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.

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 Germán- 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.

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