Public Assets Under AttackOur public assets, our public properties are under attack. We are talking about the public realm, the public commons. Lurking behind the curtain we see developer greed buttressed by the corrupting imbalance that money brings to politics and ultimately to municipal government itself.
Right here in Brooklyn Heights we see it with our hospital and library sold off to benefit real estate interests and the compulsion of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation to build and overdevelop at Pier 6 and at Pierhouse, seemingly without compunction and no matter what. Down the hill in DUMBO the Dock Street development was pushed through by subterfuge while across the river plans are being pushed to dismantle the South Street Seaport Historic District for more towers because, supposedly, the developer can’t otherwise own such prime Manhattan real estate without going bankrupt!
Meanwhile, we are told that sufficient basic city services and infrastructure like schools such as our local PS8 aren’t affordable by our growing city unless such withheld services are reengineered to be used as pawns, traded as the quid pro quos for more development.
Public parks and public buildings built on city-owned land. . schools, colleges, libraries, fire houses, playgrounds, police stations, hospitals, housing, memorials . . these public assets are part of our New York heritage, civic architecture that belongs to everyone. Built by our forefathers with public funds, assembled over the years, some more than a century ago, these amenities are becoming increasingly irreplaceable as the value of the underlying land escalates, and the master craftsmanship and natural materials of traditional architecture become more and more costly and hard to obtain. If city services are relocated, cut back or curtailed when city buildings are privatized, everyone loses, except the privileged few, purporting to be our "private partners."
Because these losses are long-term, exceedingly difficult to recover from and often irreversible, we’d like to think that the current assault will soon abate, but until it does we must do everything we can to band together to draw a line and ensure our public assets are protected.
We cannot let a privileged few with special access show up on the steps of government with plans to sell and privatize our assets, plundering their value.
We believe that it is important to view these many attacks as being all of a whole. These lop-sided deals should receive collective scrutiny. The often common and repeated stratagems employed against the public should be looked at on an integrated basis, which includes noting that there is a high frequency of overlap among the players and political operatives that present them to us.
Is the Brooklyn Heights Association doing what it needs to in this regard? We find ourselves somewhat disappointed, and especially so in certain cases.
We need to roundly and soundly agree that this era of putting the public’s property on the auction block is an era whose time has passed. Whenever deals like these present themselves we must recognize them for the swindles that they are, greet them as dead on arrival and pack them off with the funerals they deserve.
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Citizens Defending Libraries also handed out in physical form copies of the following:
• Friday, February 6, 2015, Open Letter To Brooklyn Public Library Trustee Peter Aschkenasy Re Commitment to Provide Information About Library Sale
• Support and Sign-On Letter: Full and Adequate Library Funding, A Growing System, Transparency, Books and Librarians
• The following flyer (in very small 4.24 x 5.5 inch size- is it possible that some things shouldn't be shrunk down too small?)
Press Coverage of the Meeting
|One of many excellent photos of the event in the Brooklyn Eagle article: Micahel D. D. White of Citizens Defending Libraries asking a crucial question|
Theme of Brooklyn Heights Association Annual Meeting: Change vs Preservation, by Mary Frost, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, February 25, 2015.Respecting libraries from that article:
[BHA President] Bowie welcomed "friends and collaborators" from several advocacy groups, including People for Green Space Foundation (PFGSF) board member Henry "Ren" Richmond. PFGSF is working to block the construction of two residential towers at Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park.(* See comments to the article to read how none of those conditions are actually being met.)
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Bowie also welcomed to the meeting members of the group Citizens Defending Libraries, who hope to block the sale and redevelopment of the Brooklyn Heights branch. No one from this group spoke officially, however.
"We share a common view of Brooklyn Heights as a quiet, leafy neighborhood, home to a magnificent waterfront park that contributes sorely-needed greenspace to our neighborhood, to the borough of Brooklyn and to the entire city of New York. Sometimes we disagree with you about the best way to achieve our ends. Of course we welcome discussion," she said.
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Michael D. D. White, co-founder of Citizens Defending Libraries, questioned what he called BHA’s “highly suspicious” and rapid support of the decision to redevelop the Brooklyn Heights Library branch.
“What will it take for you to reconsider your support to sell and shrink the library?” he asked.
“I will take that up with our library committee, which is how we operate, and if the library committee feels that it wants to revisit the question, then I will take it to the full board,” Bowie said.
In response to a related question, Bowie said that BHA supported the library plan as long as three conditions were met: that the proceeds go back to Brooklyn Public Library; that interim service was provided; and that the new library be of “adequate” size.*
Here’s Brooklyn Heights Blog coverage. Comments are possible.
5 Key Points Made at the Brooklyn Heights Association's 2015 Annual Meeting, by Homer Fink on February 26, 2015From the article:
4. Say What You Will About Michael D.D. White and Citizens Defending Libraries, but Brother Has a PointTo see a handout and a report on last year’s annual Brooklyn Heights Association meeting see: Thursday, February 27, 2014, February 27, 2014 Open Letter from Carolyn McIntyre To Brooklyn Heights Association Delivered At It's Annual Meeting That Day.
Michael D. D. White, co-founder of Citizens Defending Libraries, questioned what he called BHA's "highly suspicious" and rapid support of the decision to redevelop the Brooklyn Heights Library branch.
"What will it take for you to reconsider your support to sell and shrink the library?" he asked.
"I will take that up with our library committee, which is how we operate, and if the library committee feels that it wants to revisit the question, then I will take it to the full board," Bowie said. (Brooklyn Eagle)
|After the Brooklyn Heights Association annual meeting last year the Brooklyn Heights Blog put up a poll (above)- `Whom do you support, Citizens Defending Libraries or the BHA?' You can still get to that poll to VOTE through the link to the Brooklyn Heights Blog story at the end of the Noticing New York article about the annual meeting.|