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.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Letter to Borough President Eric Adams Requesting Insistence on Transparency and Full Investigation Into Cooked Books and Rigged Bidding Before Calendaring Brooklyn Borough Board Vote On Brooklyn Heights Library

February 29, 2016

Borough President Eric Adams
Brooklyn Borough Hall
209 Joralemon Street
Brooklyn, New York 11201

Re: Brooklyn Public Library, Transparency, Need For Full Investigations Into Cooked Books Rigged Bid on Brooklyn Heights Library- Calendaring a Borough Board Vote
Dear Borough President Adams:

Thank you for caring about Brooklyn’s libraries.  Thank you for caring about insisting on transparency with respect to our libraries.  Thank you again for meeting with us on September 8, 2015 about the Brooklyn Public Library’s proposed library sale real estate deals and thank you again on behalf of ourselves and many, many other Brooklynites for your decision as Borough Board President, Wednesday September 9, 2015, disapproving the sale and shrinkage of the central destination Brooklyn Heights Library in Downtown Brooklyn.

We want to thank you again and follow up on your assurance to us on September 8th that you would insist on transparency from the BPL in connection with its proposed library sale real estate deals, insisting upon, among other things that the BPL respond with transparency by releasing, among other things, its “strategic real estate plan” and its “Revson Study” that concerns the Sunset Park Library, two items among many others that the BPL has been stonewalling and refusing to release pursuant to FOIL even though these things should all be part of what is public whether or not FOIL requests have been made for them.

The need to insist on such transparency is more obvious than ever before for many reasons.  These recent revelations highlight exactly why there is crucial need for such transparency before scheduling any Borough Board vote on the Brooklyn Heights Library:
    •    For those in Sunset Park, indeed for all who reside in Brooklyn and the rest of New York City, transparency about the proposed sale of libraries, and the Brooklyn Heights Library now in particular, is all the more important because BPL president Linda Johnson has finally disclosed to the City Council that the sale and drastic shrinkage of this library is viewed as a model for other transactions in all three NYC library systems.  It’s turning out to be an exceedingly bad model.

    •    New York State Attorney General Schneiderman needs to, and is, in fact we belive as lawyers, duty bound, to investigate the complaint filed documenting that the custodial non-profit corporation, Brooklyn Public Library (BPL), is misrepresenting itself to have empty pockets while sitting on top of significant unspent funds in order to hoax Brooklynites into believing the fairy tale that there is no money to spend fixing its libraries. Love Brooklyn Libraries’ research indicates that BPL has sufficient funds to make needed library repairs and public budget reports reveal that BPL is hoarding $168 million in public funding while feigning poverty as a rationale for selling the Borough’s important second largest library.  (Obviously there are other elected officials who should be investigating this in addition to Attorney General Schneiderman.)

    •    The New York Post, in a recent article just alleged information not available to the public, and not available to the Borough Board either, that not only was developer David Kramer (the Hudson Companies), a de Blasio friend and political contributor, a low bidder, he was 20% lower than the going rate in the neighborhood and 12% lower than another of the two bids that surpassed him.  His bid was inferior in other respects.  The competing bidders put the so-called “affordable” units on site, unlike Kramer putting them two miles away, but BPL and city officials further hoaxing the public claimed that the reason to allow Kramer to put the affordable units off-site was because it allowed them to pursue their priority of getting the highest possible monetary bid.  - Even this has to be put in context: Kramer was the low bidder for a library that should not even be sold.  He was only bidding for the value of the site as a vacant lot. His bid was no way and no how related to the value of the library to the public.  In another fundamental breach of transparency de Blasio and the BPL are selling off the library with no appraisal of the value of the library from the public’s perspective; this is a recently enlarged and fully upgraded library that would cost more than $120 million to replace.  The city will net perhaps less than $20 million from its giveaway to Kramer.

    •    More mysterious black box unknowns have been introduced into the equation of the sale that need scrutiny and present themselves as being unlikely to stand up to it.   There was a backroom deal unveiled by Councilman Steve Levin’s disclosures at the last minute that raids district Department of Education funds (associated with a compelled and likely unwanted “STEM” or “STEAM” facility) in unspecified but significant amounts (for 1.) acquisition of space, 2.) outfitting of space, and 3.) running the space.)  Another sweetener for the deal bestowed upon this developers?  Similarly, affecting what was ostensibly the goal to help libraries elsewhere in Brooklyn,  funds in unknown amounts are intercepted for a DUMBO Library, albeit tiny, and the Greenpoint Library, both in Councilman Levin’s district.
We thank you for having done right by Brooklyn’s library users in the past, and we thank you again for promising transparency.  This is a promise that cannot be sensibly fulfilled after the fact.  Now is the time.  We join in calling upon you for a postponement of the Borough Board vote on the sale of the Brooklyn Heights Library.  We call upon you to postpone that vote until there is transparency (including, but not limited to a release of the BPL’s “strategic real estate plan” and the “Revson Study”) and a full investigation of the Brooklyn Public Library hoaxes and bid-rigging involved in the sale.

We note that these revelations come after the expressions of concern expressed in letters coming from the New York City Comptroller and New York Public Advocate.  Thus the new revelations show how prescient, and now vindicated, the concerns of the Comptroller and Public Advocate were.  In retrospect, in light of these revelations, it appears that the forebodings of these officials were not pessimistic enough.

While we are CCing the Borough Board on this letter we hope that you will forward this letter as you feel most appropriate to effectuate the request we make of you here.


Citizens Defending Libraries
Michael D. D. White

Village of Sunset Park

Friends of Sunset Park
   Maria Roca

CC: The Brooklyn Borough Board

* * * *

See our press release for our the press conference about delivery of this letter:
     •   PRESS RELEASE- Citizens Demand Brooklyn Borough Board Postpone Critical Vote on Future of Brooklyn Heights Library- A Call for Transparency, Full Investigation of BPL Hoaxes & Bid-Rigging - Monday, February 29, 2016

No comments:

Post a Comment