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.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Who Is Jared Kushner (Trump’s Son-in-law) In Relation To The Sale of Libraries And The Sell-Off Of Public Assets?

Jared Kushner is getting a lot of attention these days (like the cover of New York Magazine) for his ascendancy to enormous power by virtue of being Trump’s son-in-law and key adviser.  See: Jared Kushner's Rise to Unimaginable Power - The Young Trump- Jared Kushner is more like his father-in-law than anyone imagines, by Andrew Rice, January 2017.

Even before he was this, he was an interesting person to keep track of and fairly recently New York Magazine devoted a fair amount ink to him about his and his father’s weird interconnections with Chris Christie’s bridgegate scandal.  See:  The Former Classmate Who Could Take Chris Christie Down- Most Likely to Destroy a Governor- Will David Wildstein, star witness in the Bridgegate trial, take down his old high-school classmate Chris Christie? By Andrew Rice, September 18, 2016.  New York Magazine, picking up from the Washington Post, reported how Kushner sent David Wildstein, going to prison as a mastermind of the Bridgegate plot, an email that said, “For what it's worth, I thought the move you pulled was kind of badass.” - - -

 - - - Kushner actually recruited and hired Bill Stepien for the Trump campaign.  Stepien was Christie’s former top (“ruthless”?) political adviser, one of the people whom Christie fired for being embroiled in the Bridgegate scandal.

Now we have all sorts of articles coming out of the woodwork like the Village Voice and Lo-Down Jared Kushner-is-an-excruciatingly-evil-landlord stories: Jared Kushner's East Village Tenants 'Horrified' Their Landlord Will Be Working in the White House, by Steven Wishnia, January 12, 2017 and Lower East Side Groups to de Blasio: Jared Kushner is No Friend of New York City Tenants (being Tweeted a lot).

It’s time to provide some Citizens Defending Libraries context. . . .

. . .   Who is Jared Kushner in relation to the sale of libraries and the sell-off of public assets?

Here from Noticing New York:
The rushed and secretive sale and shrinkage of the Donnell Library (with a subsequent "ratification" by the NYPL board) stank and looked like an obvious scam with only the merest pretense of an effective bid:  There were only two ostensible bidders on the secret sale and since both bidders were inevitably destined to be doing a coordinated real estate deal there was no real incentive for them not already to be acting in partnership.

The sale was kept confidential until the last possible minute.  It was finally announced publicly in November of 2007 only because, as a publicly traded company, the purchaser, Oriental Express Hotels Ltd., had to disclose the agreement within within four days of the execution of the transaction.

. . .  and one of the principal financial beneficiaries of the secret sale of Donnell was Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and top campaign advisor.

There is, however, apparently one criminal investigation: US Attorney Preet Bharara is understood to be investigating Mayor de Blasio's apparent pay-to-play hand-off the Brooklyn Heights Library.  Like the way that an effective and above-board bid process was apparently side-stepped with the Donnell Library to hand off the library real estate to a new owner for far less than its value, the Brooklyn Heights Library is being handed off for far less than its value to the public and is being given to a developer who was not the high bidder.
See: Noticing New York: 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?,  October 30, 2016.

Remarkably, even with the insatiable eagerness of virtually the entire media establishment to cover all things Trump (something that surely helped "The Donald" get elected), all the media outlets ignored our Citizens Defending Libraries press release, sent to thousands of press addresses, of the Trmp/Kushner tie to the library sale: PRESS RELEASE: Donald Trump Connected To Sell-Off of NYC Libraries? This Explains Exactly How, August 24, 2015.

In this instance, what the media ignores has consequences and results in the public failing to make relevant connections soon enough.

Donald Trump has gone on to appoint, as a top economic advisor and liaison:
library-destroying Stephen A. Schwarzman, head of Blackstone, the world’s largest real estate investment firm (among other things), the NYPL trustee who helped push the Donnell real estate deal out the door to Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and was even rumored to be personally involved in the deal through his own companies beforehand.
 See: Noticing New York: Donald Trump (Whose Son-In-Law Was In on Donnell Library Sale) Puts Library-Selling Stephen Schwarzman In Charge of Economic Policy, December 8, 2016.

This forebodes a sell-off of public assets in general, something that Citizens Defedning Libraries has been working to raise consciousness of and fight against: Our Public Assets Under Attack- A Calamity of the Commons Unfolding That We Must Act Collectively Against- How best To Express It?

A recent New York Times article started off reporting how privatizing prisons costs the public much more and delivers a far inferior product.  That's not to mention (as the article didn't) how privatizing prisons further incentivizing increased mass incarceration our country that already has the highest incarceration rate in the world housing around 22% or more of the world's prisoners, with less than 5% of the world’s population overall).  The article is probably a too cautiously conservative and somewhat too friendly to the idea of privatization in general, but it goes on to observe that the Trump administration wants to privatize lots of public assets and explain why that wouldn’t be good:
 privatization is likely to sweep through not only prisons. The president-elect wants to privatize health services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs. He wants to privatize public infrastructure - drawing private sector companies to fix, build and manage bridges and roads, water supplies and airports. He is selling privatization as a surefire winner that will deliver better services for less public money.

"There's a magical thinking among business executives that something about the profit motive makes everything run better," noted Raymond Fisman, a professor of economics at Boston University. "What is government going to be like when it is run by billionaire C.E.O.s that see the private sector as a solution to all the world's problems?"

A serious body of economics, not to mention reams of evidence from decades of privatizations around the world, suggests this belief is false. 
See: Prisons Run by C.E.O.s? Privatization Under Trump Could Carry a Heavy Price, by Eduardo Porter, January 10, 2017

The article tells us about how Trump expressed hopes to privatize prisons on the campaign trail:
"With prisons I do think we can do a lot of privatizations and private prisons," Mr. Trump said on the campaign trail last year. "It seems to work a lot better."
Privatized prisons is one of the investments that library-selling Trump-appointed Stephen Schwarzman has involved himself with.

A month ago the New York Times reported how stocks went up for private companies in the wake of Trump’s election: Trump's Win Gives Stocks in Private Prison Companies a Reprieve, By Jeff Sommer December 3, 2016.

So who is Jared Kushner?

Jared Kushner is the man,” said none other than Stephen Schwarzman introducing him in December at the Times Square headquarters of Morgan Stanley to a crowed assembly of NYC’s most powerful business leaders there to discuss the results of the presidential election.  . .

. . . That's from the Andrew Rice New York Magazine cover story although the article never mentions either Kushner's or Schwarzman's respective and integral involvements in the Donnell Library sale.  Similarly, although the Mr. Rice's New York Magazine article several times mentions Kuschner's purchase of 666 Fifth Avenue, his family real estate business's "flagship" building where Kuschner and his parents now have their offices, and although it goes into fair detail describing many aspects of that real estate purchase and its importance to Kushner, it never mentions* how integrally the 666 transaction and all its economic were tangled up with Kushner's simultaneous involvement with the sale of the adjacent Donnell.
(* It does however have a quick mention of Kushner in relation to the Robin Hood Foundation.)

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