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.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Real Estate News: Even While Sacrificing NYC PUBLIC Libraries To Create Real Estate Transactions, Developers Use The Creation of PRIVATE Libraries To Promote Their Projects

While NYC developers are clearly eyeing New York City public libraries for how they can be turned into real estate deals like, for instance, the luxury tower that the central destination Manhattan Donnell Library was turned into and the luxury tower that the central destination Brooklyn Heights Library is being turned into, developers apparently also value private libraries as a selling point for their developments.  Which is to say that as the industry is besieging and destroying public libraries it is creating small private libraries to sell its product.

Not that many months before it was announced that the Business Career and Education Library Brooklyn Heights Library serving the central business district in Brooklyn’s downtown would be sold for a shrink-and-sink real estate transaction, the New York Times ran a front page article on Sunday Real Estate Section an article about developer incorporation of private libraries into their projects to enhance their attraction marketing their product.  See: Buildings with Libraries: A Soft-Spoken Amenity, Joanne Kaufman, April 5, 2012.
Luxury tower apartments that replaced Donnell Library created were repeated advertised in the New York Timed featuring the private library in the Penthouse. 

Conceived at essentially the same time, the shrink-and-sink sale of the Brooklyn Heights Library replicated shrink-and-sink sale of the Donnell Library.  Those luxury tower apartments that the shrink-and-sink disposal Donnell Library created were advertised repeatedly with a double page spread in the front of the Sunday New York Times Magazine with a visual that featured a view of the private library in the building’s penthouse.  That’s the penthouse that was on the market for $60 million in stark contrast to the less than $25 million the NYPL netted when it sold for drastic shrinkage the five-story, 97,000 square foot library. . . .

. .  The calculations are embarrassing in other respects, including that the penthouse apartment devotes a far, far higher percentage of its floor space to luxury owner’s private library as a amenity than New York City devotes in its budget to public libraries as a shared resource serving all New Yorkers.  See- What’s Wrong With These Numbers?: The Baccarat Tower’s $60M Penthouse and NYC’s Library Budget, April 29, 2014.

Until this year (2016), the Brooklyn Heights Association annually replenished its war chest through house tours capitalizing on people’s voyeuristic infatuation and longing for luxury real estate living.  The tours afforded the public tantalizing views of the select interiors of many of the magnificent homes in the neighborhood.  Proceeds for the tours funded whatever fights the BHA took on in its proclaimed mission to protect the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood.  In the 1980s until 1993, when it was finally accomplished, one of those fights was for a substantial enlargement of the Brooklyn Heights Library.  That substantial enlargement of the library was accompanied by a complete and full upgrade that made it one of the most technologically advanced and computer equipped libraries in Brooklyn.

 . . . Ironically, come 2013 the Brooklyn Heights Association promoted the sale and shrinkage of that same library (which through sale of real estate development rights would benefit the private saint Ann’s School behind the scenes- Saint Ann’s School with which the BHA and its decision-making library committee was tightly linked).

 . . .  Another irony: One of the most spectacular hits on the BHA house tour the year before the BHA started promoting the sale and shrinkage of the local public library, an extravaganza to induce mouth-watering salivation, was a townhouse equipped with its own two-story private library customized with magnificently detailed yellow-green wood bookshelves . . .   

The 2012 Times Real Estate section article about the real estate sales advantage of libraries for developers is about the creation of private libraries to be shared as common areas by all the residents of a building.  It has a senior VP of the real estate brokerage Corcoran Group, Tami Shaoul, explain that while when selling apartments, no buyers have told her that they, “must have a library,” their eyes “light up if they actually see one,” and  “It makes them feel good about the building because they imagine themselves having that quiet space.”

We also learn from the article that the existence of such a library can speak “to the fact that this was more than a building. It was a community of people who still read” and that “in the highly competitive New York marketplace” a common shared library “is a low-cost frill.”  This is in a developers’ “amenities arms race” involving more expensive amenities such as “cold storage, wine cellar, gym, pool, hot tub, children’s playroom, ’tween playroom, party room,” . . . real estate developers are spending money.  And we learn that the “library at New York by Gehry” in the financial district is “a hit” (with “leather sofas and accent chairs”) and that “some of New York’s glossiest and highest profile new developments boast of having one.”

If only we as a city could also boast of a wonderful, robustly supported public library around every corner from all of these developer projects.

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