|Image above and below from Brooklyn News 12 coverage|
The next step in the public approval process to sell and shrink a major publicly owned asset, the Brooklyn Heights Library, the central destination library in downtown Brooklyn, will a hearing where Borough President Eric Adams will take public testimony as to whether the library should be sold and shrunk, whether the proposed transaction resulting in great public loss and little net cash (perhaps none or less than zero) should be allowed to proceed.
Setting the stage for this next step, on Wednesday July 15 2015, about half the members of Brooklyn’s Community Board 2 voted to approve the sale and shrinkage of the library.
One of the big headlines is that on Wednesday night library defenders, out in force, packed the room.* Another headline is how much of the evening was an exercise in the CB2 board ignoring the public on various levels and, despite the room being packed with these defenders having much to say about why the library should not be sold or sold or shrunk, the CB2 Chair and board stuck to an intention not to take any public comment from the public about the library until after they voted.
(* Aside from the developer, there were also a lot of press. Links to news articles are provided below.)Also in the headlines was how, during the course of the evening, most of CB2 members demonstrated a profound lack of knowledge about what they were approving, and how it was evident that there had been behind-the-scenes strong-arming and questionable procedures to push the vote through. Despite a few somewhat redeeming brighter spots, the discussion held by the CB2 board as to whether the library should be sold and shrunk was clearly inadequate, in many respects confused, and somewhat bizarre with respect to some of the key issues not discussed. . .
. . . It is therefore not surprising that another headline of the evening is that, when the board voted, a chant of "Shame on you!" spontaneously rose up from the crowd filling the room.
How Blindly Did CB2 Approve Library Sale/Shrinkage? Asked and Answered: Very!
Here is a telling two minutes that occurred at the end of the Wednesday night meeting (thereby escaping notice by the departed press) where the CB2 Board members documented that they were almost all very uninformed about the library sale and shrinkage they had just approved. .
VIDEO: CB2 Denied Crucial Facts Before Approving Library Sale . . . . . (click through to YouTube fo best viewing)
What should the CB2 known and considered before it voted?: That was very clearly laid out in Citizens Defending Libraries Press Release issued before the CB2 general meeting. (Some quotes from this press release were picked up in some of the press coverage for which there are links provided below.)
PRESS RELEASE & NEWS ADVISORY- Forewarned and Forearmed Brooklyn Community Board 2 Votes Wednesday, July 15th On Proposed Fire Sale of Major Public Asset, Central Destination Library In Downtown BrooklynWhat the CB2 Board Did Not Address In Its Discussions
Some of the things not discussed by the CB2 board while not listening to the public the night that it voted? Many were pretty basic: * The dollar value of the library to the public, * how little the library was being sold for, * the Brooklyn Public Library's lack of transparency in selling it, * the setting of a dangerous precedent of for selling off public assets in general, * that Bill de Blasio who warned that "once again we see, lurking right behind the curtain, real estate developers who are very anxious to get their hands on these valuable properties" was taking money from the development team for the proposed library sale while their application was pending, * how the library had just been enlarged and fully upgraded in 1993 * how by placing the shrunken library in the bottom of a luxury residential building it will never be possible to increase it in size later despite that fact that library usage is greatly up, and the wealthier city is growing along with, even faster, the borough, the Central Business District and the surrounding residential neighborhood. (The last point, while not discussed by by CB2 members, was part of the Brooklyn News 12 report of the meeting.)
One of the really critical things not discussed during the evening involved another headline that arresting people's attention that night: Irene Janner, an employee of the Brooklyn Heights Association switched her vote to vote for the sale and shrinkage of the library. . .
. . . On the night of the 15th not one CB2 board member present mentioned how little money, if any, might go to libraries because of the sale and shrinkage of the library. On the night of June 17th, the night the Land Use Committee held a hearing, listened to the public, and voted not to approve the sale and shrinkage of the library Ms. Janner had spoken eloquently and knowledgeably about how there was absolutely "no guarantee" that any money would go to the libraries as a result of the sale even if the BPL is pledging (manipulatively) to move certain libraries to the head of its list for capital funding. That's because money from the sale goes to the city, and there is no guarantee that the city, likely netting very little if anything on this transaction, will send any of it back, nor is there a way to track whether it has.
That night, in a vote of the CB2 Land Use Committee that should have been let stand, Ms. Janner voted against the library sale and shrinkage. On the 15th Ms. Janner sat in stoney silence letting these warnings go unexpressed, no one picking up the slack.
That ties in with something else no CB2 board member raised during the entire night of discussion, that behind the scenes Saint Ann's, a private school, will get a big payday (selling development rights) if the public's library is sold and shrunk. The developer refuses to say how big a payday Saint Ann's is getting (it may be getting more free and clear cash than the public will net). He says that this is because it is a "private" transaction even though it seems to be driving a public one.
Ms Janner's switched vote and silence could be accounted for by the fact that her employer, the Brooklyn Heights Association, being highly, and almost inexplicably, inconsistent about its duty to represent community's interests, is pushing for the sale. Looking to explain why the Brooklyn Heights Association is urging the approval of the sale and shrinkage of the library and its replacement with a luxury condominium tower one must note that its decision was made by its library committee where key deciders of this issue were connected with Saint Ann's the private school benefitting from the sale.
As discussed in greater detail further below, the Brooklyn Heights Association, with (private school) Saint Ann's connected decision-makers steering it, factored in profoundly to CB2's voting outcomes. . . .
In all CB2 held three meetings, two meetings of its Land Use Committee and one general meeting of the entire CB2 board in connection with approving the proposal.
At only one meeting, the first meeting of the Land Use Committee, was the public permitted to address those voting about the public’s viewpoint and at that meeting the Committee voted twice not to approve the project and also voted twice not to meet again to possibly consider and vote again about the proposal as it was being pushed to do so by Land Use Committee member Judy Stanton, an employee of the Brooklyn Heights Association, which has been pushing for the sale and shrinkage of the library, something that would benefit Saint Ann’s School, a private school.. . Stanton, aware of the issue her conflict of interest, said that she was voting to reflect her personal beliefs, not what her employer wanted, but, of course, there would be no way to prove that.
Confusion About Basics
Some of the most significant confusion in CB2's discussions involved how much the library is proposed to be shrunk and what CB2 might actually be approving in that regard. At the beginning of the meeting on the 15th CB2 and Land use Committee member Eric Spruiell sought to have it be clarified to reflect the understanding upon which he had based his at its second, specially held, July 6th meeting of the Land Use committee where he voted differently premised on newly introduced conditions, and specifically, as Mr. Spruiell wanted clarified, that the library would not be shrunk, the new replacement library would be the same size (63,000 square feet) as the current existing library. Not all the Land Use Committee members were in agreement on what they had voted on in this respect. Mr. Spruiell also voted on July 6th on the understanding that the business and career functions of the library would not be moved out of it.
A clarifying motion introduced by Mr. Spruiell was not passed on the 15th so that for purposes of that general meeting the CB2 members then assumed that the library would remain the same size in terms of "usable" space, but what was meant by that went unspecified and unclarified. No doubt the developer, assisted by the BPL officials, will argue that the library should still be shrunk to the small size he'd like and others will argue that the condition imposed means something to the contrary.
There were other, unfortunately lamely conceived and impossible to implement for real effect conditions the Land Use Committee came up with at the strangely held second July 6th Land Use Committee meeting involving a $2 million escrow and a "Community Benefits Agreement" with unspecified terms but certain named stakeholders, including, at Mr. Spruiell's suggestion, Citizens Defending Libraries.
CB's process involving holding a second Land Use Committee meeting to supersede the votes of the Land Use after its first meeting following its hearing was suspect and CB2 member Doreen Gallo challenged it accordingly with a resolution (further below).
The four votes of the first meeting of the Land Use Committee, the committee composed of members who actually all heard the public testimony that evening were final and should probably stand as the committee's final actions for multiple reasons. The motion was made by CB2 member Doreen Gallo to that effect, but referred to the CB2 "parliamentarian" by the Chair, was evaluated to be incorrect. Was it really?
The effect of denying Ms. Gallo's motion was to put the CB2 deciders, those at the differently composed CB2 gathering on July 6th and those at the general CB2 meeting on the 15th at a much greater remove from the testimony and information the public was seeking to have taken into account in CB2's decision making.
Leading the Charge for Selling and Shrinking a Library For Virtually No Money
If there was a main leader and spearhead in the discussions arguing for the sale and shrinkage of the library it was stockbroker and CB2 member, chairperson of it Economic Development and Employment Committee, William Flounoy. Mr Flounoy specifically rejected the offer to receive any of the information offered to him from Citizens Defending Libraries ahead of time, explaining that he preferred to do "independent research" on the subject which he said he was good at because of his job. Based on his speeches at the July 15th CB2 meeting his "independent research" consisted of memorizing for straight-up, unadulterated repetition all the talking points of the BPL and developer seeking to have the library sold, shrunk and given over to the site of a condominium. This was probably easy for Mr Flounoy to do as he sits on the Schermerhorn BID connected with the Downtown Partnership (were you find him with the like of Forest City Ratner) where he could do "independent research" talking with fellow BID member Jordan Barowitz of the Durst real estate organization who is also on the BPL board pushing this sale.
Mr Flounoy's speeches calling for the sale and shrinkage of the library did not, as far as we could detect, involve any intermediating thoughts of his own. For instance, speaking of the BPL's refusal to repair the air conditioning at the library that suspiciously broke down six months before the BPL announce its proposal to sale and shrink the library (and five years after it secretively made the decision to sell it): "There's no money in the system to maintain it."
The library sale and shrinkage was also pushed strongly by CB2 member John Dew. In a streamlined approach to adopting the BPL's talking points, he argued for credulous acceptance of what the BPL says as it pushes its development plans: “This will improve their ability to provide library services within our community. . . This is something that the public library system in Brooklyn has asked us to approve. For me that is very important.”
A fair number of the CB2 members voiced their votes quietly on Wednesday night as if they might be as ashamed as they out to have been. Mr. Flounoy and Mr. Dew shouted out their "Yes" votes that night with gusto and afterwards hobnobbed in a happy, congratulatory fashion with the developer, David Kramer.
Before the meeting was over Mr. Kramer thanked the CB2 for delivering their vote to him, saying that he was "super-duper excited." The other member of his development team, architect Jonathan Marvel, also involved in Brooklyn Bridge Park (also discussed that night as a giveaway of public assets) similarly thanked the CB2 members.
For more of the comments of CB2 board members who did raise at least some of the controversial issues about selling and shrinking the library see the quotes in the press coverage appearing with the links below.
|BPL trustee Peter Aschkenasy (who has said the BPL should be more transparent, but not acted perceptibly to bring that about) sitting with Developer David Kramer of the Hudson Companies. Aschkenasy is also on the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation board also discussed by CB2 this same night as being too pro-development and insufficiently transparent.|
Here is the motion Doreen Gallo made. It is relatively self-explanatory about some of the strong-arming that contributed to the vote that night.
MOTION/RESOLUTION TO HONOR AND LET STAND
AS THE FINAL APPROPRIATE OUTCOME OF THE BROOKLYN COMMUNITY BOARD LAND USE COMMITTEE VOTES
OF JUNE 17th 2015 MEETING AND HEARING DATE
WHEREAS, Land Use Committee of Brooklyn Community Board 2 (Committee) met on June 17, 2015 to hold a hearing with respect to and consider a proposal to sell and shrink the publicly owned Brooklyn Heights Library in Downtown Brooklyn; andMs. Gallo's motion was not voted on. Instead Chair MacRea called upon CB2 member Jon Quint (not present at the previous Land Use Commitee meetings to address Ms. Gallo.
WHEREAS, after presentations by the developer and the Brooklyn Public Library to sell and shrink the library and conducting the hearing where the Committee listened to the public, the Committee discussed the proposal and voted twice NOT to approve the proposal: The first vote on (all three pieces of the proposal) failed by 6:6 (6 yes - 4 no votes and 2 abstentions); the second non-approval vote (only two pieces, leaving out modification of the agreement with Ratner) was a more profound defeat for the proposal 5:7 (5 yes, 5 no and 2 abstentions); and
WHEREAS, also as part of its decisions at its June 17th meeting the Committee voted twice NOT to meet again to consider the this matter: The first 4:7 (four to meet and 7 not meet), the second vote 5:7 (five to take more time to make a decision and 7 not to take more time to make a decision); and
WHEREAS, these votes not to approve the proposal and not to meet again about approving the sale and shrinkage of the library were valid as final outcomes of the Committee’s process; and
WHEREAS, the June 17th votes could and should have been let stand as the Committee’s final action; and
WHEREAS, the Committee subsequently convened a hastily scheduled, previously uncalendared meeting on July 6, 2015, the day after the Fourth of July Weekend, where for voting and discussion purposes the Committee members were different and did not represent the same group of committee members who had participated in and benefitted from the presentations and being present to listening to the public at the hearing; and
WHEREAS, there wasn’t sufficient means by which the reconstituted version of the Committee could be as adequately and comparably informed as the Committee originally constituted when it conducted all the predicate actions to its June 17th vote, including presence at the hearing; and
WHEREAS, the CB2 Chair stated to the CB2 Executive Committee that the meeting had been convened so that the Committee would now do “what they were supposed to. . What should have taken place, what should have taken place at” the Wednesday hearing, specifically without having to listen to the public before coming to a decision; and
WHEREAS, the Committee had, according to Robert’s Rules, already properly conducted and concluded its business without having to reconvene making this instruction incorrect and therefore improper, seeming to put pressure on the reconstituted Committee for a particular vote and means to achieve it; and
WHEREAS, the outcome of the July 6, 2015 Committee meeting of reconstituted members was somewhat confused in a number of respects including with respect to provisos and caveats about the project which would be unenforceable:
WHEREAS, the Committee on June 17, 2015, as constituted the day of the presentations and hearing, thereupon adjourned its meeting, the business of the meeting and the hearing held that day completed, now therefore be it resolved:
Section 1. The votes of non-approval of the proposal passed by the Committee, as originally constituted on June 17, 2015, the day of the presentations, hearing, and ensuing discussion should be let stand as the final proper outcome and disposition of the Committee’s process.
Section 2. The subsequent vote of the Committee on July 6, 2015 should be set aside, as failing to supersede the original proper and final disposition of the June 17, 2015 non-approval votes of the Committee conducting its proceedings in connection with the approval request before it that day.
Mr. Quint said that "in response to" Ms. Gallo’s “position”:
“The committee decides how it operates, and if the committee decided it wanted to reconvene and take an action that’s a vote, that’s a decision that the committee itself can make.He then stressed that the board could take any action it wanted ignoring what the committee did.
* * *
The fact is that now that the board has convened, it can take any action it wants.
The fact that the committee was a different. . Ah- constituted differently than at the time it remet is irrelevant, because the board. . er . the committee is its own judge of what it can do.
The public hearing was all the opportunity for the public to be heard
Once the public hearing was concluded, the committee members whether they heard the public or not, and I and every other board member received, before the July 7th meeting, [sic: actually July 6th meeting] a very extensive, and very well done summary of what had occurred at the public hearing, so that fact is that the committee action that was taken on July 7th [sic: actually July 6th] was proper. The motion that they made was proper. Its now before this committee [sic board].
However, the description of the way that the process for generating the new substitute votes taken by the committee given by Chair Shirley McRea’s at the June 22, 2015 CB2 Executive Committee meeting does not exactly quite jibe with the interpretation Mr. Quint as parliamentarian was giving for why the substitute vote was proper. There Ms. McCrea announced , “I will take this opportunity to say that this item is being sent back to committee” and in connection with this she referred cryptically to the CB2 members knowing that they had “received an email from the board office” explaining that the item was sent back to committee to set the stage for the July 15th vote.
She further explained at that meeting:
Now the follow-up meeting to last Wednesday’s meeting, and everyone needs to be very clear on this, the public hearings are closed, There are no more hearings on the BPL. It’s over. It's done with. It was done on Wednesday. When this committee meets next it will be to do what they were supposed to. . What should have taken place, what should have taken place at last Wednesday’s meeting without having sat there for three, four, five hours and then trying to come to some decision. I just want everyone to be clear on that: It is not a repeat of the public hearing. This is for the committee now to come together and do the business of the committee.As for the record of the hearing that CB2 members received as referred to the Mr. Quint?: Perhaps it was sufficient as minutes, but some who testified felt the briefer summaries censored the points they made and corrections requested were not made: For instance, including testimony that Mayor de Blasio was taking money from the development team while the team's application to acquire the library for development was pending. . . Those testifying who thought that by submitting testimony in writing the might circumvent any problems with undue truncation of their thoughts found that their written testimony was also not passed on to the other CB2 members. . .
. . . At the second, hastily convened, July 6th Land Use Committee the public was not permitted to speak until after the committee's vote. But then, a long line of community members lined up to speak unanimously against the sale. Again, these statement from the public, the only ones made after, and with a chance to reaction the formulation of new "conditions," was not relayed to the rest of the CB2 members.
Meanwhile, CB2 was distributing pro-sale-and-shrinkage material to the CB2 members to the deciding CB2 members, like a new article seemingly planted in the New York Times article written by a Saint Ann's parent (not disclosing herself to be such) suggesting that the deciding CB2 members "might be interested" in her pro-library sale and shrinkage "observations" and presumably her message too. At the same time the CB2 office was not passing along other negative viewpoints expressed and sent to the CB2 members,** because it was outside the time limit for things to be considered by the CB2 members.
(* "Ginia Bellafante, who writes the “Big City” column in the Metropolitan section of the New York Times, apparently walked over from her Brooklyn Heights home to attend the community board’s public hearing on the ULURP applications associated with the Brooklyn Public Library’s plans for its Brooklyn Heights and Business and Career branches. The applications are on the agenda for this Wednesday’s general meeting, to be held at 6:00 pm at St. Francis College. I thought the members of Community Board 2 and its Land Use Committee might be interested in Ms. Bellafante’s observations."- District Manager Robert Perris.)
(** Versus: "Sean, thank you for your submission. The public hearing is closed and the community board is not accepting additional testimony. Rob" [District Manager Robert Perris]- That was in response to “Landmark West! submits the attached testimony for your consideration in regards to your vote on the sale of the Brooklyn Heights Branch. We are very concerned about this potential and hope you consider our testimony. . . Sean Khorsandi, Advocacy Director, Landmark West")Although CB2 could have allowed the public comment to speak at the beginning of its meeting, before the vote, its intention to allow the public to speak only afterward didn't depart from the way it usually conducts business. . . But deciding on the sale of a major $120 million publicly owned asset, one of the most significant libraries in the city, is highly unusual, essentially unprecedented. That considered, every decision CB2 made from manipulating to supersede the vote made the day of, and responding to, the hearing testimony on, served to insulate and put the CB2 members at a far remove from the public and the CB2 members possible effective education about the significant action they were taking.
Influence of Brooklyn Heights Association on CB2 Votes
The Brooklyn Heights Association, with (private school) Saint Ann's connected decision-makers steering it, factored in profoundly to the voting outcomes. . . .
Among other things at the June 17th hearing the BHA testified urging the sale and shrinkage of the library.
. . . This might be TMI, but, taking it up a notch, all of the four votes of the 17th (and any on the 6th) would have been one more in our favor if Judy Stanton, Executive Director and an employee of the BHA, had been precluded from voting based on her conflict of interest. What makes this conflict of interest significant is that the key deciders (with a compounding improper preponderance under the way it was set up) on the BHA library committee were connected with Saint Ann's).
Albeit, this raises the question of Irene Janner, also a BHA employee. On the 17th she voted against the sale and shrinkage of the library. Subtracting her out for conflict of interest would have had the same effect of putting her in the negative column since the requirement was for a required number of affirmative votes.
On the 17th Ms. Janner spoke cogently about how there is absolutely no assurance that any money is going to the libraries from this sale (1000% true) and I think she also spoke of the burden on the schools and the committee's previous position on that. Wednesday night she sat silently, stonily expressing nothing, and switched her vote in favor of what she's previously opposed knowledgeably and eloquently. On the 6th, she was "on vacation" but on that date Judy Stanton stated that the developer calling the BHA office (presumably speaking to Ms. Stanton too) while calling for Ms. Janner. Stanton provided this information when it was asked whether anyone on the Land Use committee had had been contacted by the developer to lobby them.
|Judy Stanton, Executive Director of the Brooklyn Heights Association and Patrick Killackey, president of the Brooklyn Heights Association, both after the library vote cleared the room. What were their felling about representing their inconsistent representation of the community's interests?|
Here are links to coverage where comments are often possible (those links with asterisks following the bullets are one where no comments are possible).
• Brooklyn Eagle: CB2 approves Brooklyn Heights Library plan and Pier 6 affordable housing, but adds provisions, by May Frost, July 16, 2015
. . . a number of board members expressed concerns with problems brought on by the development boom in the Brooklyn Heights and Downtown area, including overcrowded schools, traffic and lack of infrastructure.• Brooklyn Paper: Community board OKs plan to stick high-rise on Heights library, crowd goes wild, By Noah Hurowitz, July 16, 2015
"No planning is going on in this city," said CB2 member Kenn Lowy. "I don't blame the developer, I blame the city."
Concerns were also expressed about the affordable housing component being built outside of Brooklyn Heights, in Clinton Hill.
* * * *
A number of members expressed doubt about the enforceability of Community Benefit Agreements.
"We're still recovering from Atlantic Yards," one man said.
Another called the Atlantic Yards CBA "just a piece of paper. It's worthless."
Some speakers also asked that the construction jobs at the site be union jobs. "Hudson [Companies] has a spotty record with contractors," one man said.
Board member Doreen Gallo read a resolution calling on the board to let stand a June 17 vote resulting in "non-approval" of the proposal, which followed a four-hour hearing featuring presentations and public comment.
* * * *
William Flounoy, chairperson of the Economic Development and Employment Committee, said the current library is "consistently closed with HVAC issues. There's no money in the system to maintain it."
* * * *
In a statement after the vote, Brooklyn Public Library President Linda Johnson said, "The community agrees - building a new Brooklyn Heights Library will provide residents with the world-class library they need and deserve, while also ensuring that branches throughout the borough receive much-needed repairs and renovations.
. . vocal group of local activists have opposed the plan to sell the branch every step of the way, arguing that the library should not be pawning off its property to private interests.• Brooklyn News 12: Vote favors sale of Brooklyn Heights Library, July 16, 2015
Members of the group Citizens Defending Libraries packed into the Founders Hall in St. Francis College for Wednesday's meeting, derailing discussions and booing when board members spoke in favor of the sale. The debate became so fiery at times that board chair Shirley McRae paused several times to threaten activists with expulsion.
• Brooklyn Heights Blog: Community Board 2 Approves Library and Pier 6 Housing Plans, Both With Conditions, by Claude Scales, July 17, 2015
. . a sometimes tumultuous meeting (see photo) Wednesday evening, with frequent shouting, chanting, and heckling from the public attendees, especially during the consideration of . . the planned sale of the Brooklyn Heights Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. .•* New York Times: Community Board Approves Redevelopment Plan for Brooklyn Public Library Branch, by Ileana Najarro, July 16, 2015
Although the city's 2016 budget contains a large increase in operating and capital funding for libraries, the investment is still not enough for the three library systems.• Patch: Brooklyn Community Board Votes to Stack Condos Atop Public Library- Condo developer would build new library on ground floor, by Simone Wilson, July 16, 2015
* * * *
Opponents of the proposed plan, led by the local group Citizens Defending Libraries, have argued against privatizing public space and claimed the library would shrink in size as a result of the project. Ms. Johnson countered that the library would not shrink . . .
* * * *
At the community board meeting on Wednesday, audience members, many holding up paper signs reading "Don't sell our libraries!" throughout the discussion of the plan, booed and shouted at board members seemingly in favor of the plan.
Among the concerns brought up by community board members questioning the plan, who received applause from many in the audience, were a call for a new school to open on the library site and a call for affordable housing units to be on or closer to the library site rather than in Clinton Hill.
One of the points raised by a board member, William Flounoy, that drew vocal criticism was that the Brooklyn Public Library system needs this plan because it is short on funds to properly maintain the Brooklyn Heights branch.
Many shouted back at him, calling him a liar.
"The library is not functioning the way it should be," he said.
Depending on who you talk to, last night’s Brooklyn Community Board 2 meeting was a big win or a catastrophic loss for Brooklyn’s public library system.• DNAinfo: Community Board OKs Sale of Brooklyn Heights Library to Condo Developer
By Nikhita Venugopal, July 16, 2015
. . despite ultimate support for the proposal, board members voiced concerns with the project's residential component that would bring thousands of new residents to an already congested area.• Brownstoner: Community Board 2 to Hold "Momentous" Vote on Heights Library Development Plan, by Chriserikson, 07/15/15
Some members pushed for a new school to be added to the project to address severe overcrowding in existing schools.
* * *
. . . The general board meeting does not allow for a public hearing, which typically takes place at committee meetings.
At one point, the audience chanted, "not for sale, not for sale."
* * * *
"The community agrees — . . . ” the Brooklyn Public Library said in a statement.
Whichever way the board goes, "CB2's vote will be momentous," judges the group Citizens Defending Libraries, which strongly opposes the $52,000,000 sale, believing it would "set the table for future developers to feast on public assets."• Curbed: Controversial Brooklyn Heights Library Tower Moves Forward, July 16, 2015
Even with an outpouring of opposition present in the audience, Community Board 2 of Brooklyn voted last night at a meeting at St. Francis College to approve its land use committee's recommendation to demolish the existing Brooklyn Heights Library building in order to build a 36-story condo tower.• The Real Deal: Board OKs Hudson Cos.' library redevelopment plan- Developer would buy public land for $52 million and build housing, by Tess Hofmann, July 16, 2015.
* * * *
The debate over the future of one of Brooklyn's most treasured libraries stretched through hours and hours of discussion, with last night's meeting scheduled ad hoc because of the timeliness of this topic and several other agenda items. (The board's calendar normally allows for a recess in the months of July and August.)
* * * *
. . .The meeting began with a motion by board member Eric Spruiell, part of the land use committee, to remove the word "usable" from the second addendum, citing the vagueness of the word and its implication that the amount of library space in the new facility will not match the maximum space available.
* * *
Doreen Gallo, another board member, tried to pass a more extensive resolution that would've made the June 16 denial on the recommendation the board's final vote. She claimed that the second meeting's radically different vote was due to the absence of some board members at the first meeting and the lack of formal presentation by the library or the developer at the second meeting. Gallo's proposal was popular with the crowd, but it was quickly shut down by board.
* * * *
the discussion turned to the existing recommendation, and board members deliberated for nearly an hour on the merits and pitfalls of the proposed development. Several speakers noted the lack of protection for construction workers in the recommendation. Hilda Cohen, a member of the land use committee, emphasized that CBAs would not suffice, as "they are unenforceable pieces of paper." Many other board members were concerned that the influx of wealthy residents would continue to overcrowd the existing infrastructure, i.e. schools, while offsetting the economic class range of the neighborhood.
"I'm concerned that this is another case where we're not thinking about the long-term consequences," said Alejandro Varela, also calling the proposal a "charter school approach to land use." His comments were met with loud applause. Kenn Lowy noted that the neighborhood has only gotten one new school in recent years, and yet its population has expanded greatly. "There's no infrastructure," he said. "I don't know how we can even think about approving a plan when we know it's not going to work."
* * *
. . . Later on in the meeting, Juliet Cullen-Chang pushed back against Lowy's statement [Lowy objected to the “affordable” housing being off site] . .
When the vote was finally announced, audience members stood up and waved their flyers and posters angrily while shouting or jeering at the board. Within seconds, the crowd erupted into a chant of "shame on you," which lasted for a few minutes before the audience began to thin.
Across all Brooklyn Public Library branches, there are about $300 million in capital needs. Linda E. Johnson, Brooklyn Public Library president, said the sale should “make a dent” in that amount. The plan has been opposed by some who consider the city selling its libraries to be an affront to the community.• Capital New York: Local councilman not sold on Brooklyn Heights library redevelopment, By Sally Goldenberg, Jul. 19, 2015.
The next step would be for the plan to pass through the office of the borough president, as it makes its way toward the City Planning Commission.
. . in an interview, councilman Steve Levin criticized the current proposal and said without some changes he might oppose it when the project lands before the Council for a final vote.• Queen Ledger: Board votes in favor of BK Heights library sale, by Holly Bieler, July 21, 2015.
Primarily, the Brooklyn Democrat said he philosophically opposes the city's intention to sell a public asset-the land on which the library sits and the air rights to build above the current structure-to a private developer.
"I have had concerns that have come up throughout the whole process," Levin said last week, reached by telephone while driving through the Midwest on his honeymoon.
"Is it necessary to do this? Is it necessary to build a development on top of a library?" he asked, referring to the sale of air rights. "It is, in some way, privatizing public assets."
* * * *
"There is a philosophical issue here, whether or not this is the appropriate use of those air rights," he said, adding that any similar project proposed in his district "would always raise the same concern."
* * *
The project, he said, "doesn't add any new school space but it would impact the population, and we don't have enough elementary schools in the neighborhood."
He also said the developer should pay unionized construction workers a mandatory prevailing wage, something a union leader alluded to the night of the community board vote.
Michael White, founder of the group Citizens Defending Libraries, which advocates against the private sale of libraries and long one of the project's most vocal opponents, said despite Wednesday's vote he was optimistic the sale would not go through• The Indypenden: Turning Libraries Into Condos, By Peter Rugh, August 5, 2015,
"The outrage that the community is experiencing will ripple outward," he said. "I think we will have a victory, but it's going to be a very hard-fought one."
The application next hits the Borough President's desk next month before going on to the City Planning Commission and City Council.
"Shut not your doors to me proud libraries," Whitman wrote. We in present-day New York would do well to listen. Libraries, like other bastions of the public sphere - our parks, hospitals, schools, public housing - are under siege from a real estate industry that sees the finite space of our city as a bottomless cash cow.
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In a July 15 roll call vote nearly drowned out by chants of "Not for sale!" from the audience, members of Brooklyn Community Board 2 in Brooklyn Heights voted 25-14 with four abstentions in support of Hudson's plan. Under city law, the proposed luxury condo tower still needs to be reviewed by the Brooklyn Borough President and the City Planning Commission and then be voted on by City Council.
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"We used to fight about getting enough funds to build and expand our libraries," said Michael White a former city planner and co-founder of the activist group Citizens Defending Libraries. "Now we're fighting about not getting enough money so that we don't have to sell off and shrink our libraries."
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The defunding of New York's libraries has come at a time when their popularity has been surging. From 2002 to 2014, annual attendance at programs put on by libraries increased from 1.7 to 2.8 million people per year. Checkouts of physical and e-books and other items have increased by 30 percent. Altogether, the city's libraries receive 37 million visitors per year, a number that exceeds the combined annual attendance at New York's major professional sports events, performing arts centers, museums, historical sites, botanical gardens and zoos.
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"They've let things deteriorate," said Tom Angotti, a professor of urban planning at Hunter College and author of New York for Sale: Community Planning Confronts Global Real Estate, remarking on what he describes as the New York's pervasive neoliberal development model, "So now they can turn around and say, `You see, this is not working. We'll give it to a private company and they'll know how to use it.'"
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The sale of the Brooklyn Heights Library is the latest in a series of transactions with developers involving New York's libraries. These privatizations began under Bloomberg and have continued with de Blasio. Two prior dealings between the libraries and the real estate industry offer a glimpse into what the public can expect from such activity. It doesn't exactly inspire confidence.
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"It's a matter of community," said Angotti. "Libraries are one of the few democratic places left in the city. You go to a local library, people are reading, going to events, socializing, people of all ages. They are places where people can go for advice and look for information, using a variety of different media. It has a value that goes beyond the dollar value. It's a value to people."
The proposed deal is now under review by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. He will hold a public hearing on the proposed sale at Brooklyn Borough Hall on August 18 at 6pm. In a recent interview with The Brooklyn Paper, Adams said he envisions book-free libraries in the future.
"We no longer need shelves of books in libraries to look impressive," he commented.
On the sale of the Brooklyn Heights Library, Adams remains officially non-committal.
"I look forward to reviewing Community Board 2's recommendations and hearing from local residents about the proposed plans for the Brooklyn Heights branch of the Brooklyn Public Library," Adams said in a statement released by a press spokesperson.
The fate of the highrise and the life of the library underneath it might just depend on the pressure that comes from below, which critics like White vow to supply.
"We'll be talking with the borough president," said White, who, along with other members of Citizens Defending Libraries, plans on attending the hearings Adams is holding on the sale in August. "You cannot sell off a publicly owned library like this without going through a public process, and we're still at the very beginning of that process."
• World Socialist Web Site: Brooklyn Library locations sold to real estate developers, by Isaac Finn, July 20, 2015.
The administration of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio continues to sell public property to real estate developers, most recently with the decision last week to sell two library locations.How Did The Members of CB2 Vote On Sale and Shrinkage of The Library?
On July 15, Brooklyn Community Board 2 voted, amid protests from neighborhood residents, to approve the sale of the Brooklyn Heights Library location for $52 million to the Hudson Companies. Protesters waved fliers and chanted "shame on you," following the Community Board vote . . .
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In addition, city officials announced earlier this month the sale of the Sunset Park Library location, also in Brooklyn, to the nonprofit developer Fifth Avenue Committee. Under the stated plan, the library would be expanded to roughly double its size, with an additional 49 housing units built on top.
The announcement of these plans, part of a plan to supposedly build 3,740 affordable housing units in New York State, including 2,500 in New York City, drew criticism from Sunset Park residents, who fear the program is an attempt attract more affluent renters and push out current neighborhood residents. Protesters shouted “Affordable for who?” and “Stop gentrification!”
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The decision to sell the Brooklyn Heights and Sunset Park library locations is part of an ongoing strategy—initiated under the administration of Michael Bloomberg and continued under de Blasio—of utilizing the funding crisis of New York City libraries to open up their locations to developers.
This policy has already devastated New York’s library system, with the demolition of the famous Donnell Library Center in 2008. The Donnell Library location was first sold to the American Folk Art Museum, which subsequently lost the location after defaulting on its debts. The Donnell Library, after seven years of being closed, is now planned to reopen at a third of its former size and inside the same building as a luxury hotel.
De Blasio has played a particularly duplicitous role in these developments. He stated during his 2013 election campaign that he would defend public facilities from real estate developers, but since taking office, he has allowed library locations to be sold.
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The de Blasio administration aims to maintain a progressive veneer by providing the library system with slightly more funds and building a negligible number of affordable housing units, even while the mayor opens up library locations to developers and real-estate speculators.
How did CB2 members vote about sale and shrinkage of the library? Which CB2 board members voted for the sale and shrinkage of the library? Which CB2 board members voted against the sale and shrinkage of the library?
Here, from the roll-call vote, is detailed information about how the individual CB2 members voted on the proposed library sale. We will be updating this information with more to explain who the Brooklyn CB2 members are, why each may have voted the way they did and what their interests may have been in that regard.
Roll Call Vote:
|Ekoyo Atkins- Voted to sell and shrink library|
2. Quinn Caruthers- Yes
3. Hilda Cohen- No
4. (Lionel ??) Cohen- Abstain
5. Juliet Cullen-Cheung- Yes Exec. VP. Steiner NYC (real estate project manager) that acts as a developer is affiliated with Steiner Studios that seeks a lot of subsidies and land arrangements from city
6. Kate Davey- No
7. Christopher DeVito- Yes
8. John Dew- Yes- Big Kramer supporter who hobnobbed with the developer after the vote.
9. Betty Feibusch- Yes
|William Flounoy-Voted to sell and shrink library, (leading the fight)|
11. Doreen Gallo- No
12. Carlton Gordon- Yes
13. William Harris- No
14. John Harrison- Yes
15. Carolyn Hubbard-Kamunanwire- No
16. Anthony Ibelli- No
|Irene Janner- BHA employee who switched vote to vote for sale and shrinkage of the library|
18. Karen Johnson- No
19. Samantha Johnson- Abstain
20. Leonard T. Jordan, Jr.- No
21. Andrew Lastowecky- Yes
22. Kenn Lowy- No
23. Tamara McCaw- No
24. Shirley McRae- Yes
25. Sidney Meyer- Yes
26. Thomas Michael- Yes
27. Maisha Morales- No
28. Samantha Norino (spelling?)- Yes
29. Santia Pelliccia- Yes
30. Denise Peterson- Abstain
31. Meredith Phillips Almeida- Yes
32. Jon Quint- ?? Inaudible, but probably “No” based on math
33. Sandra Rothbard- No
35. Ciro Scala- No
36. Lenue Singletary- Yes
37. Brandon Smith- No
38. Dwight Smith-Abstain
39. Eric Spruiell- Yes
40. Alejandro Varela- No
41. Lawrence Whiteside- Yes
42. Joan Whitsett- Yes
43. Barbara Zahler-Gringer- Yes Ms. Zahler-Gringeris an attorney.
44. Absent- Hazra Ali
45. Absent- Ernest Augustus
46. Absent- Akosua Cobb
47. Absent- Thomas Lee
48. Absent- Helen Nwosu
49. Absent- Dorothea Thompson-Manning
A bad vote yes. but if CB2 can always change votes afterwards, like those of it Land Use Committee, then maybe it means a little bit less in the scheme of things. . . and could be changed.