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, February 18, 2016

INSIDE the CUNY Graduate Center Mayor Bill de Blasio & Paul Krugman Have a Conversation about Inequality in New York City: INSIDE We Say Don’t Sell Our Libraries Because That IS Inequality

Right: Citizens Defending Libraries was outside the Paul Krugman, Mayor de Blasio income inequity conversation
Thursday, February 18, 2016 Mayor Bill de Blasio & Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist  Paul Krugman met in the CUNY Graduate Center’s Proshansky Auditorium to have “A Conversation about Inequality in New York City and Beyond.”

Citizens Defending Libraries was outside pointing out an irony: Mayor Bill de Blasio is selling off NYC libraries for a pittance and that, particularly in a time of plenty, is the quintessence of promoting greater inequality in New York.
Here is the flyer we distributed:
Citizens Defending Libraries flyer for the Paul Krugman, Mayor de Blasio income inequity discussion - Click to enlarge

The text of our flyer is as follows:
Turn our libraries into real estate deals, sold and shrunk with hand-offs to the private sector!
SIBL- go take a look!- the state-of-the-art, recently built, 34th Street and Madison Avenue Science, Industry and Business Library is just one of New York City’s libraries proposed to be sold (with a consequent shrinkage of the Mid-Manhattan Library) in deals that benefit a politically connected 1%, not the public.  These deals are bing pushed by people like NYPL library trustee Stephen A. Schwarzman, head of the Blackstone Group, among other things the world’s largest real estate investment firm.

Meanwhile, our “progressive” mayor isn’t restoring money and making up for the Bloomberg cuts cited as a reason we now `have to’ sell and shrink libraries?

That’s the same mayor who says that “income inequality . .growing, rampant income inequality” is the “crisis of our times” because we have “an economy that is basically supporting the 1%.”

Libraries, less than 1% of the city’s budget, cost little to fund. . . Yet de Blasio’s continued underfunding persists even as the New York Times opines that NYC’s “utterly essential libraries” need money and the Bloomberg cuts restored, noting that in de Blasio’s New York, while libraries were starved, money flowed copiously to the “seldom neglected . . . corporate and entertainment infrastructure.”

Bear in mind: Cuts in funding to the libraries commenced when schemes were originated to cite such underfunding as a rationale to sell and shrink libraries throughout New York. The gutted funds are now cited as a reasons to sell off and shrink libraries like the Tillary Clinton Library in Brooklyn Heights, the 34th Street Science, Industry and Business Library, the Red Hook Library, the Pacific Branch and others.  Remember Donnell!

And as Mr. de Blasio said when he was running for mayor (July 12, 2013):
 “It’s public land and public facilities and public value under threat. . . and once again we see, lurking right behind the curtain, real estate developers who are very anxious to get their hands on these valuable properties”

Sign our petition on the web: Citizens Defending Libraries

The conversation about inequality will be broadcast on CUNY TV, digital Ch. 25.3 and cable channels 75 (Time Warner and Optimum Brooklyn), 77 (RCN) and 30 (Verizon); www.cuny.tv
Broadcast Schedule
Tuesday, Feb. 23 at 5pm, 10pm
Wednesday, Feb. 24 at 3am
Thursday, Feb. 25 at 9am
Archived video of this event will also be available via the internet on or about Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016.

Goals de Blasio is pursuing are somewhat checkered: Does he care about income inequality as he might tell economist Paul Krugman?  Not when he sells libraries off cheaply to politically connected friends.  
Just a few days after the conversation it turns out the amount of explaining Mayor de Blasio had to do about selling libraries increased dramatically.  Ostensibly. de Blasio is selling libraries like the Brooklyn Heights Library in a time of plenty (we have a $4.5 billion surplus) to raise money for libraries, but the New York Post reported that de Blasio is selling the Brooklyn Heights. . . .

BUT- The New York Post has just come out with an eviscerating story about the sweetheart details of de Blasio's giveaway of the Brooklyn Heights library.  The developer to whom the de Blasio administration and the BPL trustees gave away the library wasn’t the highest bidder; His bid was 20% lower than the going rate in Brooklyn Heights.  The bid was topped by two other bids that surpassed it, one 12% more, and was an inferior bid in other respects as well.  See:  New York Post: Developer with ties to de Blasio scores job, despite being outbid, By Aaron Short, February 21, 2016

Even this needs to be put in context: David Kramer (of the Hudson Companies) was the low bidder for a library that should not even be sold.  Kramer and the other developers were only bidding for the value of the library site as a vacant lot.  They were being asked by the BPL and its trustees to bid only for the “tear-down” value of the library.  These bids were in no way related to the value of the library to the public from the public’s perspective, because de Blasio and the BPL trustees were selling off the library with no appraisal of the value of the library from the public’s perspective.  And it is important to remember that what we are speaking of is a recently enlarged and fully upgraded library that would cost more than $120 million to replace.

Outside the CUNY entrance one of the posters we had made up spoke about library-selling trustee Stephen A. Schwarzman, head of the Blackstone Group, among other things the world's largest real estate investment company.   Income inequality?: Schwarzman had the highest salary of anyone on Wall Street (or anywhere else?).  The poster used a Schwarzman quote that Krugman has used in more than one of his New York Times columns about income inequality.

The CUNY center where the conversation was held is co-located with SIBL, the 34th Street and Madison Avenue Science, Industry and Business Library in the old Altman's Department store.  SIBL is just one of New York City’s libraries proposed to be sold.The CUNY Center has its own library and the CUNY library was supposed to operate synergistically with SIBL when it was built in 1996.  The loss of SIBL is thus also a loss to CUNY.  There is much to explain and delve into about why this has not been more widely acknowledged.  We'll have to take that up later.

Amusingly, Krugman tweeted news of his conversation with a picture from Lord of the Rings of Gandolf and Frodo face to face.  In life, Mayor de Blasio is the incredibly tall one, but wouldn't Krugman be wise like the wizard Gandolf?  It's a puzzle!

More photos of us outside that night:

The same evening that Citizens Defending Libraries was at the Krugman de Blasio event we were also at the Independent Neighborhood Democrats event confronting Councilman Stephen T. Levin about his failure to demand Transparency from the BPL. . .
SEE:  Thursday, February 18, 2016, Councilman Stephen T. Levin Comes To Speak About His Approving The Sale of the Brooklyn Heights Library at Independent Neighborhood Democrats Meeting- Doesn’t Answer Questions Asked, Including Whether & When He Will Insist on Transparency from the BPL

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