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, November 19, 2015

How to Submit Testimony To City Council And Its Land Use Disposition Subcommittee About The Proposed Sale And Drastic Shrinkage of the Brooklyn Heights Library

2,000+ testimonies collected in slightly more than two weeks all opposing the sale and shrinkage of the Brooklyn Heights Library
We have been kept waiting for instructions on how to submit testimony to the City Council Subcommittee on Planning, Disposition and Concessions (a part of the Land Use Committee) in connection with its hearing on the precedent-setting proposed fire sale of a major public asset, Brooklyn' second biggest library, the central destination library in Downtown Brooklyn.

Here is what we can tell you now.

We suggest that you submit testimony to the the City Council Subcommittee on Planning, Disposition and Concessions and that you also have you testimony do double duty by submitting to the New York State Assembly Standing Committee on Libraries and Technology as provided below.

To submit testimony to City Council we suggest that you send testimony to all of the City Council subcommittee members and to City Council Member Stephen Levin as follows.  (You ca also consider calling too):
Andrew Cohen  -  District11@council.nyc.gov 718-549-7300
Darlene Mealy -  dmealy@council.nyc.gov 718-953-3097
Inez E. Dickens -  idickens@council.nyc.gov 212-788-7397
Mark Treyger - mtreyger@council.nyc.gov 718-373-9673
Ydanis A. Rodriguez -  yrodriguez@council.nyc.gov 917-521-2616 

Councilman Stephen Levin, slevin@council.nyc.gov, 718-875-5200 (and 718-643-6620)
To help you with the content of you testimony:

    •    Here is the Media Advisory we sent about the hearing:

    •    Here is testimony that Citizens Defending Libraries submitted at the hearing:  Report on Wednesday, November 18th City Council Hearing On Proposed Sale And Shrinkage of Brooklyn's Second Largest Library Plus Testimony of Citizens Defending Libraries.

    •    Here are back and forth exchanges expressing concerns about the project at the City Planning Commission and information from Citizens Libraries about why all of these concerns are extremely valid:  Report on Tuesday, September 22nd City Planning Commission Hearing On Proposed Sale and Shrinkage of Plus Testimony of Citizens Defending Libraries.

    •    Here is the testimony form from Citizens Defending Libraries completed by more than 2,000 people that Citizens Defending Libraries collected in just over two weeks that is a useful as a checklist of twenty-two reasons most people think the library should not be sold or shrunk.  (Text also at the very bottom.)
You can print this form and use it to submit testimony
All we can tell you about when to submit your testimony: The sooner the better.

HERE'S a heads up about a valuable possibility:  Have the testimony you are giving to City Council about the Brooklyn Heights Library do double duty-

You have until tomorrow, November 20th, to also submit your City Council testimony as written testimony to the Assembly Committee on libraries as well.

Suggestion:  Just quote BPL President Linda Johnson from yesterday's hearing saying that the sale and shrinkage of the Brooklyn Heights Library is being looked at as a model for future transactions by all three New York City Library systems.  Then tell the Assembly that it is not appropriate for the state to be funding libraries and not looking into the way that libraries like SIBL, into which we have put a lot of state funds, are then being turned into real estate deals that benefit developers, not the public.  Then remind the Assembly Committee that libraries are regulated by the State Education Department and that the these shadowy largely undisclosed deals appear to be highly inconsistent with that state regulation and its intended benefits.

And as for the deadline of tomorrow: Better late than never.

Submit you testimony to the State Assembly Committee by emailing
Steven McCutcheon

Steven R. McCutcheon
NYS Assembly Program and Counsel
Legislative Analyst
Libraries Committee

Here is the Assembly's notice of that hearing

Hearing Notice-



SUBJECT:      Funding Public Libraries.
PURPOSE:    To examine the 2015 -2016 State Budget's impact on libraries.
                         in New York State.


Steven McCutcheon
Legislative Analyst
Assembly Committee on Libraries and Education Technology
Room 513M, The Capitol
Albany, New York 12247
Email: mccutcheons@assembly.state.ny.us
Phone: (518)  455-4881
Fax:     (518) 455-7250

* *  * *

TEXT OF TESTIMONY FORM (a valuable checklist)
Here in TEXT form is a checklist of reasons you can include when you testify that you are against the sale and shrinkage of the Brooklyn Heights Library:
•    The library, which I understand has a probable value of over $120 million, is being sold for absurdly little.

•    The BPL has been extraordinarily non-transparent in all ways including keeping its plan to sell this library secret since 2007 (or before) and refusing to publicly disclose  its "strategic real estate plan" revealing what libraries it wants to turn into real estate deals next.

•     We should not be shrinking this library, especially down to just one-third size, especially since it was just enlarged and completely upgraded in 1993 at considerable public expense and sacrifice.
•     It is impossible to guarantee that any proceeds from the sale (which all go to the city) would ever come back to be spent on libraries and, even if they were, the net amount is paltry, perhaps close to or even less than zero.
•     The library is a sturdy beautifully designed building with space that can easily be put to good many good uses in different ways.

•    The library's "Business and Career" functions should not be moved out of the Downtown Brooklyn business district, especially when it is growing.

•    We should not be selling off our public infrastructure to private developers, especially educational infrastructure when, for example, our schools are not keeping pace with new development.

•    It is discriminatory and anti-democratic to turn libraries into real estate boondoggles.

•    I don't like that Mayor de Blasio was taking money from the development team that was chosen while their application was pending. (Developers he said were "lurking right behind the curtain . .  very anxious to get their hands on these valuable properties.")

•    Stuck in the bottom of a residential, privately owned building, we won't ever be able to enlarge this library to correct this shrinkage or accommodate growth.

•    Selling libraries to developers "because they are underfunded"creates a perverse incentive to underfund libraries, exactly what we have witnessed.

•    The library is being shrunk down to a preordained size without bothering to design a new library first or figure out how many books it should hold.

•    I want lots of books in our libraries and this plan gets rid of them.

•    Selling this public asset so cheaply will lead to sell-offs of our other assets including sale of more libraries.

•    We can't sell off our libraries for a few so-called "affordable" housing units, especially when these units "poor door" style are insultingly far away and we are, at the same time, shedding 14,000 truly affordable NYCHA public housing units using the same tactics and excuses employed to sell libraries.

•    A private school (Saint Ann's) is benefitting in a significant and undisclosed amount from the loss that the public will suffer if the library is sold and shrunk (and may even get more from the sale than the city and BPL will net).

•    I don't believe the fairy tales the BPL is telling about how it `can't fix' library air conditioning.  (I wouldn't sell my home for this reason!)

•    No extra space will be built at the Grand Army Plaza Library to house any shift of the "Business and Career" functions to that location and there are no designs or cost estimations for how to cram those functions in.

•    Library use and circulation of physical books is up dramatically and our libraries should grow and be funded to accommodate that.

•    This plan is a short-sighted sacrifice of an irreplaceable asset, inexcusable for a wealthy city like ours.

•    We should have learned from the Donnell Library sale debacle (that this sale is modeled on!) how terrible mistakes like this are.

•    The environmental repercussions of this project have not been adequately considered and assessed.

•    Civilizations that dismantle their libraries generally fail.


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