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, June 27, 2016

PICTURE & VIDEO Gallery: Opening Ceremony For 53rd Street “Replacement” For Donnell Library- “Where the Hell Is Donnell” Demonstration Outside

This page will be updated.

Today the NYPL held its opening ceremony for the “53rd Street Library” that is the supposed promised “replacement” for the former Donnell Library that once occupied the same site.

It’s telling that the NYPL which once reassuring promised that the “replacement” would bear the name Donnell has not dared to call the shrunken sunken library by the name of “Donnell.”

This page is video and picture gallery of the demonstration library defenders held for two hours today outside in protest while a PR oriented ceremony inside extolled the shrunken, sunken library as a shining example of what “private-public partnerships” can accomplish.

That ceremony was attended approvingly City Councilmen Jimmy Van Bramer and Andy King, heads respectively of the library committee and subcomittees of the City Council.  Mr. Van Bramer, in particular, is a strong proponent of other such library sales as well the next one in line being the sale, shrinking and sinking of the Brooklyn Heights closely modeled on this Donnell deal.

Notably, Mayor de Blasio who is being investigated for the “pay to play” aspects of the Brooklyn Heights library did not show up to be caught witnessing or extolling this example of what he wants to do by selling the Heights library, similarly a central destination library, the second biggest library in Brooklyn.  

To learn more about what the Donnell was, the luxury development it was sacrificed for and what’s happening in Brooklyn see:

    •    Monday, June 20, 2016, Images and Links- The 53rd Street "replacement " for the Donnell Library to be opened Monday and What We Lost

    •    Monday, June 20, 2016, As the Brooklyn Heights Central Library Gets Dismantled, the Business Career and Education Portion of It, Once Internationally Renowned For Its Resources, Dwindles To Hidden Away Room

    •    Monday, June 13, 2016, News Coverage of Love Brooklyn Libraries, Inc. Lawsuit Against Brooklyn Heights Library Sale

Here is the Facebook event post we did for the demonstration:

    •    Protest At Opening of Unacceptable “Replacement” for Donnell Library

Here is a link to a flikr album of just over 100 photos of the demonstration and event: "Where the Hell Is Donnell?".

Here is press coverage:
 •    New York Times: N.Y. / Region-An Amphitheater- A Laptop Bar. It's a New York Library Like No Other.- Building Blocks, By David W. Dunlap, June 20, 2016.
David Dunlap’s article includes this parenthetical quote alluding to an article that about the opening of Donnell that should be written . . .  
There is a Building Blocks column to be written about secretive plutocrats buying investment aeries in the sky while public institutions are relegated to basements. Some other day. 
 . . . and then it, sadly proceeds as if Dunlap, instead, felt compelled to write a good news, upbeat article not even pointing out how the NYPL daren't actually call this library "Donnell."
Nicole Gelinas's must read, beautifully articulate, article in the City Journal was the first article to appear presenting what Dunlap refered to as needing to be to be written . . .
•        City Journal: Books in the Basement- Midtown Manhattan's new library falls short of what a world-class city should provide to its citizens, by Nicole Gelinas, July 1, 2016.
. . . . In one of the worst decisions made by a local public institution in decades, the New York Public Library has squirreled away its newest branch in the basement of this luxury tower.
Also, filling in the gap Mr. Dunlap said needed to be filled is a New York Magazine review of the library written by Justin Davidson in his very finest form, hitting point after critical point: how “Neither architects nor librarians shaped this branch; a real-estate deal did, one that reserved the cream of the square footage for the hotel and condo above, and sloughed off the leftovers on the public” with “the people's book room  . .  shooed to the back of the line.”  He points out how the library is forced to wrap awkwardly “around the [luxury] tower's structural core” that looks “like a big concrete block in the middle of the room.”  (This is the same design sacrifice the proposed, not yet designed, replacement for the Brooklyn Heights Library faces.)

Waxing eloquent he describes how library patrons get “a rat's-eye view of the street and passers-by” and suggests that library users will have to “try elsewhere” if they have an interest in books, concluding with the observation that the NOT “especially comfortable” library fails to provides the “free experiences that are unique to a public library.”

Davidson mentions how in the central amphitheater suffering from “atrium-itis” a wide screen plays “a promotional slideshow for New York and its libraries” that has “enjoys a special kind of pointlessness.”
•        New York Magazine: The New 53rd Street Library Is Nice, Unless You Like to Read Books, by Justin Davidson, July 12, 2016.

Similarly, in his Vanishing New York Jeremiah Moss describes how in the amphitheater:
The people sitting on these steps are compelled to watch an unavoidably large video screen placed in front of them, where flashing scenes of New York City include several shots of luxury towers, built or under construction.

To watch people watching this, in a library that replaced a library that was destroyed so a luxury tower could rise, is to participate in a surreal nightmare of modern neoliberal urbanization.
Read the article for more including how the “The entire [new] library is bizarre” and about the people for whom the Donnell was torn down for expecting $64,000 restaurant dishes to give them “orgasms.”
•        Jeremiah's Vanishing New York: On Donnell's Replacement & $375 Cocktails, by Jeremiah Moss, July 13, 2016.
Here is more coverage.

    •    The Wall Street Journal: NY Real Estate Commercial-  Underground Library in Manhattan Rewrites Design Rules- West 53rd Street branch has smaller footprint, striking design, by Hannah Furfaro, June 29, 2016.
The Wall Street Journal article was too much "re-balanced" to excuse the NYPL, but included some of what needed to be said-
The new public library on West 53rd Street in Manhattan, with its towering glass facade, might be mistaken for a SoHo boutique, maybe even an Apple store. . . .

The 53rd Street Library, as it will be known, replaces the Donnell Library, which closed eight years ago.

Designed by principal architect Enrique Norten and his firm TEN Arquitectos, the library is a literary underworld. . .  "The big challenge for us was how to transform or negotiate what we have been calling a `topographic accident' in the city," said Mr. Norten, who referenced the difficulty of designing an almost entirely subterranean space.

. . . the Donnell library was 97,000 square feet, while the new space is 28,000 square feet.

While the new library’s smaller footprint has brought heartache for some. .

. .   Rita Bott, who worked as an information assistant at Donnell Library from 1968 until 1979, couldn't bear to go inside. "It's just a travesty that they have scaled this down and sold it off to a developer just so they could build this big tower," she said.

Some warned that the new branch could be a model for deals to come. "This idea that libraries can go underground, can be shrunk, that they don't have to be distinct civic buildings, is a concern to us," Charles Warren, an architect and president of the Committee to Save the New York Public Library, said on Tuesday.

. . . a few patrons could be heard whispering, "Where are all the books?"
    •    DNAInfo: 53rd Street Library Celebrates Reopening as Book Advocates Protest Outside, By Noah Hurowitz, June 27, 2016.

. . .  library advocates showed up Monday during he library's reopening to protest what they described as a capitulation to corporate interests, according to Michael White, of the Committee to Save the NYPL.

"Smaller libraries means less access to books, and if we can't access this knowledge through the library, it disappears," he said.

* * *

White was concerned that the combination of public space at the foot of a private tower had served as a prototype for the Brooklyn Heights Library deal, and would set a precedent for other development projects involving libraries.

"This deal was a model, and is part of what led to the Brooklyn Heights deal," White said, as he handed out signs to his compatriots.

In addition to the reduced space, the protesters were angry about the reduced number of physical books at the new library, which stands at about 20,000 [actually still coming?], according to NYPL spokeswoman Angela Montefinise, thousands fewer than the former library's collection [300,000+].

Judy Gorman sang her defending libraries song
City Councilman Andy King
NYPL president Tony Marx didn't stop to say his usual hello

CSNYPL president Charles Warren an organizer of the demonsration

Kids in the basement
Early AM, before anyone arrived
Here's Video (click through to CDL's YouTube channel for best viewing):

"Where The Hell Is Donnell"- Protest of 53rd St Library "replacement"

Judy Gorman's Library Song at Donnell Protest

1 comment:

  1. Gag. That is not a library. Where's the hotdog vendor who was in for years? All those levels/stairs? Didnt the idiot architect know that the biggest users of public libraries are senior citizens and the disabled? Where were all the people? When the gloriously newly renovated Donnell Media Center opened, we had over 200 people packed into the public spaces. There is a smattering of people in attendance here! And no beauty queens! The video screen UNDER huge windows? Wtf? This place is a disgrace! What an embarrassment.