the Brooklyn Heights Library sale and shrinkage.  Then he pushed it through with a backroom deal unveiled at the last minute.
There is something about Councilman Steve Levin, that makes us yearn to believe in him, a sort of school boyish charm.  He presents himself as seemingly sympathetically beleaguered by the stresses of his job.  We did believe him, and unfortunately, it turns out the trust we placed in his assurances was to our significant detriment.

We have complied a list of reasons, our top ten reasons, to believe that Councilman Steve Levin, contrary to reports, was actually working to promote the sale and shrinkage of the Brooklyn Heights Library for some time with little concern directed to what his constituents wanted or what would be in the public interest.

The supposed narrative that did not pan out was that Steve Levin, scared of the real estate industry was keeping his head down, but that he still was really interested in doing the right thing.  Doing the right thing meant neither selling nor shrinking an important central destination Brooklyn Library that has been recently expanded and fully upgraded.  We still actually believe Mr. Levin knew and knows that not selling the library was exactly the right thing to do; we just no longer believe he was intending to do the right thing for a long time. . .

. . .  So the idea was that Levin was holding back so as to appear impartial* and that he then planned to act as as a final arbiter, hearing the facts and then acting as a defender of the public interest.  This meant he would, in the end, weigh in to declare the unsavory boondoggle for what it was, delivering a quick the coup de grace to the proposal.  It even seemed appropriate that he might would use as his instrument to deliver that blow a crushing citation to the Brooklyn Public Library’s utter lack of transparency about it plans to sell libraries and similarly “leverage” libraries all around Brooklyn for the benefit of developers, not the public.
(* a notion he is still attempting to foster with an open letter about the library sale.)
 Sure, that's what we thought?  . . . .keep dreaming.

Here are the top ten reasons to believe that this narrative was all quite false and that Councilman Levin was actually secretly working against the public interest to promote the real estate deal, probably for well over a year now.

    10.    Levin abruptly at the last minute canceled his previously scheduled appearance at an April 2013 Library Week Citizens Defending Libraries rally where he was to appear alongside then fellow Council Member Tish James and speak against selling of the Brooklyn Heights Library.  Levin initially cited a “family health” issue.  Then he said it was actually because heavyweights and library trustees were pressuring him with incessant phone calls.

    9.    We remember the way that Levin kept running away from library advocates at various public meetings and always seemed, in terms of body language, very uncomfortable in their presence.

    8.    When we worked to put Tish James, the Pubic Advocate, in touch with Levin to work with him so that she could give him back up to insist on transparency from the Brooklyn Public Library Tish came back less committed to action than she had seemed before.

    7.    There was way that various elected officials kept saying suspiciously, perhaps ominously warning us: “Where’s Levin on this?”  City Council member Laurie Cumbo may have retroactively let the cat out of the bag about what other elected officials knew and when they knew it as she explained her vote on the proposed library sale and shrinkage at City Council (12/16/2015) by thanking Levin for "standing strong" and for his "courage" and his "bravery" as she watched "over the last few months" as he "stood in the face of adversity . . .ridiculed, insulted, threatened, and even bashed in public hearings and meetings" getting the project through ULURP.  Cumbo could only have been half correct: Levin suffered no abuse from the public during this time period because the public didn’t know he was working against their interest or to get the sale through ULURP. (ULURP began June 2015). That "courage" and "bravery" could only be interpreted in terms of Levin's intention to defy the wishes of his constituents.

    6.    Then there was that way that when a new group, Latinos For Libraries, showed up with new incriminating information about the BPL’s accounting, Levin, rather than using it, suggested that the information be taken straight to Councilman Brad Lander, one of the key honchos pushing for library sales, and most especially for this one.

    5.    This is the second library in Levin’s district that has been shrunk by the Brooklyn Public Library: The second floor of the Williamsburg Library was given away and Levin seemed not to care about this saying that a good portion of the population in Williamsburg “doesn’t read books” and that Paul Parkhill, the head of Spaceworks, the Bloomberg created private firm to which the second floor was given, was his “friend.”

    4.    The fact that although Levin went on the record denying that a compromise was in the works it turned out that he had been working for weeks, probably months, on what he would present as “the improvements to this project that I announced."

    3.    The fact that Levin was feeding the community information that the de Blasio administration didn’t care particularly about the seeing the library sale pushed through when, in actuality, he was working with de Blasio’s top development aid,  Deputy Mayor for Development Alicia Glen (from Goldman Sachs) who is said to have adopted the library sale “as her own” pushing to "get the project across the finish line.”

    2.    The fact that when speaking of the price at which it might be acceptable to sell the library, Levin studiously avoided considering the value of the library from the public’s point of view  (the recently expanded and fully ungraded library would cost $120+ million to replace).  With blinders, he insisting only on looking at the “tear-down” value a developer would pay for it, essentially what a developer would pay for an empty lot, not what someone would pay for property with a valuable building on it.  (Actually, a developer would probably pay more for an empty lot since it would save demolition costs and other hassles.)

    1.    The most important Number One reason to believe Levin was working on the other side is this?:  Levin promised in December 2014 that he would do his duty (an absolute minimum for an elected official) and insist on transparency from the Brooklyn Public Library.  Then, despite a concerted effort at follow-up to hold him to this promise, he never honored his promise.  Why?  One might first suppose that insistence on his part to enforce transparency could have enhanced Levin’s ability to “negotiate” for the public's benefit.  You might think so, wouldn't you?  Actually, Levin probably understood differently, that because of the nature of the transaction such transparency was something that the proposed library sale and shrinkage would could not withstand.  Transparency would have killed the project, and as that is something Levin almost certainly understood, he avoided it.
Note: #7 above is really two separate reasons (taking the list over “ten,” which is also to note that there are more than enough reasons that can be added up to believe that Levin was working against the public to push this deal through for some time.

“An Open Letter Regarding the Brooklyn Heights Library Project”- Obfuscation From Councilman Steve Levin Concerning His Betrayal of The Community By Approving The Sale and Shrinkage of Our Library

Levin said that 95% of his constituents were against the Brooklyn Heights Library sale and shrinkage.  Then he pushed it through with a backroom deal unveiled at the last minute.  Now, having a great deal of explaining he has produced a letter. . . . and he still has a great deal of explaining to do.
If the truly impressive word count, (3012 words) of his “An Open Letter Regarding the Brooklyn Heights Library Project” (below) is any indication, Councilman Steve Levin knows with excruciating certainty that he has a lot of explaining to do to his constituents about his approval of the sale and drastic shrinkage (down to just 42% of its current 63,000 square feet) of the Brooklyn Heights Library, the central destination library in Downtown Brooklyn . . .

. . . The problem is that Levin’s so-called explanations are entirely inadequate and he mightily hedges in terms of what he ought to be disclosing.

3012 words?: That’s about four times the length of your average New York Times Op-Ed column, and about five times the length of opinion columns you might find in the Daily News!  And this is an elected official writing to constituents on one subject.

Despite all those many words and the six separate subject headings of his opus that arrived in email in-boxes around Brooklyn the evening of December 28th, it is remarkable in what Stephen Levin does not address and outright evades in what he writes.

Levin does not mention or explain why he did not, as he promised Citizens Defending Libraries, demand and insist on transparency from the BPL about:
    1.    Information about the value of the existing library from the public’s perspective.  Instead he refers just once to his own theoretical curiosity about the “value of the project” (not of the library).  He asserts that he “asked about a half dozen very knowledgeable experts whether the public was in fact getting a reasonable deal on this property” apparently without one of those "experts" telling him that the library would cost $120+ million to replace.  Instead, Levin deflects from his obvious duty to consider this from the public’s perspective, saying that a “definitive answer” about the value “remained elusive” and then meandering off to discuss instead, from a developer’s perspective, (under the somewhat deceptive rubric of "Fair Market Value") whether ‘bids’ assured that the price for which the library was being sold was its full “tear-down” value, i.e. a price less than the price of a vacant lot.  It is not a vacant lot.  Levin deflects again from the value of the library by describing it as “built in 1961" (1962) without mentioning that this building, two full stories above ground and two half-floors below ground, was substantially enlarged and fully upgraded at considerable public expense and sacrifice in 1993.  It is one of most modern and best equipped libraries to support computer use in a  system where it is complained that average age of other libraries is sixty-five years old.

    2.    Information about the true and complete costs to the public of selling and shrinking this library as proposed.  Never in the entire length of his letter does Levin mention that what the public gets after selling and shrinking this library (to the extent that it gets anything at all) is only a “net amount” of money after factoring in all the associated expenditures necessary to sell the library and then recover only some of the ground lost after the public sells it.  Never does Levin in his justifications mention this or what the “net” figure is.  We urged him to help us to zero in on and ascertain the number.  After unkept promises, he failed to investigate.  BPL president Linda Johnson has told her board it will be appreciably less than $40 million, but Citizens Defending Libraries believes that the BPL’s math was self-serving to justify the transaction and the actual figure is far less even than that.  Levin never followed through to insist on finding out from the BPL what are all the costs of disruptions and what the public must forgo and bear to endure this transaction.  Instead, as you can see from Levin’s letter the Councilman acting like the developer's sale agent does the reverse, straining and going to great lengths to try to make the stated gross sales price for the library sound better by including the value of various things that still don’t get the public anywhere near back to where we were before a sale.  He includes on the “plus” side of his fudging equation things like there being a very tiny little interim library for the untold number of years during which construction will be underway where the library once stood.

    3.    Information about the “strategic real estate plan” that was formulated going back to 2007.  To date the BPL has released no iterations of this plan all of which would be valuably informative in many ways, including about similar plans for other libraries.  Similarly, Levin did not insist the BPL release the requested “Revson Study.”

    4.    The background communications between the BPL and the Department of Design and Construction based upon which representations about the acceptability and suitability of the air conditioning at the Brooklyn Heights Library were made to Levin’s predecessor in office, David Yassky, before any planned sale and shrinkage of the library.  Levin says that he realizes that BPL’s estimated figure for repair of the air conditioning system (which broke down, right on cue, six months before planned announcement of the proposed sale) “sounds extravagant.”  He then adopts a BPL talking point about government inefficiency being the reason for this.  He says that he “independently confirmed the cost of the HVAC repair” but does not reveal his actual lack of follow-up with the New York City Department of Design and Construction for specific documents we requested.  Information has also been requested and not furnished to the public about the air conditioning repair firm, Performance Mechanical Corporation, that the BPL engaged in an extended multi–year contract for its entire system not all that long before problems with the Brooklyn Heights Library’s and a number of other libraries' air conditioning systems started receiving attention.  Early analysis in this regard about the Brooklyn Heights Library (2007/2008) by Karen Backus and communications with respect thereto have also not been provided.

    5.    Information about the BPL’s communications with the city Landmarks department and commission about which libraries are historic and which libraries the BPL wanted pushed forward into real estate deals avoiding designation.

    6.    Information about the considerable amount the BPL is paying in connection with its promotion of its real estate plans for libraries.  It is troubling that in a time when there is a supposed scarcity of available funds for libraries BPL is spending a considerable amount of money on consultants and lobbyists for this purpose.  The information requested about this has not been furnished.  It is a matter about which the BPL needs to be forthcoming.  That includes monies paid to Booz & Co., Berlin Rosen, WSP Flack & Kurtz, K&K Property Solutions, Ed Tettemer and Mo (Maureen) Craig for branding and PR Advice.

    7.    Information about book counts: what they have been, what they are now and what they are intended to be in the future.  For instance, the BPL and the architect representing it, and the developer in this regard have not been able to state what the book shelf capacity of the entire Brooklyn Heights Library (we are not talking about supposed branch sub-component) has historically been, or what it is intended to be in the future.  In fact, it would have been relevant for Levin to have sought Information respecting the entire system.

    8.    Communications with Saint Ann's School respecting development rights and the Brooklyn Heights Library.  Levin’s letter misleadingly promotes the idea that sale of the library is mostly just cashing in on  "air rights" or “development rights, above the current building at 280 Cadman . . .   worth millions of dollars.”  (Implicitly a 'painless' one?- “a unique opportunity.”)  Levin doesn’t mention the extremely pertinent fact that half the city’s development rights were already transferred to Forest City Ratner in 1986 or that the reason the developer is still able to propose such a tall building under these circumstances is that Saint Ann’s School is the party that is actually painlessly cashing in on the sale of its “development rights, . . .   worth millions of dollars.”   The difference is that Saint Ann’s doesn’t have to tear down its own building or incur a loss to cash in.  Levin never forced disclosure of how much Saint Ann’s is benefitting or whether it will reap more net cash from transaction than the city would get from its  sale of the library.
The above constitutes a good starter list of what Levin should have insisted on as the essentials for basic transparency.

Had Levin forced transparency about these things, brought them into the light, the public and press would have gained what they are entitled to, a much better and far more fair understanding of the sacrifice and plunder the BPL proposes as it proceeds with its plan to sell and shrink this library as a first hand-off to the development community.  That would likely have killed the deal and it must now be asked whether, as it certainly appears, that is exactly the reason that Councilman Levin, privately aligning with the promoters of the sell-off, did not represent the community in these ways that it was his duty to do as an elected official.  At the very least, learning of all the practices BPL had secretly engaged in, how far its plans went back and who was involved (such as the connections between this proposed transaction and the 2007 announcement of the Donnell Library sale) would have engendered deep suspicions about the BPL’s good faith and intent.

Instead, in an effort to snatch his reputation from the free fall it deserves, Councilman Levin is compounding his sins by repeating in his treatise the suspect talking points and falsification of facts the BPL has been selling the public all along.

Remarkably, as long as Levin has made his letter he at no point ever suggests that even one tiny statement or representation by the BPL needs to be corrected or in any way qualified.  Instead, he signs on to all of them.
    1.    Levin adopts the BPL’s play-with-numbers shell games to understate the library’s size and obscure the shrinkage (down to just 42%) associated with the proposed replacement.  He borrows the BPL’s concept of selectively measuring just what it wants to define as public space.  In this regard he doesn’t ever mention the planned shift moving public space underground.  He doesn’t mention that the proposed new library will have just 15,000 square feet above ground.  Currently approximately 37,703 square feet, of the Brooklyn Heights Library (59%) is above ground, and none of the space underground is space that the public visits.  Not that the book storage space underground isn’t valuable or that it doesn't serve the public to having books at the ready.  Levin obfuscates manipulating with figures the way that the BPL plays with them asserting that the current library is has only “32,431 sq. ft. . .above ground, with 27,222 sq. ft. accessible to the public.”

    2.    Levin suggests that BPL’s cry of a capital crisis isn’t suspect and that it is a valid reason to sell and shrink libraries.  He ignores that New York City has a huge budget surplus with Crain’s recently reporting that the city Independent Budget Office estimates de Blasio will have an additional $1 billion above the $3.5 billion he stowed away unspent this year.  Libraries are an infinitesimal portion of the city’s budget.  How is it Levin promotes the notion we should sell them off for a minuscule fraction of their worth in a time of plenty and increasing use?  Levin also ignores the fact that, according to BPL minutes, the capital crisis is apparently by design with the deferral of capital repairs being planned concurrently with he proposed library sales.  On top of that, he also ignores evidence that the needs, like the air conditioning costs, are deliberately exaggerated.  Finally, Levin ignores the fact that there is no assurance that funds from a library sale, however big or small the net, (remember he didn’t want to talk about what the “net” was) will go back to libraries.  Even though Councilman Brad Lander pressing hard for library sales makes similar arguments that libraries should e sold, Lander has said flat out that you cannot obligate administrations or the City Council with respect to future budget expenditures, that its “unconstitutional” to seek to do so.

    3.    Levin adopts language in his letter that seems, like the BPL’s own, infected with a disdain for the value of the books that should be available to the public at a central destination library in Downtown Brooklyn like the Heights library. Such disdain for books is unsuitable to the BPL when its core mission should be books, not real estate.  It’s unfortunate to see a councilman sign on to this rather than protect the public, but after the City Council’s vote Levin admitted not paying attention to the question of the library’s capacity to meet these needs.
Much of what doesn’t comes out of the murk of Levin’s letter concerns the changes to the original sale and shrinkage proposal that were only unveiled at the very last minute as part of pushing the deal through.  Levin refers to them as “the improvements to this project that I announced” and they were no doubt intended to confuse the public and make him look good as he rammed through an exceptionally unsavory deal which he previously said 95% of his constituents opposed.

Levin says that he “went back and forth on whether to approve the proposal up until the final few days” but that he was also working “with the de Blasio administration, DOE, SCA” and the developer on what was produced.  While that makes it sound as if he was considering this from the community’s perspective it is unlikely and it is hard to pair these `negotiations’ up with his representations even right at the end that there was no compromise deal in the offing.  The BPL trustees were told that de Blasio administration, having "adopted" the deal, was very involved and that there were days of negotiations at City Hall.  It hardly seems as it it was all done at the last minute and the commitment of Department of Education funds to the black box “STEM” facility portion of he deal is just one aspect that should not have been casual or last minute.

It cannot be overemphasized that none of Levin's backroom deal making was previewed or in any way shared with the public beforehand.  Not only isn't that fair, its doubtful that the public would agree these were truly "improvements" as described by Levin rather than the opposite.  Even at this late date, the public at least deserves a full and truthful blow-by-blow accounting of this back room deal making.  All pertinent dates should be furnished by Mr. Levin and the other public officials who participated.

Levin’s letter doesn’t mention one thing the BPL trustees were told and that Levin has never yet publicly admitted to: That Levin negotiated an intercept of some of the limited library sale proceeds to support a development plan for the Greenpoint Library in his district.

One actual revelation that comes out of Levin's attempting to convince us that he actually was negotiating at this time is that Levin says that he did not want to insist that the new library “be greater than 26,500 sq. ft.” because that would have “put the project `out of scope’ and thus requiring another new rezoning application.”  Given that the public had never been allowed input about the shrinkage of the library that was exactly what most constituents would have wanted, but not, apparently,  the development-promoting Levin.

Levin says that he instead came up with the idea of an additional very small library in DUMBO (also in Levin’s district).  The problem is that the BPL minutes say that this library, a proposed model for ultra-small libraries in the future, was conceived of in 2007, the same time the sale and shrinkage of the Brooklyn Heights Library sale and Donnell Library were being conceived and implemented.  Another glitchy aspect to this is it isn’t revealed how much this will cost (or how it will be done) and therefore how much money from the sale will be intercepted by this project . . . .

. . .  That is sort of the same problem as not knowing how much of DOE’s money will be intercepted for the ill-defined "STEM Lab" facility or whether DOE even wants it or thinks it’s a good idea.  Investigation will probably disclose that DOE, if it were forced to take the 9,000 sq ft underground space (and benefit the developer) as proposed, would probably have preferred a gym.

When Levin’s last minute backroom deal was unveiled, his so-called “improvements” worked out with the de Blasio’s Deputy Mayor for Development Alicia Glen (from Goldman Sachs), Citizens Defending Libraries responded to it with the following statement (below), including discussing what's treacherous about Levin’s window dressing “profit sharing” agreement with the developer.  But selling a four floor, recently expanded and fully upgraded library as if had no more value than a vacant lot, taking a huge loss, cannot be dressed up with a “profit sharing” agreement where the public potentially gets back a tiny amount the developer is taking home as he cashes in on the the willingness of de Blasio and Levin to take a huge loss. Our previous statement also addresses using so-called "affordable" ("poor door") housing a guise for taking public assets.
Thursday, December 10, 2015, Citizens Defending Libraries Statement in Response To Councilman Levins' Decision To Approve Sale and Shrinkage of Brooklyn Heights Library (stated by BPL president Linda Johnson to be a "model" for future NYC library deals).
Unfortunately, what Steve Levin approved is now considered the model for library deals throughout New York City.
Before Steve Levin revealed the backroom deal he had been working on Citizens Defending Libraries produced this video (link below).  In it you can hear Levin say that 95% of his constituents oppose the library deal, hear BPL president Linda Johnson talk about libraries and real estate and how this is a model for future library deals throughout the city and hear Councilman Brad lander say that developers must make a profit on these deals.   Unfortunately, Citizens Defending Libraries now believes that at the time it made this video Levin was long since on the other side working to push this deal through against the community's wishes.
Video (click through for best viewing): Will Steve Levin Save the Brooklyn Heights Library?

Here is Levin's December 28, 20015 open letter.

Dear Friends,

Earlier this month, the New York City Council voted to approve a modified version of the plan put forward by the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) to sell the land and development rights at the Brooklyn Heights branch to Hudson Companies for condominiums and replace the current branch with a new branch in the base of the new building. This has been one of the most, if not the most, controversial issues that I have encountered in my six years as your Councilmember, and I went back and forth on whether to approve the proposal up until the final few days. Ultimately, I decided to support the proposal. I have heard from some of you who are disappointed and unhappy with my decision. However, I honestly believe that this was the right decision and I would like to tell you why.

I want to assure you that all of the improvements to this project that I announced will be legally binding and enforceable through the contract between the New York City Economic Development Corporation and Hudson Companies until closing and in the deed of the property thereafter. Where commitments were made by the City of New York, we secured a written confirmation from First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris that they will be honored.
The Case Made by BPL
When BPL first approached me about this proposal in 2013, I was dubious. I thought it was a very drastic move to sell off land that is owned by the City of New York, the public, to a private to developer in order to plug long-standing budget gaps. I remained skeptical for the duration of the process. However, there were several facts that made BPL's case compelling.

1) The overall capital needs for BPL for the entire system are extremely high- $300 million. Even after Mayor de Blasio and the City Council added $100 million for BPL over the next ten years, there is still $200 million outstanding with no sources of funding to meet those needs.

2) There are significant capital needs in the Brooklyn Heights branch itself, most urgently the HVAC, or air conditioning system, which no longer works and needs to be replaced. Over the past few years, the Brooklyn Heights branch has had to cut hours during the summer because of the HVAC system and the cost of repairing it would be $3.5-5 million. I realize that this number sounds extravagant, but this would be a City capital project, which are generally around double or triple the cost of a private project. Early in the process, I independently confirmed the cost of the HVAC repair with the New York City Department of Design and Construction.

3) The Brooklyn Heights branch presents a unique opportunity for the BPL system in that, while it is zoned for a high-rise residential development, the current building is only two stories. That means that the "air rights," or development rights, above the current building at 280 Cadman are worth millions of dollars. This money could be used to meet some, though not all, of the $200 million in outstanding capital needs in other neighborhood branches throughout the system. If the current building were to stay as is, there would be no way to realize the value of those development rights. In addition, while I am no great fan of high-rise towers, the location of the Brooklyn Heights branch is in the vicinity of several other high-rise buildings along Court Street and Cadman Plaza West, so a new high rise would not be "out-of-context" along that stretch. 
Library Space and Level of Service
First, it is important to take a moment to talk about the current library, which was built in 1961. It is a handsome building that was designed by Francis Keally, one of the architects of Brooklyn's central branch library. However, it is unlikely that the library would be considered by the Landmarks Preservation Commission for landmark status any time in the near future. The building itself can be divided into three parts: the Business and Career Branch, totaling 14,960 sq. ft., the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood branch, totaling 17,471 sq. ft., and the two cellar floors, which were originally constructed as a fallout shelter, and which are currently used for storage of mostly non-circulating reference books and other miscellaneous books such as those that were donated but have not yet sold at the BPL book sale. The two cellar floors are not publicly accessible, and it is reasonable to believe it would cost millions (perhaps many millions) of dollars to make this space suitable for any meaningful public access. Therefore, while the entire building is, according to the City Planning Commission, 59,146 sq. ft., only 32,431 sq. ft. are above ground, with 27,222 sq. ft. accessible to the public (the rest being utility space and staff office space), and it would be very difficult to envision a scenario in which all 59,146 sq. ft. could be made publicly accessible. Based on this set of facts, I made the decision that a square foot for square foot replacement of the publicly accessible space would require a new library to be roughly 32,000 sq. ft., because that number more accurately what the public experiences when they use the library.

When BPL first presented the plan, they proposed a 21, 000 sq. ft. neighborhood branch, which would in fact be an increase from the current 17,471 sq. ft. neighborhood branch. They also proposed moving the Business and Career branch to the Central branch, leaving the overall Brooklyn Heights facility with a decrease from 32,431 sq. ft. to 21,000 sq. ft. Like many of you, I found this proposal unacceptable, and I insisted that there be no net loss of publicly accessible library space in the neighborhood.

During the course of discussions with BPL, Hudson Companies, and the de Blasio administration, they proposed to increase the size of the new Brooklyn Heights branch to 26,500 sq. ft. with roughly 24,000 sq. ft. of it publicly accessible, which represented a decrease of 5,931 total sq. ft. and about 3,222 publicly accessible sq. ft. for the overall facility. I responded to this proposal by saying it was not good enough. At this point, however, the Department of City Planning advised us that, due to technical zoning regulations, the new library could not be greater than 26,500 sq. ft. without putting the project "out of scope" and thus requiring another new rezoning application. I remained adamant that there not be a net decrease in publicly accessible space, but we hit a bit of a roadblock in that discussion.

By the next meeting, BPL proposed a solution to this issue, which was to find roughly 5,000 sq. ft. of rental space in the DUMBO/Vinegar Hill/Farragut communities for a new neighborhood branch. There is precedent for both rented library space and successful branches of roughly that size in the BPL system, and this would represent the first new branch in the BPL system since the Cortelyou branch opened in 1983. In addition, the new 5,000 sq. ft. branch, when combined with the 26,500 sq. ft. already committed to the expanded Brooklyn Heights branch, would bring the total sq. ft. in the community to 31,500 sq. ft., with about 28,000 sq. ft. of that publicly accessible. This would mean a slight decrease in overall useable sq. ft. (32,431-31,500=969 sq. ft. decrease) but a slight increase of publicly accessible sq. ft. (28,000-27,222=778 sq. ft. increase).

In addition, I was very concerned about the level of service that would be offered in the new branch. As many of you know, over the past few years, the level of service at the Brooklyn Heights branch has been significantly wanting.  In particular, the library was closed for much of the summer due to the broken HVAC system, which led to a thermal heat index temperature in the building that was so high it violated union rules for employees. As a result, the library was not open 7 days per week during any season and the level of programming was lower than many other neighborhood branches.

Therefore, I secured a commitment from BPL that the level of programming at the new Brooklyn Heights branch would be equal to or greater than any other neighborhood branch in the system. Also, BPL committed to the condition that the Brooklyn Heights branch would be open 7 days per week so long as the Kings Highway branch, which serves as the main branch for South Brooklyn and is therefore open 7 days per week, maintains those hours.
Fair Market Value
Another major point of concern for me was the value of the project, and whether the public is getting a fair price at $52 million for the development rights at 280 Cadman Plaza West. This turned out to be a more complicated question than I anticipated, and I asked about a half dozen very knowledgeable experts whether the public was in fact getting a reasonable deal on this property. Unfortunately, a definitive answer remained elusive.  On the one hand, there was a competitive process in which Hudson participated and bid against other potential developers. Also, a NYC EDC sponsored appraisal determined that the value of the development fights was found to be approximately $36.1 million, significantly less than the $52 million sale price. On the other hand, the market in the neighborhood seems to be attracting much higher prices-for example the TD Bank property at Court and Montague is on the market for $200 million.

One aspect that I had not previously accounted for is that the price of $52 million accounts for the cost that the developer would have to bear in order to build the required affordable housing without any city subsidy which, between the land price and the cost of construction, would cost roughly $32 million, not to mention the cost of the "core and shell" of the new library space, the cost of the interim library, and "soft costs" of the City during the process of the sale. 

Since it was not immediately apparent what the free fair market value of the property would be, and since it is impossible to predict exactly what Hudson Companies profit on this project will be in 4-5 years, I made the decision to follow the recommendation made by Borough President Adams and pursue some type of profit "recapture" or "participation," by which BPL or the City can ensure that, if the Hudson Companies makes a significant profit, BPL is able to recapture a percentage of that profit. This model has already been successful at Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Eventually, we were able to reach a consensus of what that "participation" level should be, based on an Internal Rate of Return (IRR), which, according to the experts I spoke to, is reasonable for a developer building a condo project in downtown Brooklyn at 18-22%. Therefore, we agreed that if Hudson makes a profit over 19%, BPL will recapture 25% of that profit. That means that if, as many fear, Hudson makes an enormous profit (which would mean an IRR of 25-30% and that perhaps the $52 million sales price was undervalued), the public and BPL will be able to recapture 25% of that profit over 19% IRR.  Since this project is condominiums, this "recapture" will only happen one time, which is when Hudson sells the condominiums around 2020-2021.

We did include the caveat that the first $1.5 million in recaptured funds would be used to make the AMI's on the affordable units lower, from a maximum of 165% of AMI to 125% of AMI.

As with all of the provisions of this project, this agreement will be recorded as part of the deed for the property and will be legally enforceable on any future developer.
It was also very important to me to ensure that there were some public education resources included in the project. We all know the significant public education needs of Brooklyn Heights and the surrounding neighborhoods. P.S. 8 is significantly overcrowded and we are facing a serious lack of school space in Downtown Brooklyn to accompany the staggering amount of new residential development occurring as a result of the 2004 Downtown Brooklyn rezoning.

My initial feeling was there needed to be additional school seats, either elementary or middle, as part of this development, just like there was at Dock Street, where there will be 330 seat middle school opening next fall. My thinking was that a school could be sited on floors two and three of the building, above the new library. I contacted the School Construction Authority (SCA) about the site and the feedback from them was that siting a school in this building would be virtually impossible given the configuration of the building and the requirements that siting school seats would entail, including adding 5,000-10,000 sq. ft. of self-contained school lobby space on the ground floor (which was already fully planned with library and residential lobby), a self-contained elevator bank exclusively for the school, and enough space for a school on 16,000 sq. ft. floor plates. After speaking with SCA, I realized a new school there would not be possible.

However, I spoke with local education leaders about other educational needs in the community and one idea appealed to me: the development of a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) lab for students K-12. The NYC Department of Education does not currently have any stand-alone facilities like this, but we all know that an innovative STEM curriculum with a brand new STEM lab could be transformative for our children. There are so many interesting K-12 STEM learning environment models in places like Minnesota,  Atlanta, and Palo Alto that we can learn from- why not search out what is working best across the country and give educators the tools to implement those practices here?

Therefore, I worked with the de Blasio administration, DOE, SCA, and Hudson Companies on an agreement whereby DOE will lease 9,000 sq, ft. from Hudson in the first cellar, with the option to purchase the space after a set number of years, and site a fully built out STEM lab there.  We look forward to working with everyone in the community, particularly those with an interest in STEM education, on developing this potentially transformative space.
Affordable Housing
The original proposal contained 114 units of affordable housing, to be located off-site in Clinton Hill, ranging in affordability level from 60% Area Median Income (AMI) to 165% AMI (AMI in NYC is $86,300 for a family of 4), with 23 at 60% AMI, 38 at 80% AMI, 29 at 100% AMI, and 24 at 165% AMI. Under this scenario, the 60-80% AMI units were required under the Inclusionary Housing Program, while the 100-165% AMI were not required. I heard from many of you that this issue of off-site affordable housing is disturbing and should not be allowed as part of this project. Also, many of you said that the AMI levels were too high to address the real affordable housing crisis in our communities.

I was very concerned about these issues as well. We found the off-site issue difficult to resolve. First, under the current Inclusionary Housing Program, off-site affordable housing is allowed. This may change with the Inclusionary Housing reforms being contemplated right now, but the current law allows it. Also, if we were to require the affordable housing to be built on-site, it would inevitably drive down the purchase price of the of the development rights at 280 Cadman, which would mean significantly less money for the BPL system as a result of this sale. In addition, I heard from leaders in Clinton Hill that they were very happy to have 114 units of affordable housing in their community, which desperately needs it. Therefore, I decided that while I am not enthusiastic about the off-site affordable housing, I would allow for that portion to go through in this particular instance.

I did have a significant concern about the AMIs, because I strongly believe that units at 165% AMI should not be considered "affordable" since they are for families making $142,395 per year, which I believe is close to, if not at, market rate. Therefore, I worked with Hudson to develop a new affordability framework that I believe more effectively addresses the needs of working families in our communities: 23 units at 60% AMI, 60 units at 80% AMI, and 31 units at 125% AMI.
After over two years of discussions, debates, hearings and testimony, I believe that this project has had a thorough vetting and that the public has been able to develop a good understanding of all of the issues involved in this proposal.  While I understand that not everyone will be happy with the final project, I believe that it is a significant improvement over both the status quo and the original project as proposed two years ago.  

During the final weeks of this process, after hearing from hundreds of community residents both for and against this project, I had the opportunity to speak with two librarians that work at the Brooklyn Heights library: Uldis Skrodelis and Rachel Teimann. They both expressed their support for the project, in the most un-political way possible, because, ultimately, they believe strongly that a new library in Brooklyn Heights and in DUMBO, complete with both books and 21st century technology, will be the best way ensure that future generations have access to the full educational potential that our libraries provide.

It will be several years before the public will begin to see the benefits of this project-the new library in Brooklyn Heights, the new library in DUMBO/Vinegar Hill/Farragut, the new STEM lab, the new affordable housing, and potentially additional revenue through the profit recapture. However, I believe that when these new benefits are realized, the public will recognize that its interests were advocated for and protected throughout this extensive and transparent land use review process.


Stephen T. Levin
Council Member, 33rd District

Ninety-nine percent?  Ninety-five percent?  Doesn't something seem rather distorted here?  The window of Councilman Levin's Atlantic Avenue District Office says "We Support the 99%."   Levin said 95% of his constituents opposed the library sale and shrinkage.  But Levin engineered a backroom deal unveiled at the last minutes to push through the sale and shrinkage of the library?

Sunday, December 20, 2015

PRESS RELEASE: De Blasio, reversing campaign pledge, commences selling NYC libraries delivering, in Grinch mode, huge shrinkage

New York City 
WHAT: Mayor de Blasio is expected to break a significant campaign promise he made calling for a halt to the sale and shrinkage of New York City libraries.  The mayor is expected to approve the precedent-setting proposed fire sale of a major public asset, Brooklyn's second biggest library, the central destination library in Downtown Brooklyn.  Tainting Mayor de Blasio's expected decision is: 1.) the fact that de Blasio has been  taking money from the developer and 2.) on December 16th it was announced that the mayoral controlled  Department of Education is redeploying substantial resources to promote the library sale.
WHEN:  Imminent
WHAT ELSE?:  Citizens Defending Libraries is available to provide facts about the Mayor de Blasio's decision and about the city library sales.
Did New Yorkers do something so very naughty that they deserve this huge lump of coal for the holidays from their mayor?: De Blasio reversing his campaign pledge is, with his expected approval of the sale of the Brooklyn Heights Library, launching the sale and shrinkage of New York City libraries.  Mayor de Blasio is imminently expected to approve the sale of the Brooklyn Heights Library, the central destination library in downtown Brooklyn with a special focus on business, career and education.

The library was recently expanded and fully upgraded so that it's is one of the most modern in the system and advanced in terms of solely needed computer support.  De Blasio’s approval of the sale allows the library to be “replaced” with another library shrunk to just 42% of the current library’s size (63,000 square feet) that will be stuck in the bottom of a privately owned tower of luxury residential condominiums to be built by the developer purchasing this city-owned property.   The “replacement” library will have just 15,000 square feet above ground instead of the almost 38,000 square feet above ground the existing library has now.  A very substantial proportion of the space to be visited by the public in this vastly shrunken library will be shifted underground.  Presently, none of the space the public visits at the existing library is underground, only two half-floors that are used for books storage.

In the bottom of privately owned residential building the mistake of shrinking this library can never afterward be corrected and it cannot ever grow in the future.

The proposed sale and shrinkage is a close replication of the 2007 Donnell Library sale debacle, the first, for which a "replacement" library in the luxury tower opened last March is still nowhere in sight.

Brooklyn Public Library president Linda Johnson told the City Council at its hearing about the Brooklyn Heights sale (a  first ever proposal of this kind before the council) that the sale was a "model" for transactions underway with respect to libraries throughout the city, not just for other libraries in her BPL system, but also for Queens and the NYPL.

At the BPL trustee meeting last Tuesday (the 15th), the trustees applauding this sell-off and shrinkage were reminded how sale of this library was chosen as a “demonstration” for what was possible.  They were told that this was a “huge turning point for the library system” and “across the city in general” with Johnson `pioneering’ the future of libraries.  They were also told that Alicia Glenn, de Blasio’s Deputy Mayor for Development had adopted this project as "her own" pushing “it across the finish line.”

These plans are opposite to what candidate de Blasio promised.

When de Blasio was running for mayor he stood on the steps of the 42nd Street Central Reference Library on Fifth Avenue with Citizens Defending Libraries and called for a halt to the sale and shrinkage of New York City public libraries and specifically cited and included the Brooklyn Heights Library among the examples of what he was talking about.  Candidate de Blasio said that:
“It’s public land and public facilities and public value under threat. . . and once again we see, lurking right behind the curtain, real estate developers who are very anxious to get their hands on these valuable properties”
Permission is hereby granted to use video clips, images and audio of de Blasio saying this contained in the following videos (and we can also supply an audio file upon request):
Selling Our Libraries!


Will Steve Levin Save the Brooklyn Heights Library?

The de Blasio administration will almost certainly maintain that the Mayor is not violating his campaign promises about not selling this and other libraries because the mayor believes that the city is getting appropriate value for the sale of this library.  That, however, is not true.  The developer is paying nowhere near the value of the library from the public’s perspective given that this fully upgraded library would cost over $120 million to replace.  Instead the only consideration of value for this library that has been offered by the BPL and the city’s Economic Development Corporation selling the library has been from the developer’s perspective, just its “tear-down” value.  It’s essentially valuing the library property as if it were just a vacant lot.  In fact the developer will probably pay less than he would for a vacant lot given that the developer will have demolition costs to absorb.

The BPL has previously said the city will net only $40 million from this transaction, but, on Tuesday, Johnson told her board the city will be actually be netting less than that amount although the previous $40 million estimate is what Johnson and a number of members of the City Council, including local City Councilman Steve Levin, have continued to publicize.  Citizens Defending Libraries believes that the figure to be netted is considerably less with approximately $20 million probably being needed to outfit the replacement library lopped off the top of the $52 million gross price paid by the developer and many other additional expenses the BPL has refused to reckon into its faulty math promoting the developer’s real estate transaction.

Mayoral underfunding of the libraries is being given as the excuse to sell and shrink the library which underfunding by now mayor de Blasio certain key members of the City Council say is not possible for the council to override.  When de Blasio became mayor he did not restore cuts to the libraries put in place by the Bloomberg administration despite the libraries being used 40% more in terms of programming and 59% more in terms of circulation, most of that being physical books.

Not only has de Blasio not restored the Bloomberg cuts, at the beginning of this budget year, with cuts to his own prior year’s budget, he also reintroduced the so-called “budget dance” that was supposedly abandoned when his administration took office.  That helped a subsequent addition of funds to the budget this year look bigger, although it is described as not enough to abandon the Bloomberg generated library sale plans.

In setting up the transaction for de Blasio’s approval with a vote at City Council (Wednesday, the 16th), David Greenfield, chair of the Council’s Land Use Committee said that “the reality is that our public libraries are underfunded” and that we can’t hope that the resources for needed repairs “are going to fall from the sky.”  Greenfield’s professed hopelessness is despite the fact the city has a very substantial and escalating budget surplus, with the City Comptroller Scott Stringer observing that evidence of the city’s flush situation is that the city, remarkably, has no out-year budget gaps.

Comptroller Stringer’s office wrote to Deputy Mayor Glen December 9th objecting to the transaction: “It is simply unsustainable for the City to rely solely on the disposition of property to cover capital needs without fixing the systemic causes for the capital gap.”

Councilman Brad Lander who has been pushing hard for the sale of this library and others endorsed Greenfield’s glum assertion that resources for any alternative course of action would be unavailable from Mayor de Blasio saying, “we are not going to get there in the near term, honestly this decade.”  (The end of the “decade” would be the end of a de Blasio second term.)

City Council majority leader Jimmy Van Bramer also weighed in.  He is chair of the Council’s Cultural Committee overseeing libraries and has been a strong proponent of the library sales.  Van Bramer said “the fact is that several mayoral administrations long neglected the capital needs of our libraries.”    Councilman Van Bramer’s saying “several mayoral administrations,” would seeming implicate the Giuliani administration, but under the Giuliani administration libraries, like SIBL that de Blasio now wants to sell were being expanded.  The Brooklyn Heights Library was expanded and fully upgraded at the very tail end of the Dinkins administration, just as Giuliani was coming in.

In actuality, according to the Brooklyn Public Library minutes (November 2008), the neglect of capital needs, or their intentional deferral resulting a backlog, began concurrently with the launching of the BPL’s  "Strategic Real Estate Plan," pursuant to arrangement that fall with the Bloomberg administration’s NYC Office of Budget and Management.

Similar to these expressed City Council justifications, when the City Planning Commission considered the sale City Planning Commissioner Anna Hayes Levin said the main argument for selling the library was to get funds that would supposedly go to other libraries.   But, City Councilman Brad Lander has previously stated with respect to other attempts to assure future library funding from the city that there is no way to assure that it will happen because administrations and legislatures cannot bind future ones respecting future budget years, that bottom line it is “not constitutional” to seek to bind future budget decisions.

Citizens Defending Libraries believes that using underfunding of libraries as an excuse to hand off sweet deals to the real estate industry actually creates a perverse incentive to continue to underfund them in the future.

Frighteningly, this sale may not be a de Blasio precedent for selling off just New York City libraries.  When this proposal was before the City Planning Commission, Mayor de Blasio’s Commission Chair Carl Weisbrod indicated that he viewed this as a precedent equally applicable to a program of selling public schools for redevelopment.  The question of whether administration priorities would be development or education are raised by the way that with the planning of this project under Deputy Mayor for Development Glen the de Blasio administration raided Department of Education funds to commit to a suspect ill-described, probably ill-conceived, so-called “STEM Lab” revealed at the eleventh hour to push this library sale through.  The 9,000 square foot “STEM Lab,” for which there is no city precedent, is a possible three-classroom K-12 facility.  Investigate and you may find that the DOE said that, if they were forced to take this underground space off the developer’s hands, they would really have preferred to put a gym in it.

The deal is described as “unlocking” the city’s unused development rights, but little mention is made of the fact that in 1986 the city transferred out about half of its development rights to Forest City Ratner and that only reason the developer’s 400 foot luxury tower is so tall is that the deal has “unlocked” the development rights of Saint Ann’s a neighboring private school which will thereby significantly benefits form the transaction, but do so without demolition and loss of its building.  The details for the benefits Saint Ann’s private school is getting remain mostly secret.

Mayor de Blasio may try to justify this transaction saying that, in order to build a much bigger building, the developer buying the property is building so-called “affordable” housing units “poor door”  far away from Brooklyn Heights in another school district (only five of the units that might be considered more truly “affordable” would be large enough for families), but Public Advocate Tish James wrote the city council objecting to the sale of the library saying:
“Supporting affordable housing and preserving public assets like libraries must not be competing imperatives. We should not be asked to choose between our need for affordable housing and our libraries.”
Along with the Department of Education commitments revealed at the eleventh hour to push this library sale through.other plans were revealed (or not) that modified the transaction dressing it up for passage by the City Council that don't bear up well under close scrutiny.  For instance, the BPL announced a new library in DUMBO, but BPL minutes show this was originally planned back in 2007 when the Brooklyn Heights Library and Donnell Library sale plan were being planned and undertaken.  The DUMBO library, only 5,000 square feet, was considered by the BPL to be a model for much smaller libraries.  With the shrinking 2,500 square foot library in the Walentas BAM South project (286 Ashland Place) we now seem to have two of these very small libraries.  (The DUMBO library was originally supposed to be just 1,700 square feet.)  (Anything less than 10,000 square feet for a library is considered woefully small.”)

Will Mayor de Blasio try to say that the Brooklyn Heights Library sale has become a much better deal than it was in July of 2013 when he called for a halt to it?  If he does, he will be ignoring all the facts that have come out since that make it obvious it is far, far worse one.  . .  Beyond that, the only other important change in facts was de Blasio taking money from the developer's team while their application, ultimately selected by his administration was pending.

Other libraries being sold and shrunk?  The 34th Street Science, Industry and Business Library built in 1996 is proposed to be sold.  When that is sold, it is proposed to shrink Mid-Manhattan as a result.  The second floor of the Williamsburg Library was given away to a private firm which was also offered and almost got a substantial portion of the Red Hook Library's space.   The Sunset Park Library is being made the subject of a real estate deal kept under wraps that the community is now objecting to.  There are indications that the Pacific Branch is being eyed for sale again.  Libraries like Clinton Hill are being looked at in conjunction with inducing proposed upzonings.

The list is long enough already, but the plans of those running the libraries still remain largely undisclosed..

Carolyn E. McIntyre, Michael D. D. White
Michael White, 718-834-6184, mddwhite [at] aol.com
Carolyn McIntyre, 917-757-6542 cemac62 [at] aol.com

Follow us on Twitter: @defendinglibraries

For photos and videos of prior Citizens Defending Libraries rallies opposing the sale, shrinkage, underfunding of New York City libraries, and elimination of books and librarians in the two and a half+ years since its founding, see:


                                                                  #   #   #

Citizens Defending Libraries
(718) 797-5207
@DefendLibraries on twitter
backpack362 [at] aol.com

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Citizens Defending Libraries Statement About Today's City Council Vote Approving the Sale and Shrinkage of Brooklyn Heights Library (stated by BPL president Linda Johnson to be a “model” for future NYC library deals)

The Brooklyn Heights Library as it stands now (left) and as it would be squeezed down to just 42% in the bottom of 400 foot luxury tower replacing it (right)
The City Council’s vote today to approve the sale and shrinkage of the Brooklyn Heights Library should greatly alarm all of us.  We are not safe because this heedless plundering is intended to be just the first.

Last night at the Brooklyn Public Library trustees meeting the announced sale received more than one round of hearty applause from the trustees and we heard how this library was chosen as a "demonstration" for what was possible.  The trustees were told that this was a “huge turning point for the library system” and “across the city in general” with Brooklyn Public Library president Linda Johnson `pioneering’ the future of libraries.

Let’s be clear here, we are demolishing a sturdy, recently enlarged, and fully upgraded library, one of the most modern in the BPL system.  We are proposing to shrink it down to just 42% of its current size (63,000 square feet).  We will wind up with just 15,000 square feet above ground instead of the almost 38,000 square feet we have now.  And, we will have to wait years to get even that after demolition of this valuable asset.

No thought has been given to the library’s value to the public, costing more than $120 million to replace.  We are selling it off to net a minuscule fraction of that amount.  This is a central destination library located in the downtown serving all of Brooklyn and a substantial part of lower Manhattan with a special focus of business, career and education.

What’s appalling is the way that the library is being sold off as the result of a back room deal that apparently has been secretly in the oven for some time now.  We learned at the BPL trustees meeting last night how Alicia Glen, de Blasio’s Deputy Mayor for development adopted this Bloomberg initiated sell-off  “as her own” pushing it “across the finish line.”

We still don’t have all the facts but we know that the secret deal goes back weeks with many days spent at City Hall and the BPL referring to months of preparation and very worrisomely we see the Department of Education under the mayor’s control stepping in to pony up untold sums as part of the package.  This seems to reflect a mayor hellbent to see the library sold to the developer.

It would be nice if people who cared about schools were looking after schools and people who care about libraries were looking after libraries, but instead we get this recipe for misfortune: A deputy mayor for development handing out these resources to make deals with developers who send money to the mayor.

It’s telling that what exactly the so-called “STEM lab” facility is that DOE is buying to facilitate the deal is only going to be figured out some time in the future.

Unfortunately, with the revelations of just the last week or so, we have learned a lot about Councilman Steve Levin and his embrace of the de Blasio maneuvering that is not to Levin’s credit.  It is clear that the Councilman has a strange philosophy of government that involves a huge lack of transparency, failing to keep promises and perform obligations basic to his elected office while feeding misinformation to his constituents.

At the BPL trustees meeting last night we also learned that tucked into Levin’s deal list is an earmarking to intercept library sale proceeds to go for enlarging the Greenpoint Library (in his district).  It is not necessarily bad, but was undisclosed to the public and possibly the City Council Members voting.

How much of this did the City Council know?: Talking with members today, apparently not much.

Especially frightening today was the surreal way that incorrect and misleading information was cited as the reason for the vote.  Councilman Brad Lander and David Greenfield made speeches repeating claims by Levin and BPL’s Johnson that the deal means a net “$40 million” will go to other libraries even though Johnson told her own board last night that number will be smaller.  (We calculate it is actually still much less even than that if the math is done properly.)

Councilmen Greenfield and Lander said (respectively) that we have to sell libraries because we can’t expect “the money to fall from the sky” to do anything else “at least through the end of this decade.”  Really?  When the city has one of the largest ever surpluses?  Let’s remember that before Bloomberg and de Blasio we had money to expand our libraries, not be artificially backed into deals that serve the real estate industry. . .  Let’s also note that Lander has said that we can’t obligate legislators or administrations to spend more money on libraries in the future so there can be absolutely no assurance of greater spending on libraries in the future as result of such sales.

It has been clear that with these library sales we have been witness to the exercise of an enormous amount of power.  What we did not see today was the exercise by the City Council of the power that it has to protect the public.  

We must view the new era the City Council seemingly ushered in with its vote today as an absolutely unacceptable future.  Accordingly, we have our work cut out for us.