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.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

BPL Proposing To Sell Crown Heights Library In Another Consolidating Shrinkage Apparently, Again To Make The Real Estate Industry Happy

 This page has and will be updated as necessary.

Likely in response to our surfacing the information, the BPL will present information to Brooklyn Community Board 8 on Thursday night concerning the move of the Brower Park Library (in Crown Heights) into the recently renovated Children's Museum where we understand there isn't truly enough room for it.
Presentation on moving the Brower Park Library to Children's Museum to CB8
Thursday, February 16, 7:00pm - 8:30pm
Brooklyn Community Board 8 meeting
151 Rochester Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11213
(Take the 3, 4 or A train)
This is now covered in a new DNAInfo article (Patch contacted us to track down the information after we posted what we knew, and then went to the BPL):
Brower Park Library to Move into Brooklyn Children's Museum
By Rachel Holliday Smith | February 14, 2017
Crown Heights, Prospect Heights & Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, Education, Real Estate
Comparison of Brower Park Library's already far too short hours (it still has been converted to 7-day serve as advocated) with Children's Museum's even shorter hours.-  Also, information about space.  A proper library would commandeer 20% of the museum's 2008 expansion of space.
The DNAInfo article doesn't say how many square feet the "replacement library" will be but says it will be paid for with public funds (if they can get the money from BdB and the City Council) and will cost $3 million.  That very small price tag indicates a very small amount of library space or a very minimal amount of renovation work to create the space.  The DNA article does not say how small the replacement library will be.  (It is recommended that libraries be at least 10,000 square feet or more.)

The DNAInfo article does not indicate who will benefit in real estate terms by the library vacating the existing site.  The BPL had several years ago taken in development proposals for the site.  The site wasn't then owned by the BPL, but in such situations the BPL has been acquiring sites via eminent domain.  It is possible that an owner of the site will therefore benefit.  On the other hand, will the unidentified developer who was making proposals be involved?  Might it be the Fifth Avenue Committee stirring the library development pot again?

The Children's Museum is open  6 days a week, closed Mondays, for total of 43 hours.  (See chart above.)  The Brower Park Library, with hours already too short, is open 6 days a week, closed Sundays, for total of 48 hours.  The goal is for it and all city libraries to be open seven days a week.

There is no charge to use the library.  The Children's Museum has an $11.00 PER PERSON General admission to the museum for those over the age of 11 months (with “Pay as You Wish” Hours 2PM through 6PM sponsored by Investors Bank & Astoria Bank).

The Children’s Museum doubled its size with a 2008 $46 million expansion that added about 51,000 square feet.  The recommended minimum size for a NYC neighborhood branch library is 10,000 square feet (one fifth of the 2008 Children’s Museum publicly paid for $46 million expansion).  The BPL is planning to spend a paltry $3 million on the “replacement Brower Park library,” a fraction of what a 10,000 square foot library should cost.

For what we posted before that first got this information out, see below:

* * * * 

We are informed that the BPL plans to sell the Crown Heights Library.  The plan, another in an ever growing list of sales that turn libraries into real estate deals, is apparently another consolidating shrinkage to make the people in the real estate industry happy.

There has been no formal announcement of the sale plans so nothing can be verified against the public record.  The information given us was that the Crown Heights Library is being sold.  However, the Brower Park Library is another library considered to be in the neighborhood of “Crown Heights.”  The Brower Park Library is also very close to the Children’s Museum so there is a possibility that the correct information is that the Brower Park Library, a library in Crown Heights, is being sold for this transaction.  There are reasons why that should more likely be the case.

The proposal, as described to us, is for a consolidating shrinkage of space where the library will be moved into the Children’s Museum.

Crown Heights Library
Street view of Crown Heights Library
Above and below: BPL historical photos of Crown Heights Library
We were given to understand from the information we received that the 11,119 square foot Crown Heights Library, is to be sold to vacate its current site at 560 New York Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11225 and then will be moved over a mile (close to a half hour walk) and crammed into the Children’s Museum 145 Brooklyn Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11213 where there isn’t really room for it.

At 11,119 square feet the Crown Heights Library, built in 1958 isn’t one of the BPL’s smallest (like 7,500 square feet) libraries, but it isn’t exactly huge and is just barely bigger than the smallest libraries.  It is just big enough to be what is a recommended minimum size for a New York City library (10,000 square feet).  It is a single floor library so no space is sacrificed to stairs or elevators.  It has a 1,594 square foot meeting room with reasonable capacity of 69 people.  It also has conference room space: 1,594 square feet that will accommodate 16 people.  The current Crown Heights Library is eminently expandable.  At its present location the library is very convenient to the 2 and 5 on the IRT line.

Although the Crown Heights Library is only one floor, the site it occupies is currently zoned R6 (Zoning Map:17b) permitting more development rights to be used by whomever takes the site over.  For example, across the street on the other side of New York Ave (between Maple Street and Lincoln Road) there is a six-story elevator apartment building.

Library Locations

Right now the Crown Heights Library is about equidistant from five other libraries, the Rugby Library, the Flatbush Library, the central destination Grand Army Plaza Library, the Brower Park Library, and the Eastern Parkway Library.  A library in the Children’s Museum would be right by the location of the Brower Park Library, 725 St Marks Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11216.  The Brower Park Library has also definitely been eyed by the BPL, for some time now, for conversion into a real estate deal.

Brower Park Library
Brower Park Library
The Brower Park Library, built in 1963, is one of the system’s teeniest libraries, only 6,285 gross square feet.  Although it is larger than the 5,000 square feet BPL officials recently tried to shrink the Red Hook Library down to, it ought to eventually be larger.  Its 443 square foot meeting room space has the capacity for only about 13 to 20 people.

Although just one-story the library zoning lot is R6 (Zoning Map:17a).  The library is on a street where it is surrounded by taller buildings.

The Children’s Museum

The Children’s Museum, offering three floors of interactive exhibits, is currently 102,000 square feet, the result of a $46 million expansion (for which the city contributed $45 million) that was needed to double the museum’s size in 2008.  It is our information that there is not truly sufficient space for the museum to now house the library as proposed.

Trustees Congratulating Each Other On Deal

Reportedly the BPL and Children’s Museum trustees are complimenting each other on their deal.  Should they be?  And, if so, why?  The kind of composition at the Children’s Museum overlaps somewhat with the kind of trustees on the board of the Brooklyn Public Library which is chock full of real estate people, investment banker types (lots of Goldman), political operatives and other people with interest and agenda adverse to, or far from smoothly compatible with, the interests of libraries.

The board of the Children’s Museum has its investment bankers and venture capitalists, William D. Rifkin, Corey Baylor, Andrew Weissman, (an investment banker from Goldman of course, Stefan Duffner) and its people with real estate interests and connections. Tanya Levy-Odom now at Time Inc. for NYC Investor Relations used to be in investment banking.  George J. Sampas at the Sullivan & Cromwell law firm is co-head of its Private Equity Group using his knowledge of various takeover regimes. Janno Lieber is connected to all that World Trade Center stuff by heading the division in charge of it Larry Silverstein’s organization. Lawrence Kwon’s position at Moelis & Company, Investment Banking connects him through familial relationship to Ron Moelis one of the most politically connected developers in the city.  One of the board members, Adam Hess, is a partner at TerraCRG Commercial Realty Group, which focuses particularly on development in Brownstone Brooklyn neighborhoods, including Crown Heights and Prospect Lefferts Garden.  Paul Gangsei is a real estate lawyer specializing in real estate and development transactions now at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP. (that has AT&T and SONY as big clients). There’s Chris Havens, an authority on New York commercial real estate leasing, financing, deals and culture who writes about it for the Commercial Observer, owned by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner (connected to the Donnell Library sale).  Yes there are important BPL board connections with the Brooklyn Navy Yard.  Similarly, Children’s Museum board members Jocelynne Rainey is Chief Administrative Officer, EVP at Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation.  With the BPL board you see politically involved Con Edison people all over the place.  At the Children’s Museum from Con Ed there is Milovan Blair. Brian Wornow is involved with mortgage lending and real estate market risk.  Niles D. Stewart is another banker working in the lending area.  Annik Wolf works for a conduit that seeks encourage investor funding.  Cindy McLaughlin works for “a tech company that makes never-before-been-organized property data and analysis beautifully visible to and usable by the similarly opaque real estate industry. Envelope was cofounded by world-renowned SHoP Architects and the hugely-respected Director of MIT's Civic Data Design Lab, whose work is on view in MoMA.”

Some people are just in helper businesses like PR.  Christina Bertinelli is a communications industry brand reputation expert working for Lumentus, a communications consulting firm that helps its clients manage their brands, protect their reputations and improve their perceptions across target and stakeholder audiences.

And is this a fascinating coincidence?:  The BPL board had on it, as a trustee, Janet Offensend, the wife of that library seller extraordinaire, David Offensend, who as Chief Operating Officer of the NYPL was the master overseer initiating the NYPL library sell offs like Donnell, SIBL, Mid-Manhattan.  David Offensend, who came to the NYPL from Evercore, was himself on the board at the Children's Museum!   

* * * *

This is, of course, another library being sold off as part of Mayor de Blasio’s (phone: 212-788-3000) continuation of Bloomberg’s privatizing reduction of the public real and public ownership.

The other elected officials involved and responsible in the case of this particular Brooklyn library sell-off are:

Council Member (For the current location of the Crown Heights Library)
Mathieu Eugene (D)
123 Linden Blvd.
Brooklyn, NY 11226
phone: 718-287-8762
fax: 718-287-8917
email: meugene@council.nyc.gov
website: http://council.nyc.gov/district-40

Council Member (For the location of the Children’s Museum and the Brower Park Library)
Robert Cornegy (D)
1360 Fulton Street
Ste. 500
Brooklyn, NY 11216
phone: 212-788-7354
fax: 212-788-8951
email: Rcornegy@council.nyc.gov
website: http://council.nyc.gov/district-36/

Brooklyn Borough President
Eric Adams
209 Joralemon St.
Brooklyn, NY 11201
phone: 718-802-3700
fax: 718-802-3522
email: askeric@brooklynbp.nyc.gov
website: http://www.brooklyn-usa.org/

Brooklyn Community Board 9 (for the current location of the Crown Heights Library)
Chairperson- Demetrius Lawrence (BPL Trustee Michael Liburd has been working on the CB9 board pushing plans that support development)
890 Nostrand Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11225
phone: 718-778-9279
email: bk09@cb.nyc.gov
website: http://www.communitybrd9bklyn.org/

Brooklyn Community Board 8 (for the current location of the Children’s Museum and Brower Park Library)
Chairperson- Nizjoni Granville
1291 St. Marks Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11213
phone: 718-467-5574
email: info@brooklyncb8.org
website: http://www.brooklyncb8.org/

NYC Comptroller (Investigates and audits waste fraud and abuse including NYC libraries)
Scott M. Stringer (D)
The David N. Dinkins Manhattan Municipal Building, One Centre St.
5th Floor
New York, NY 10007
phone: 212-669-3916
fax: 212-669-2707
email: action@comptroller.nyc.gov
website: http://comptroller.nyc.gov/

NYC Public Advocate (charged with looking out for the public interest)
Letitia James (D, WF)
The David N. Dinkins Manhattan Municipal Building, One Centre St.
15th Floor
New York, NY 10007
phone: 212-669-7200
fax: 212-669-4701
email: GetHelp@pubadvocate.nyc.gov
website: http://pubadvocate.nyc.gov/

Brooklyn District Attorney (for criminal investigation purposes)
Kenneth P. Thompson (D)
350 Jay St.
Brooklyn, NY 11201
phone: 718-250-2001
fax: 718-250-2210
email: da@brooklynda.org
website: http://www.brooklynda.org/

NYS Attorney General (for criminal investigation purposes and oversee charities including the BPL and Children’s Museum)
Eric T. Schneiderman (D, WF, I)
120 Broadway
New York, NY 10271
phone: 212-416-8000
fax: 212-416-8139
email: eric.schneiderman@ag.ny.gov
website: http://www.ag.ny.gov/

Diana C. Richardson (WF)
NYS State Assembly District 43
1216 Union Street
Brooklyn, NY 11225
phone: 718-771-3105
fax: 718-771-3276
email: district43@nyassembly.gov
website: http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/?ad=043

State Senator (for the current site of the Crown Heights Library)
Jesse Hamilton (D)
NYS State Senate District 20
1669 Bedford Avenue
Second Floor
Brooklyn, NY 11225
phone: (718) 284-4700
fax: (718) 282-3585
email: hamilton@nysenate.gov
website: http://www.nysenate.gov/senators/jesse-hamilton

State Senator (for the site of the Children’s Museum and Brower Park Library)
 NYS State Senate District 25
Velmanette Montgomery (D)
30 Third Avenue
Room 207
Brooklyn, NY 11217
phone: (718) 643-6140
fax: (718) 237-4137
email: montgome@nysenate.gov
website: http://www.nysenate.gov/senators/velmanette-montgomery

NYS Comptroller (oversees authorities and adequacy of local audits such as by the NYC Comptroller)
Thomas P. DiNapoli (D)
59 Maiden Lane
31st Floor
New York, NY 10038
phone: 212-383-1600
fax: 212-383-4468
email: contactus@osc.state.ny.us
website: http://www.osc.state.ny.us/index.htm

1 comment:

  1. Eric Gonzales is the Brooklyn DA.

    From my family's experience at the museum, the Brooklyn Children's Museum is already packed out for its current users and could not accommodate a library.