|Levin said that 95% of his constituents were against the Brooklyn Heights Library sale and shrinkage. Then he pushed it through with a backroom deal unveiled at the last minute.|
We have complied a list of reasons, our top ten reasons, to believe that Councilman Steve Levin, contrary to reports, was actually working to promote the sale and shrinkage of the Brooklyn Heights Library for some time with little concern directed to what his constituents wanted or what would be in the public interest.
The supposed narrative that did not pan out was that Steve Levin, scared of the real estate industry was keeping his head down, but that he still was really interested in doing the right thing. Doing the right thing meant neither selling nor shrinking an important central destination Brooklyn Library that has been recently expanded and fully upgraded. We still actually believe Mr. Levin knew and knows that not selling the library was exactly the right thing to do; we just no longer believe he was intending to do the right thing for a long time. . .
. . . So the idea was that Levin was holding back so as to appear impartial* and that he then planned to act as as a final arbiter, hearing the facts and then acting as a defender of the public interest. This meant he would, in the end, weigh in to declare the unsavory boondoggle for what it was, delivering a quick the coup de grace to the proposal. It even seemed appropriate that he might would use as his instrument to deliver that blow a crushing citation to the Brooklyn Public Library’s utter lack of transparency about it plans to sell libraries and similarly “leverage” libraries all around Brooklyn for the benefit of developers, not the public.
(* a notion he is still attempting to foster with an open letter about the library sale.)Sure, that's what we thought? . . . .keep dreaming.
Here are the top ten reasons to believe that this narrative was all quite false and that Councilman Levin was actually secretly working against the public interest to promote the real estate deal, probably for well over a year now.
10. Levin abruptly at the last minute canceled his previously scheduled appearance at an April 2013 Library Week Citizens Defending Libraries rally where he was to appear alongside then fellow Council Member Tish James and speak against selling of the Brooklyn Heights Library. Levin initially cited a “family health” issue. Then he said it was actually because heavyweights and library trustees were pressuring him with incessant phone calls.Note: #7 above is really two separate reasons (taking the list over “ten,” which is also to note that there are more than enough reasons that can be added up to believe that Levin was working against the public to push this deal through for some time.
9. We remember the way that Levin kept running away from library advocates at various public meetings and always seemed, in terms of body language, very uncomfortable in their presence.
8. When we worked to put Tish James, the Pubic Advocate, in touch with Levin to work with him so that she could give him back up to insist on transparency from the Brooklyn Public Library Tish came back less committed to action than she had seemed before.
7. There was way that various elected officials kept saying suspiciously, perhaps ominously warning us: “Where’s Levin on this?” City Council member Laurie Cumbo may have retroactively let the cat out of the bag about what other elected officials knew and when they knew it as she explained her vote on the proposed library sale and shrinkage at City Council (12/16/2015) by thanking Levin for "standing strong" and for his "courage" and his "bravery" as she watched "over the last few months" as he "stood in the face of adversity . . .ridiculed, insulted, threatened, and even bashed in public hearings and meetings" getting the project through ULURP. Cumbo could only have been half correct: Levin suffered no abuse from the public during this time period because the public didn’t know he was working against their interest or to get the sale through ULURP. (ULURP began June 2015). That "courage" and "bravery" could only be interpreted in terms of Levin's intention to defy the wishes of his constituents.
6. Then there was that way that when a new group, Latinos For Libraries, showed up with new incriminating information about the BPL’s accounting, Levin, rather than using it, suggested that the information be taken straight to Councilman Brad Lander, one of the key honchos pushing for library sales, and most especially for this one.
5. This is the second library in Levin’s district that has been shrunk by the Brooklyn Public Library: The second floor of the Williamsburg Library was given away and Levin seemed not to care about this saying that a good portion of the population in Williamsburg “doesn’t read books” and that Paul Parkhill, the head of Spaceworks, the Bloomberg created private firm to which the second floor was given, was his “friend.”
4. The fact that although Levin went on the record denying that a compromise was in the works it turned out that he had been working for weeks, probably months, on what he would present as “the improvements to this project that I announced."
3. The fact that Levin was feeding the community information that the de Blasio administration didn’t care particularly about the seeing the library sale pushed through when, in actuality, he was working with de Blasio’s top development aid, Deputy Mayor for Development Alicia Glen (from Goldman Sachs) who is said to have adopted the library sale “as her own” pushing to "get the project across the finish line.”
2. The fact that when speaking of the price at which it might be acceptable to sell the library, Levin studiously avoided considering the value of the library from the public’s point of view (the recently expanded and fully ungraded library would cost $120+ million to replace). With blinders, he insisting only on looking at the “tear-down” value a developer would pay for it, essentially what a developer would pay for an empty lot, not what someone would pay for property with a valuable building on it. (Actually, a developer would probably pay more for an empty lot since it would save demolition costs and other hassles.)
1. The most important Number One reason to believe Levin was working on the other side is this?: Levin promised in December 2014 that he would do his duty (an absolute minimum for an elected official) and insist on transparency from the Brooklyn Public Library. Then, despite a concerted effort at follow-up to hold him to this promise, he never honored his promise. Why? One might first suppose that insistence on his part to enforce transparency could have enhanced Levin’s ability to “negotiate” for the public's benefit. You might think so, wouldn't you? Actually, Levin probably understood differently, that because of the nature of the transaction such transparency was something that the proposed library sale and shrinkage would could not withstand. Transparency would have killed the project, and as that is something Levin almost certainly understood, he avoided it.