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.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

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

NY1 Reports on Post's story as its top story appearing "In the Papers"

This page will be updated.

Here is big news.  This page will collect the links.

The New York Post has reported that US Attorney Preet Bharara and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance have issued subpoenas to investigate Mayor de Blasio’s apparent “pay to play” sell off of the Brooklyn Heights Library to a developer, David Kramer’s Hudson Companies, making an inferior bid to acquire the Brooklyn Heights Library at a minscule fraction of its value to the public.  Why?  Apparently because de Blasio likes the developers who has sent contributions his way.

(If you would like to read Citizens Defending Libraries statements about this investigation go to the end of this page.)

The story is getting picked up and promoted by other outlets including by NY1 which ran it as its top story this Sunday.

Here are links to the reporting on the story (comments are possible at many of the sites):

•    New York Post: Feds, DA probe de Blasio's $52M deal to turn library into condo, by Aaron Short, May 22, 2016.

Here is the Post's next day follow-up article-

•    New York Post:  De Blasio pal's library deal gets even fishier, By Aaron Short, May 23, 2016
The Brooklyn Heights library-redevelopment deal under investigation for being awarded to a de Blasio pal who was outbid for the site includes a provision requiring the Department of Education to lease the basement and build a huge science lab there, The Post has learned.

But the DOE - which has to foot the unspecified costs of leasing the basement and building the lab - never asked for it, according to a source familiar with the negotiations.

"This was not their idea. They didn't want it," the source said. "If they were going to be forced to take space like this, they wanted a gym."

* * * *

Levin acknowledged Sunday that he was the man behind the lab plan, saying it "would be a great addition to Downtown Brooklyn."

"The DOE didn't really object to it. They went back and looked at it and said, `Yes it's possible,' and we worked through for how much space would be viable," he added.
•    NY1: Brooklyn Heights Library's Sale Investigated as Part of Probe Into the de Blasio Administration, By NY1 News, Sunday, May 22, 2016

•    NY1: In The Papers 5/22/16, By Kristen Shaughnessy, Sunday, May 22, 2016

•    CBS New York: Report: Investigators Probe De Blasio Administration Deal That Turned Brooklyn Library Into Condos, May 22, 2016

The CBS report makes this link to a relate investigation in which the City Comptroller Scott Stringer is involved in with some remarkably parallel facts:
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.

First Picture that went up on Real Deal's article.  It was photoshoped from our "Library Squasher" edition of the photo

•    The Real Deal: Prosecutors allegedly investigating De Blasio sweetheart dealDe Blasio was accused of awarding bid to Hudson Companies despite lower offer, May 22, 2016

•    The Brooklyn Heights Blog: U.S. Attorney and Manhattan DA Probing Library Deal, By Claude Scales on May 22, 2016

•        Brooklyn Eagle/& Heights Press: De Blasio administration defends sale of Brooklyn Heights Library- Denies knowledge of investigations, by Mary Frost, May 23, 2016
 •        Progress Queens: Council approval of Brooklyn library sale now subject of investigation raises questions about Van Bramer's judgment, by Louis Flores, May 24, 2016.  (This is a good longer form article that does extra research and provides extra background on the story.)
When Councilman Steve Levin sent out an announcement of a Brooklyn Heights Town Hall he was hoping the community would forget his betrayal on the library sale and just want to talk about trash can designs- Instead he got News12 Coverage trashing his handing the de Blasio a "pay to play" deal.

Steve Levin getting an earful about his betrayal on the "pay to play" Brooklyn Heights Library sale

  •        News12 Brooklyn: Critics want probe into `pay to play' developments, May 26, 2016

  •        AM New York: Library-condo deal heightens mayor's plight, By Liza Featherstone June 1, 2016.

 •         Curbed: Brooklyn Heights Library Redevelopment Plan Probed By Feds- The chosen developer didn't have the highest bid or provide the most affordable housing, by Zoe Rosenberg, May 23, 2016

    •    Gothamist: City Hall Insists Nothing's Fishy About $52 Million Library-To-Luxury Condo Deal, by Emma Whitford, May 23, 2016.

•    Bay Ridge Journal: DeBlasio Administration Investigated in BPL Re-Development Deal, May 22, 2016

•    Eastern News Feed:  Prosecutors investigating alleged De Blasio sweetheart deal at Brooklyn Heights library- e Blasio was accused of awarding bid to Hudson Companies despite lower offer, May 22, 2016

•    True News: Library investigation stories.
A picture of our protest appeared in the Post article
 Later in the evening NY1 ran their story with some fancier graphics and a denial fo wrong doing from a de Blasio spokeperson, Austin Finan.

As yet we don’t know whether any subpoenas went to a number of people who would  necessarily have been involved in implementing the selection of the inferior bidder, theoretically decision makers themselves.  The list would include officials working at the NY City Economic Development Corporation, Brooklyn Public Library President Linda Johnson, maybe people working under her, and BPL trustees like, for instance, BPL trustee and board treasurer Peter Aschkenasy, one of three people to whom making the now very suspect selection of Hudson Companies was reportedly delegated.
Marvel Archietitects guiltily tried to remove this frm the web.  Click on the link below for details.
Was Marvel Architects subpoenaed?  They are the architect part of the developer’s bidding team involved in the library deal.  We know that they were recently guiltily scurrying to remove from the web what they had previous put up on the web about their fundraising with the David Kramer.  See:
•    As Feeding Frenzy Elevates NY1 Covers DeBlasio "Pay To Play" Violation: Taking Campaign Contributions From Kramer's Hudson Companies While Handing Out Brooklyn Heights Library Deal- Marvel Architects Runs But Can't Hide
The above also includes links to stories that make clear why these subpoenas should likely have been coming.

As yet we also don’t know if other things related to the sale of the library for far below its value are being investigated.  High on that list of what ought to be investigated is the de Blasio administration’s raid on Department of Education funds to help push through the sale of the library with a backroom deal unveiled at the last minute that, conferred these extra benefits on the developer, blank check style for a black box “STEM” or “STEAM” facility.

More that ought to be investigated?  There is all the suspicious stuff that the BPL has been stonewalling our FOIL request about concerning whether their air conditioner repairs and related contracts really make sense. . .  A lot more.

For instance, consult our Citizens Audit and Investigation that the BPL has been stonewalling.  With criminal subpoenas they won’t be able to do that any longer:
•    Monday, September 15, 2014, Press Release: Citizens Audit and Investigation of Brooklyn Public Library- FOIL Requests
These unfolding events naturally bring to mind the ‘pay to play’ press conference where we recently joined with other community groups to call for a halt to de Blasio’s ‘pay to play’ shenanigans.
•    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

Below are things Citizens Defending Libraries has to say about the deal being investigated:
    •    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. 

Here is our Press Release with statements:
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

1 comment:

  1. The biggest sellout to REBNY by de Blasio was his flipping support against the Small Business Jobs Survival Act that he once championed as a councilman. The victims of this betrayal of progressive values has been desperate small business owners and their employees. NYC court evictions for commercial tenants average 542 per month with est. 1,000 to 1,200 closing each month since he took office, shameful.