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, December 10, 2015

Tish James, Public Advocate To City Council: "Supporting affordable housing and preserving public assets like libraries must not be competing imperatives."

The same day the new York City Comptroller wrote expressing objection to the proposed Brooklyn Heights Library sale and shrinkage Tish James the Public Advocate wrote the letter below to the City Council.

* * * * 

The Public Advocate
for the City of New York
Letitia James - Public Advocate
The Public Advocate
for the City of New York

NEW YORK, NY 10007
TEL: 212 669 7200
FAX  212 669 4701

December 9,2015

Members of the New York City Council:

Like many of you, I've been a proud champion of affordable housing and preserving public assets like our libraries. As a member of the City Council, I pushed for a development in Fort Greene, Brooklyn to include additional affordable housing, as well as spared the local Brooklyn Public Library Pacific Street branch from demolition. As part of the approval process for BAM South I helped ensure that the existing Brooklyn Public Library branch (Pacific St.) was preserved.

Now, the Council faces another important vote with respect to the Brooklyn Public Library in Brooklyn Heights. In my role as New York City Public Advocate, I continue to remain active in fighting for development to include affordable housing without harming our city's public assets.

With that in mind, I want to share specific concerns I have with regards to the Brooklyn Heights BPL plan. As I have previously expressed in public meetings like Community Board 2, I am deeply concerned about creating segregated communities by allowing developers to place affordable housing units off-site. I am also concerned about the site is being valued accurately and whether New York City is receiving proper compensation from the developer. Moreover, I want to ensure that we end the underfunding of our libraries and give our libraries the financial support they badly need and deserve.

Supporting affordable housing and preserving public assets like libraries must not be competing imperatives. We should not be asked to choose between our need for affordable housing and our libraries.

As members of the City Council navigate the approval process for Brooklyn Public Library in Brooklyn Heights, I respectfully urge you to take the aforementioned concerns into consideration.       

Lastly, as the city's watchdog, I will continue to work with the City Council, the Mayor, the Borough Presidents, and community advocates to ensure that the process of building affordable housing is fair, transparent, and not reliant on selling public assets. I look forward to continuing to working with you on this important issue.


Letitia James
Public Advocate for the City of New York

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