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

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

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

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

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Partial List of Successes of Citizens Defending Libraries (founded early 2013)

Here is a list of some of the success of Citizens Defending Libraries (achieved working in coordination with many others from our communities) since Citizens Defending Libraries was formed in February of 2013 in response to the then breaking headlines about how, across the city, our public libraries were proposed to be sold and shrunk, with libraries being intentionally underfunded, their books and librarians eliminated.

We put these successes in the category of battles won, but by no means do we consider the overall war is won.
    1.    The sale of the 5-story Donnell Library for a pittance is now no longer regarded as having been a sensible or defensible deal.- Library administration officials now apologize for it acknowledging it was a mistake.

    2.    The Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) has backed off, for the time being, from its plans to sell the Pacific Branch.

    3.    During the last mayoral campaign Bill de Blasio joined with us (just one of the candidates supporting us) on the steps of the 42nd Street Central Reference Library (behind the lions Patience and Fortitude) to call for a halt to the library sales and shrinkages in both Manhattan and Brooklyn.

    4.    With the help of Mayor de Blasio the Central Library Plans was derailed, saving the public from more than $500 billion in expenditures on a wasteful and destructive consolidating shrinkage.    That means:
        a.    That Mid-Manhattan is now not being sold off, and
        b.    The stacks of the Central Reference Library intended to hold 3 million books are not being destroyed- BUT
        c.    We still need to make sure that the rest of SIBL (the Science, Industry and Business Library at 24th Street) won’t be sold off- and
        d.    We need to get them to bring all the books back.
    5.    The Bloomberg administration had intended to sign a contract to sell off the Brooklyn Heights Library before December 31, 2013, the last day of the administration.  That hasn’t happened.  Instead these plans have been delayed so that only just recently was a developer picked, but still at this point little is publicly known, except how small they want to shrink the library down to.  (They don’t know what the library would look like, what the luxury tower would look like or how big it would be, what is being given up, how little, if anything is being netted by the BPL.)

    6.    Working with the community we got the BPL to back off on using Spaceworks to shrink the Red Hook Library down from an already very small 7,500 square feet to an even smaller just 5,500 square feet.  (We’re getting the word out to the Williamsburg community too which was uniformed .)

    7.    The Sunset Park community is also informed and better equipped to deal with the just released, long-secrete plans to redevelop that library into a mixed used project and our work may have helped to finally bring those plans into the open.  We believe also that, in the case of the release of the Sunset Park Library plans, we can consider it a success on our part that for the first time since Citizens Defending Libraries came on the scene to shine a spotlight, the real estate deal promoted for a library calls for the library’s expansion instead of contraction.  It is currently proposed that a new Sunset Park Library would be 20,600 square feet (an increase from 12,000 square feet), essentially the same size, 21,000 square feet (only 15,000 square feet above ground), that BPL now proposes to shrink the central destination 63,000 square feet down to.  This does not necessarily mean that the BPL’s Sunset Park proposal should proceed if it doesn’t address what the community actually wants, which includes a bigger library with more above-ground space than planned..

    8.    As a result of our activism there have been a series of hearings about the sale and shrinkage of libraries starting with a June 27, 2013 New York State Assembly hearing that embarrassed library city administration officials.  Since that time the New York City Council has been struggling to catch up, finally holding its own, albeit less delving, hearings.  We may also consider it a success that legislation has been introduced in the city to create a “library commission” to review the situation with libraries although whether this will prove to be a benefit to the public, not a responsibility deflecting maneuver, will come down to a devil-is-in-the-details analysis.

    9.    Citizens Defending Libraries has launched a Citizens Audit and Investigation into the library sales and shrinkages, and there are already many startling things that have been brought to light that were completely unknown when Citizens Defending Libraries was first formed.  

    10.    Library funding has been increased although not yet restored to the pre-library-sale-plan levels that would be appropriate.
At the time of this writing, Citizens Defending Libraries is not yet two years old.  We believe we have been fairly effective during our as yet short existence, but we caution almost every battle won so far is battle that might have to be fought again to hold our ground before the overal war can be declared to be won.

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