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, May 23, 2016

MEDIA ADVISORY/PRESS RELEASE- US Attorney and DA Investigate de Blasio's Sale of Brooklyn Heights Library- Statements of Citizens Defending Libraries in Response

New York City
WHAT: The New York Post broke a major story on Sunday with a first follow-up today- In another new probe into into the de Blasio administration's `pay to play' activities and culture, US Attorney Preet Bharara and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance have issued subpoenas to investigate Mayor de Blasio's sale of the Brooklyn Heights central destination library in Brooklyn (the second biggest library in Brooklyn), to a developer reportedly offering an inferior bid $6 million below one of the two higher bids for the property.  The recently enlarged and fully upgraded library is being sold for way below its value to the public, less than its vacant lot value and just a minuscule fraction of what it would cost to replace.  For more than three years Citizens Defending Libraries has been opposing this scheme and the similar sale of other New York City Libraries.  This is the kind of investigation Citizens Defending Libraries has been calling for and, accordingly, it is issuing statements in response.
WHEN: Sunday, Tuesday, May 22, 2016 & Monday May 23, 2016 (Original article and follow-up)
WHAT ELSE?:  Citizens Defending Libraries has available tons of information about this library sale, why is should not go forward as well as what needs to be investigated.  We also have information about other libraries under similar threat.
Links to the New York Post article and follow-up reporting about the investigation into the de Blasio administration library sale are available on the following page that also has links to coverage by other outlets (it was NY1's top story all Sunday).
•        Subpoenas Are Issued By US Attorney Preet Bharara and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance In Investigation of de Blasio's Apparent `Pay to Play' Sale of Brooklyn Heights Library

The revelation of the subpoenas investigating the library deal comes just two and a half weeks after Citizens Defending Libraries joined collectively with other community groups on the steps of City Hall for a press conference asking US Attorney Preet Bharara to investigate this and other 'pay to play' activities of the de Blasio administration sacrificing public assets to the real estate industry.  See:
 •    PHOTO GALLERY & VIDEO LINKS: May 4, City Hall Press Community Groups Conference- Call to End de Blasio's "Pay To Play" Developer Deals- Bharara Please Investigate

Facts being investigated in the library sale case closely parallel another investigation that the City Comptroller Scott Stringer is involved in investigating, mentioned by the CBS News reporting of the new library investigation:

Also under scrutiny is a city-approved deed change that led to the conversion of the Rivington House nursing home on the Lower East Side into luxury condominiums.
The investigation will likely is likely bring much to light.  In September of 2014 Citizens Defending Libraries announced its Citizens Audit and Investigation that the BPL and city officials have been stonewalling since that time.  With criminal subpoenas they won’t be able to do that any longer.  See:

•    Monday, September 15, 2014, Press Release: Citizens Audit and Investigation of Brooklyn Public Library- FOIL Requests
The New York Post's follow-up story reports that it is not just the library being sold to bestow favors on the developer: In addition, NYC Department of Education Funds have been raided, blank check style, in an unspecified amount, as part of the deal concocted in the office of de Blasio's development mayor, Alicia Glen.  The backroom deal was unveiled at the last minute, further aiding the developer to push his deal through.

Here are statements from Citizens Defending Libraries about the investigation:
    •    The investigation points to the fact that the de Blasio administration, exemplifying all the wrong motivations, was willing to make its decision to sell the library to this particular politically connected developer and shaft the public with a super low price. . . .  Those way off target motivations on the part of the mayor confront us with the far bigger question: Why should we be selling this recently expanded, fully upgraded, central destination library, the second biggest in Brooklyn, at a minuscule fraction of its value to the public, netting only the tiniest sliver of what it would cost to replace?

    •    We should all be alarmed at this incredibly skewed system where, with the influence of money trammeling the public good, a de Blasio deputy mayor focused on real estate development [Alicia Glen- previously of Goldman Sachs] concocted a deal to sell off a valuable central destination library, the second biggest in Brooklyn at a minuscule fraction of its value to the public, a fraction of what it would cost to replace . .  Plus, as should also be another obvious component of the investigation, we see a blank check raiding of Department of Education funds to push this indefensible plunder along.

    •    When de Blasio officials are already netting such a very small amount to sell the library, the Brooklyn Public Library’s acceptance of $6 million less blows out of the water any pretext officials were offering as a reason to sell such a valuable library.  It’s clearly just about making deals with the real estate industry.

    •    There was an appalling lack of public process and colossal de Blasio administration arrogance displayed by the way that deputy mayor for development raided Department of Education funds, blank check fashion, with a backroom deal unveiled at the last minute to push this deal through on behalf of the developer.  Nobody from the de Blasio administration ever stopped to consult the public about what it wants . .  But you can bet they knew exactly what the developer’s needs were.

    •    One thing will be very interesting as this investigation unfolds: We have seen so often in these corruption investigations a narrative unfold that real estate industry developers are the `innocent’ victims of corrupt politicians like de Blasio who shake them down.  Here, however, there is a clear record, including in the minutes of the Brooklyn Public Library, that this corrupt deal was generated by those interested in dishing out real estate deals and planning to snare into service whatever elected officials came along afterwards.  Our hapless mayor was just too dumb, too cynical and too greedy to walk away from the trap. He should have done the right thing and represented the people who voted for him.  . . . . He should have heeded his own words spoken when he stood with us in July 2013 on the steps of the 42nd Street Central Reference Library calling for a halt to this other library sales around the city:
 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. 
Carolyn E. McIntyre, Michael D. D. White
Michael White, 718-834-6184, mddwhite [at] aol.com
Carolyn McIntyre, 917-757-6542 cemac62 [at] aol.com

Follow us on Twitter: @defendinglibraries

For photos and videos of prior Citizens Defending Libraries rallies opposing the sale, shrinkage, underfunding of New York City libraries, and elimination of books and librarians in the two and a half+ years since its founding, see:


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