Brooklyn Heights Association
55 Pierrepont Street
Brooklyn, New York 11201
Re: Stop Supporting The Sale and Drastic Shrinkage of the Brooklyn Heights Library And Start Opposing It.
Dear Brooklyn Heights Association:
We ask again for that the Brooklyn Heights Association take highly consequential and urgent action: We ask you to stop inflicting woeful damage on the community that it is your duty to represent. Specifically, stop supporting the sale and drastic shrinkage of the Brooklyn Heights Library, the central destination library in Downtown Brooklyn, and start vigorously opposing that sale and shrinkage.
There will be a City Planning Commission hearing about this proposed sale and shrinkage on September 22, 2015. Be there and testify against this real estate boondoggle and the losses it would inflict upon the community.
Such change by the BHA is long overdue, but would it is still not too late to have significant effect because much hangs in the balance right now. Your influence has weight. Whether that’s fortunate for the community or exactly the opposite depends on what you do. The community watches you hoping that the BHA will not now further enmesh itself in ill-considered support for the sale and shrinkage.
Your decision will be long remembered just as the city continues talk about, write books about, and excoriate what happened when the Donnell Library was sold. That library's sale and shrinkage is now considered the "poster child" for an inexcusable sacrifice of a library. It is no accident that the proposed Brooklyn Heights Library sale and shrinkage, conceived of at the same time, is modeled on that Donnell debacle with some of the same people connecting them in the background, some of those people with their conections to the Brooklyn Heights Association as well.
The Brooklyn Borough President just issued a disapproval (with conditions) of this proposed sale and shrinkage (“guided by the thousands of Brooklynites whose feedback” he “considered in recent weeks”). Please do work to support not frustrate what the community has achieved.
The BHA’s doing the right thing in this regard would correct the inconsistencies and cognitive dissonance that surely hamper the BHA in its other work:
• The BHA once worked to make this a bigger library and that goal was ultimately achieved when this Brooklyn Heights Library was substantially enlarged in 1993 by building out over two wings. (It was also fully upgraded at the time so that it is now one of the best libraries in the system in terms of supporting 21st century computer needs.) And now the BHA argues for the library to be shrunk to a mere third of its present size, far smaller than it ever was?The BHA should acknowledge that ever since the initial support the BHA gave to this sell-off of a public asset, facts have continued to roll out that make it torturously clear that what is being proposed is far worse than it might have superficially supposed at first. There's therefore plenty of reasons fro the BHA to change course, like the Brooklyn Public Library's lack of transparency. Thinking through the PS8 crisis itself ought to have been enough.
• The BHA has expressed concern about the overcrowding of PS8 calling for a moratorium on approval of new discretionary development (like the buildings in Brooklyn Bridge Park) because: “Public school overcrowding will be exacerbated by the additional development. PS 8 is already operating at more than 140% capacity and turning away local kindergarteners for this Fall.”. But the BHA would specifically exclude from this moratorium the sale of a significant public library, thereby eliminating a supporting educational resource and worsening the imbalance as our infrastructure fails to keep pace with private development racing forward?
• The BHA once refused to join with Citizens Defending Libraries in calling for proper funding of all our libraries and expressing concern about what was being done to libraries throughout the city. The BHA refused to take a position because those libraries were outside of the neighborhood. But now, the BHA is reversing itself, calling for the Brooklyn Heights Library to be sold because (supposedly) the sale and shrinkage would mean that libraries in other neighborhoods would get better funding? . . . (That is actually treacherously false to believe and patently silly, because there is no guarantee that money would actually go to libraries.) Worse, this library is being sold off at a huge public loss in a transaction that may net less than zero cash. Lastly, it is obvious that selling off libraries to developers as a self-cannibalizing funding program is more likely to foster more underfunding than anything else.
The BHA apparently faces difficulty in reversing and correctly its position because there are certain trustees on the BHA board who are still fighting for the sale and shrinkage of the library. We have a simple solution: Those trustees who are working against the community interest should resign. Accordingly, if the BHA cannot otherwise correct course, we demand that they be removed from the board. We think the rest of the community will readily endorse us on this. . . . You know best who needs to leave the board, but we know how Alexandra Bowie and Erica Belsey Worth have fought hard to push through the sale and shrinkage of the library against the community's wishes and we know that Inger Yancey on the library committee is one of the board members with a direct conflict of interest in the matter given her connection with Saint Ann’s School.
Although the community is sadly accustomed to having its voice ignored and run rough-shod over by private real estate interests, this is not the behavior we expect from the BHA. If the BHA continues to act in a fashion contrary to the community's interest and expressed wishes, the community will more and more perceive, as has already been achingly the case, that the BHA is no longer what we once knew and understood it to be. . .
. . Replace your errant policy, if needs be your trustees too, or we may be faced with having to replace the BHA.
Michael D. D. White and Carolyn E. McIntyre
Co-founders of Citizens Defending Libraries