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, November 17, 2016

For Distribution At NYC Democratic and Other Political Clubs: A “Rigged System”: The Case For New Democratic Leadership

Citizens Defending Libraries has prepared a flyer for distribution at NYC Democratic clubs and other political clubs: "A “Rigged System”: The Case For New Democratic Leadership."  The flyer is also good for distribution at events like community board meetings.

The text appears below (you can copy and email it to fiends and associates that way.  You can also right click on the jpg (picture) or pdf version below to print and photocopy it for distribution.  It is set up with two flyers per sheet to reduce the cost and use of paper by half.
You can download and/or print this jpg (picture) for photocopying and distribution.  By cutting it in half your costs will be cut in half
 Text of flyer (can be copied, including its embedded links, into emails) is below.   

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A “Rigged System”: The Case For New Democratic Leadership   
Every notable candidate in this last election, Jeb Bush, Bernie Sanders, Hillary, Trump (and more Republican candidates) spoke to the voters about how the system `is rigged exacerbating income inequality. . . Between the two choices finally presented the electorate chose the threat of a Trump wrecking ball over Hillary’s status quo.

How “rigged” is the system?: Trump’s de facto campaign manager, chief political advisor and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, was a principal financial beneficiary of the sudden, secretively shrink-and-sink sale plundering the Donnell Library.

Did Hillary make political hay of the millions upon millions of dollars that went to Kushner at public expense via a rather non-credible behind-the-scenes “bid”?  (See: Hillary Clinton & The Winning Campaign That Might Have Been- Thoughts From Citizens Defending Libraries.)  Unfortunately, Hillary’s national campaign headquarters were adjacent to and, for real estate development purposes, actually a part of another library, the Brooklyn Heights Library (at Tillary and Clinton), subject to a shrink-and-sink sale modeled on the Donnell sale, some of the same people in the background.  Her landlord, Ratner, is a gatekeeper to the transaction.

That shrink-and-sink Heights library sale entangles local Democrats. It is now subject to a federal pay-to-play investigation of Bill de Blasio (Hillary’s one-time campaign manger) for his hand-off of the library to an inferior bidder who channeled him funds behind-the-scenes.  The shrink-and-sink sale, and the other similar library sales, have been supported by Brad Lander, and his fellow local councilman, Steve Levin, has perpetually refused what he once promised: To insist on transparency for this and the other Brooklyn library sales (See: Citizens Defending Libraries: Open Letter To Councilman Steve Levin About His Letter To Brooklyn Public Library Demanding Transparency About Library Sales).

Despite what Trump may have managed, Democrats should know that they handicap themselves immeasurably when they campaign against `a rigged’ system while embedded with those rigging and who give license to such rigging.

This last election should have should have been impossible to lose. . . Impossible to lose even notwithstanding the voter suppression that included a multi-state coordinated Republican-managed voter purge (exit polls and the number uncounted provisional ballots tell us it was probably enough to swing the electoral college result). But that raises another issue: How are we to effectively fight rigged “voter purges” when the Democratic machine similarly purged over 200,000 NYS voters from the rolls in Brooklyn.*

                               Sign our petition on the web: Citizens Defending Libraries
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(* We need to update the flyer, or you cane by hand before photocopying- a more dramatic effect: The number is now recently acknowledged to be more than 200,000 Brooklyn voters purged.)

Monday, November 14, 2016

Our Testimony To Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams About Proposal To Turn Sunset Park Library Into Another No-bid Real Estate Deal

This is Citizens Defending Libraries testimony submitted to Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams today about the proposal to turn the Sunset Park Library into another no-bid real estate deal.

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November 14, 2016

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

Re:    Proposal to turn Sunset Park Library into another no-bid real estate deal

Dear Borough President Adams:

Since when do we have to turn our libraries into real estate projects serving real estate priorities, clandestinely conceived and managed ones at that?

Citizens Defending Libraries would like to think that since it shone a light and let the community know about the long-secret plans to turn the Sunset Park Library into a multi-use real estate project, that what was proposed became a better project in response.  Indeed, it is a bigger library, now proposed to be essentially the same size as what the shrink-and-sink disposal of the Brooklyn Heights Library, Brooklyn’s heretofore second biggest library, will produce.

But approving this project is feeding the beast that ravages us and it is doubtful that this is what the community wants.  At the Community Board 7 Land Use Committee hearing testimonies were so relentlessly supplied by people with economic and employment relationships with the developer and the BPL (now itself styled as a development agency) that the hearing officer cautioned that these individuals should all preface their remarks by noting their conflicts of interest.  As more and more “testimony” was given by people with such conflicts, FAC employees, board members and the like, they were told that they COULD testify, but the moderator suggested that they should refrain because they drowning out the community and usurping the limited about of time available to speak.  Still, more and more FAC trustees, employees and BPL employees spoke.

The BPL suggested at one point that they didn’t think that people coming from outside the community should speak, and, in fact, virtually no one from outside the Sunset Park Community spoke except that the majority of these economically interested, salaried speakers were exactly that: From outside the community.

It was the same with hearings, including those held right here last year, when the Brooklyn Heights shrink-and-sink scam was proposed.  The Fifth Avenue Committee similarly marched out its economically interested troops to testify that Brooklyn’s second biggest library should be sold to net a minuscule fraction of its value to the public, handed off to a luxury tower developer in a pay-to-play de Blasio deal that we all understand is now under criminal investigation.  Thus, with this deal, and the Brooklyn Heights deal, we see a perpetuation of the bottom line no-bid hand-offs that began with the Donnell shrink-and-sink deal involving Donald Trump’s son-in-law and principal advisor, Jared Kushner, as a principal beneficiary.

Why is the NYC Economic Development Corporation (EDC) along with other real estate and interests adverse to those of the public interests allowed such influence and sway over the BPL and its board?  Why is  Jamie Torres Springer, a real estate-company-employed spouse of the head of the EDC, allowed to be the head of the board of the Fifth Avenue Committee, the developer here, helping to push so many library sales?

It is all too incestuous, far too conflicted and way too much against the public interest.

The Sunset Park Library deal was conceived in secret, arriving full-blown without community or public input, and has been rammed down the public’s throat.  It is a subtraction from what the public owns, a significant subtraction, from the assets of the library system.  The proposed replacement library, stuck underneath a privately-owned residential building can never grow in the future.  That would not be so if the proposal were instead to build a  publicly-owned, public purpose office building.

And the larger library that Sunset Park might get if this clandestinely conceived deal is approved?  That depends on promises the BPL and developer cannot be trusted to keep!

In the course of the ULURP process for the Brooklyn Heights Library sale (that went on here) it was promised that the Heights library would not be shut and moved to a smaller, less adequate temporary library until the developer had closed on the transaction, ponied up the money the BPL says (at least pretextually) is the reason it is destroying the library.  That promise was not kept.

The BPL promised that the library would never suffer demolition until the public was thoroughly protected against loss and the possibility of the replacement library not being built.  That promise is not being kept either.  The developer is being allowed to trash and demolish the library while it is still publicly owned public property.  The developer with the deal under criminal investigation is being allowed to rush, once again damning the best interests of the public. The BPL doesn’t expect the developer to acquire the property for another two months. .  if even that happens.

Because the BPL says what it will do with Sunset Park is dependent upon the Heights deal, those broken promises also directly affect the Sunset Park Library proposal now being considered.

And while we ask about the secrecy with which this and other library deals were conceived and pursued and whether that secrecy should be tolerated, we should also ask why one of the country’s top private spy agencies like Booz Allen Hamilton, working almost exclusively for the federal government, should have been engaged to be so intricately involved in the overhaul of New York City Libraries and their destruction. . .

. . .  Our libraries are supposed to be a public commons, a zone of free speech and freedom of thought and concomitantly a zone with protected privacies.  They are not supposed to be a playground for developers or at the disposal of anyone else.


Michael D. D. White
Citizens Defending Libraries

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Hillary Clinton & The Winning Campaign That Might Have Been- Thoughts From Citizens Defending Libraries

Clinton conceding the election today

What about the campaign that Hillary Clinton could have run?  The one that had she run she’d have been much more likely have won?

For example, one thing Clinton could have done was run a campaign that showed a responsible caring for libraries and concern about the plundering sales of our public assets.  Hillary Clinton could have criticized her landlord, Forest City Ratner, for being a gatekeeper involved in the cynical shrink-and-sink real estate deal selling the second biggest library in Brooklyn, the library standing right next to her national campaign headquarters which is actually, for development purposes, the same piece of real estate.  The library is the downtown Brooklyn Heights Library, but given the intersection where it is located you can call it the “Tillary Clinton Library.”

Yes, criticizing her landlord would have been biting the hand feeding her, but it would have been seen as courageous and honest.  It would also have freed Clinton up to attack Trump’s de facto campaign manager and political advisor, his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, for being a principal beneficiary involved in the cynical shrink-and-sink Donnell Library deal.

The Donnell Library, similarly sold for a minuscule fraction of its value to the public, was the model for the “Tillary Clinton Library” shrink-and-sink deal laying right at her doorstep.

Showing that she cared about libraries and fair play, Hillary Clinton could have called for that Donnell Library sale and the Heights Library sale to be investigated.

Yes, investigation might have caused some problems for her one-time campaign manager and fellow Democrat Bill de Blasio given his pay-to-play hand-off of the library to an inferior bidder.  Yes, pointing out the lack of investigation into Donnell could have been awkward for inert  fellow Democrats like NYS Attorney General Eric Schniederman or NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer. . .  That’s part of the point!. . .

. . .  Think how much more credible and independent Hillary would have proven herself to be.  And with a chance to lambaste Trump’s son-in-law/advisor she would have made headlines distinguishing herself.  The public cares about its libraries.  It cares about its public assets.  So long as Clinton was willing to criticize the shrink-and-sink sale her landlord was participating in, Trump could never have turned it around on her.

No, Hillary Clinton didn’t do this.  That would have been a different campaign.  Yes, it would have been a different campaign in all the ways that her campaign needed to be a different campaign overall.

It would have been a different campaign in all the ways that the campaigns of Democrats overall, and the representation they give us when elected, need to be a qualitatively different.

Maybe then, despite everything else they are up against, Democrats could start winning.  A difference they might appreciate.

Here is our Tweet of these Woulda/Coulda sentiments: 

HRC criticizes Ratner, her landlord, 4library sale - ditto, Kushner, Trump's campaign manager- &Result?


Saturday, November 5, 2016

Municipal Art Society’s Summit on “Public Assets”: Who Gets to Decide What They Are & Whether They Matter, Featuring Goldman Sachs and A Library-Shrinking Developer (It Follows Suit After Us But Goes OPPOSITE To Our Lead!)

Some of the "interesting" panelists at the MAS will follow suit with a “summit” on “Public Assets”: Who Gets to Decide What They Are & Whether They Matter.
It is infinitely sad to see what has happened to the once highly esteemed Municipal Arts Society.  They repeatedly prove they’ve transformed into a ready shill for developers.  In their present incarnation their faults already include a previous event and activity promoting NYC library sales and shrinkage disseminating misinformation.  See:
Noticing New York: Municipal Art Society, Once Venerable, Becomes Platform For Disseminating Misinformation Promoting Development, In this Case Backing Library Sales and Shrinkage, Monday, June 15, 2015
Citizens Defending Libraries has held several forums about the sell-off our public assets culminating in some, we hope, very worthwhile analysis (See: Our Public Assets Under Attack- A Calamity of the Commons Unfolding That We Must Act Collectively Against- How best To Express It?)

Library sales like that of the Brooklyn Heights Library are, in part, what prompted us to hold such forums on the threat to our public assets.  Now, (does this annoy you) MAS will follow suit with a “summit” on “Public Assets”: Who Gets to Decide What They Are & Whether They Matter.  Amazing to say, but the all day Tuesday, November 15th summit will burnish the reputation of certain people featured on its panel, including David Kramer the proposed developer of the Brooklyn Heights Library pay-to-play investigated hand-off and Councilman Steve Levin who put together the backroom deal for Kramer ) including a blank-check raid on Department of Education funds) that was revealed at the last minute.

Also represented on the panel?: Goldman Sachs a promoter of public-private “partnerships” where you-know-who gets to be the senior partner,  HR&A  Advisors, a firm with with something of a reputation as a for-hire-fixer is there as well in the person of Jamie Torres Springer. . . .

. . . Who is Jamie Torres Springer?  He is the husband of Maria Torres-Springer the head of the NYC Economic Development Corporation involved six ways to Sunday in converting NYC libraries into real estate deals.  It was reported that Mr. Springer was “stepping down as a partner at the firm” [HR&A] because of the resulting conflicts of interest (requiring a Conflict of Interest Board opinion 14 pages long, but that “He will remain an employee.”  The MAS summit titles his continuing “employee relationship” with HR&A as Senior Principal.” . . .

. . . Who else is Jamie Torres Springer?   He is the Chair of the Fifth Avenue Committee, the developer in connection with the long-secret and no-bid Sunset Park Library sale.-  Mr. Springer will be on the panel about weighing the rights of all New Yorkers.

And then there will be Arana Hankin of Atlantic Yards fame who when she was working for the government was “regarded by many less as an arbiter than an implementer of the developer's plans.”  (The first two libraries pushed for sale in Brooklyn: Both adjacent to Forest City ratner property.  And the person recommending them for sale to the Brooklyn Public Library? A former Forest City Ratner executive.)

Here is a list of all the speakers:
    1.    Margaret Anadu- Goldman Sachs- Managing Director, Urban Investment Group
    2.    Barbara Askins- 125th Street Business Improvement District, President and CEO
    3.    Afua Atta-Mensah- Community Voices Heard, Executive Director
    4.    Janet Babin- WNYC Reporter (Ms. Babin produced a WNYC report promoting the idea of turning schools into real estate deals like the library deals.  She will be o a panel about "weighing the balance."
    5.    Eve Baron-Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment, Pratt Institute, Chairperson
    6.    Benjamin Dulchin- Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development, Executive Director
    7.    Adam Ganser- Friends of the High Line, Vice President, Planning and Design
    8.    Hon. Daniel R. Garodnick- New York City Council Council Member
    9.    Lourdes Germ├ín- Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, Director, International & Institute-Wide Initiatives
    10.    Sally Goldenberg- POLITICO New York, Senior Reporter
    11.    Adam Gopnik- The New Yorker, Staff Writer
    12.    Arana Hankin- The Goren Group, Senior Project Manager
    13.    Frederick Iseman-  Chairman, The Municipal Art Society, Chairman and CEO, CI Capital Partners
    14.    Stephen L. Kass- Carter Ledyard & Milburn LLP, Senior Environmental Counsel
    15.    Alyssa Katz- NY Daily News, Editorial Writer
    16.    Rasmia Kirmani-Frye- New York City Housing Authority, Director, Office of Public/Private Partnerships (NYCHA is using “Public/Private Partnerships” to privatize its public housing resources, in the process shedding some 14,000 units of needed housing.)
    17.    David Kramer- Hudson Companies, Inc., President (He'll be on the same panel with Goldman Sachs- "Financing: Private Means to Public Ends.")
    18.    Fran Lebowitz- Writer
    19.    Hon. Stephen Levin- New York City Council, Council Member He'll be on a panel "closing the loop." (i.e. "backroom deal"?)
    20.    Diane Lewis- Professor of Architecture, Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture, The Cooper Union, Principal, Diane Lewis Architects P.C.
    21.    Roland Lewis- Waterfront Alliance, President and CEO
    22.    Setha Low- The Graduate Center, CUNY, Professor of Anthropology, Environmental Psychology, Geography, and...
    23.    Justin Garrett Moore- NYC Public Design Commission, Executive Director
    24.    Gina Pollara- The Municipal Art Society, President
    25.    Michael Sorkin- President, Terreform, Principal, Michael Sorkin Studio; Director, Graduate Program in Urban...
    26.    Jamie Torres Springer- HR&A Advisors, Senior Principal
    27.    Adrien Weibgen- Community Development Project at the Urban Justice Center, Staff Attorney
    28.    Kai Wright- The Nation, Features Editor
We are not saying all of these people are just as concerning as those first mentioned.  It would be suicide for MAS if that were the case .. . .And would not serve to burnish the reputations of Kramer and Levin vis a vis a civic concern for the value of public assets.

It is more insidious that the company is mixed.

For instance, another library related connection: Fran Lebowitz-  At our February 14, 2015 Valentine’s Day demonstration and press conference protesting empty bookshelves outside of the 42nd Street Central Reference Library we invoked the name of Fran Lebowitz.  Ms. Lebowitz opposed NYU’s takeover of the Greenwich Village and she had ridiculed the absurd scene that Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden made as they, a billionaire and a millionaire, paced off what they thought was the very smallest amount of space a disadvantaged poor person could possibly live with.  We compared this to the attempts being made to similarly design the very smallest libraries that could possibly replace the ones we have now (video available: Valentine's Day- Open The Rose.)

The MAS policy for attending this summit?: It’s MAS "members" only- Not like the days of yore. . . .

. . . . We do not recommend becoming a Municipal Art Society Member (so we don’t recommend trying to attend the summit), but if you are concerned about this contact us, we expect to do something about out that day.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Our Social Media Campaign- Some Thoughts And Our Fervent Hope It Will Work As Well As It Ought

For more about converging interests adverse to the tradition of libraries see:  Why Nonprofit Boards May Stray From Their Core Missions And Obligations To the Public- Considered Generally And Particularly With Respect To Libraries
Citizens Defending Libraries relies on and utilizes social media: Our Facebook page, our Twittering (@DefendLibraries), our YouTube Channel.  We hope that you follow and share what we offer.

We also have another hope: Now that we are thinking about and passing along information on the topic of surveillance in libraries, information about the engagement of spy firm Booz Allen to reorganize and dismantle NYC libraries, we hope that our all social media campaigns get the traction they ought.  Apparently, this is something that should not just be outrightly presumed and is something that sometimes deserves consideration.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Startling Revelation Raises Critical Question: Why Was A Private Government Spy Agency With The “Federal Government as Practically Its Sole Client" Hired to Overhaul, Destroy New York’s Libraries?

For more about converging interests adverse to the tradition of libraries see:  Why Nonprofit Boards May Stray From Their Core Missions And Obligations To the Public- Considered Generally And Particularly With Respect To Libraries
Citizens Defending Libraries has focused a great deal on how real estate interests in New York City have driven the plundering sales of our great libraries, but there are some other significant questions to be asked about the other driving forces behind the dismantling of our libraries.

Noticing New York, with a new article, has broken new ground with revelations and questions that couldn’t be more urgent . . . .

. . .  Booz Allen Hamilton is regarded by experts as an “arm of the [United States] intelligence community.”  The U.S. spending trillions on the military-industrial-surveillance complex since 911 spends 70% of its surveillance budget through private contractors.  80% of that is spent on just five contractors, the colossus of which is Booz Allen Hamilton.

Booz Allen Hamilton was hired by the NYPL to overhaul its most important libraries in a scheme that entailed the sale and destruction of the Donnell, Mid-Mahattan and SIBL libraries and the central research stacks of the 42nd Street Central Research Library.

Noticing New York discusses how this and the loss of books and librarians relates to destruction of libraries throughout New York and asks questions such as:
If librarians were the first to successfully stand up and oppose the intelligence overreaching [of the PATRIOT Act] and if Booz Allen Hamilton "is really an arm of the intelligence community" involved with the federal government's "most controversial federal surveillance programs in recent years" then why was Booz Allen Hamilton hired to help reorganize the New York Public Library's most important libraries?
Sunday, October 30, 2016- Snowden, Booz and the Dismantling of Libraries As We Know Them: Why Was A Private Government Spy Agency Hired to Take Apart New York's Most Important Libraries And Turn Them Into Something Else?
Booz Allen Hamilton was hired by the NYPL in 2007.  Just months before, May of 2006, was when the public learned that Connecticut librarians had been resisting the surveillance of library patrons by the FBI.  Before that the public didn’t and couldn’t know because the librarians were subject to a perpetual gag order about what they had been asked to do.