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.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

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

 (We will be updating this page.)

Here is some of the testimony of the Citizens Defending Libraries.

* * * *

November 18, 2015

City Council Subcommittee
      on Planning, Disposition and Concessions
City Hall
City Hall Park
New York, NY 10007

Re: Submission of supplemental testimony against the proposed sale and drastic shrinkage of the Brooklyn Heights Library, Brooklyn’s central destination library in Downtown Brooklyn. (ULURP C15039 PPK - Oral testimony taken by Subcommittee on November 18, 2015)
Dear City Council Subcommittee:

We are going to be giving you a lot of testimony, here today, and particularly in follow-up and it is important for you to know that we have a great deal of information and therefore the answers to the questions you should have, specially given the lack of transparency with which the Brooklyn Public Library has conducted itself with respect to these library sales since at least 2007, likely 2005.

You need to know that the public reviles these proposed library sales.  Citizens Defending Libraries finds pubic response consistent and nearly universal. Citizens Defending Libraries collected testimonies from over 2,000 individuals opposing this proposed sale and shrinkage in just over two weeks.  Citizens Defending Libraries has over 25,000 signatories to its petitions opposing the sale of this and other NYC libraries.  Citizens Defending Libraries also has a widely signed letter of support calling for New York City libraries to be properly funded, not sold, signed by, among others: The Committee To Save The New York Public Library, The Cobble Hill Association, the DUMBO Neighborhood Association, the Boerum Hill Association and the Park Slope Civic Association.

To understand what is going on, you should compare two deals conceived at the same time: the first library sale and shrinkage that was done, the Donnell Library and this one, closely modeled after it.  Although the execution of these deals is separated somewhat in time, there is not much else to separate them. They even have the same people in the background, including the Offensends, David and Janet. . .

A week ago Saturday (November 7th) was the 8th anniversary of the announcement of the sudden, secretive sale of the Donnell Library.  Last March the luxury hotel, the luxury condominium building, the luxury restaurants replacing the Donnell Library all opened, but the promised shrunken (less than one-third size) "replacement" Donnell library is nowhere in sight. The NYPL's current, relentlessly postponed expected completion date for that library, to be mostly underground and largely bookless, is  "Summer 2016."  Like the proposed Brooklyn Heights transaction a pittance was received for the library's sale.   There can be no mistaking from this the priorities behind these deals.  When the math is done, the NYPL netted perhaps not even $25 million.

The hearings to date and the more than 2,000 individual testimonies we collected in a short time opposing the sale (stating twenty-two very good reasons- attached) present many reasons not to sell this library, some of them:
    1.    This a "one-shot deal."
    2.    The BPL’s selling the library without even bothering to design the so-called "replacement" shrunken library first: Although the proposed sale would lock in this preordained shrinkage, the Brooklyn Public Library did not design a replacement library beforehand.
    3.    No guarantee that any of proceeds going to the city general fund would ultimately be spent on libraries (the "main argument" for the proposed sale).
    4.    The resulting imbalance and burdens between development and supporting public infrastructure when our educational infrastructure, schools and libraries get such short shrift.
    5.    The lack of a proper appraisal and testimony that showed that the city was not even getting the "tear-down" value of an extremely valuable asset, an asset that is worth far more than its “tear-down” value.
Let’s look at just one of these:  Having to sell one's property for no more than its tear-down value is the nightmare of any property owner that has made a substantial investment in their property.  This is a $120+ million public asset that was expanded and fully upgraded in 1993, one of the most modern in the Brooklyn system, but is being sold to net New York City's general fund considerably less than $40 million.  When the math is finally done there might even be a loss.  The library would be shrunk from 63,000 square feet to about 21,000 square feet. The tear-down value of the library is no more than a good indication of what would be only a fraction of the cost involved, just a starter, if the public were ever to try to reestablish the full equivalent of this library in the future.

Sale of this asset would be sheer folly.  The public knows it and anyone responsible will be held accountable.  We swear we will not forget: Remember the Donnell!


Michael D. D. White

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