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 28, 2018

2018 Brooklyn Heights Association Annual Meeting - (The BHA promoted the sale and shrinkage of the Central Destination Business, Career and Education Brooklyn Heights Library)

2018 Annual Brooklyn Heights Association meeting
Wednesday night was the annual meeting of the Brooklyn Heights Association.

Two non-affiliated community grassroots groups were there handing out flyers to promote worthy causes.  One group was assisted in its flyering efforts by the BHA president, but the BHA president sought to quash the flyering work of the other group.  Can you guess which is which?
    •    FLAC (Flower Lovers Against Corruption) was handing out a flyer urging protection of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden against overdevelopment in the form of an upzoning that would result in the intrusion of huge towers around what is supposed to be the protected perimeter surrounding the Garden.  With those new towers the Garden would no longer be experienced as a the bucolic nature preservation it is.

    •    Citizens Defending Libraries was handing out a flyer urging the protection of another public commons, our libraries, and urging that the Brooklyn Heights Association lobby for a bigger “replacement” library to replace the Central Destination Business, Career and Education Brooklyn Heights Library that the BHA helped destroy.
The group that the BHA didn’t want handing out information to the attending public was us, Citizens Defending Libraries, and the fact that the Brooklyn Heights Association would seeks to stymie us as we informed the community that we were beseeching the Heights Association to come out for a bigger better library (while selectively helping our comrade-in-arms activist group also looking to preserve the public commons and realm), is indicative of the increasingly elitist and dictatorial behavior of the Heights Association.   . . . Is it purely coincidence that this was the year that the Heights Association abandoned its three decade tradition of fundraising house tours because board no longer thought the general public should be invited in to see the stately homes of neighborhood residents?

Every year in recent history the Brooklyn Heights Association has conducted its annual meetings in ways that increasingly circumscribe public feedback, comment and input about what people want in the community.   The timing of such curtailment coincides to a great degree with something the BHA did against the community’s wishes and disregarding its objections: That was the BHA coming out in favor of selling and shrinking the second biggest library in Brooklyn, the Central Destination Business, Career and Education Brooklyn Heights Library in downtown Brooklyn.

Here are the two flyers, FLAC’s and our Citizens Defending Libraries flyer respectively, handed out at the annual meeting.

FLAC Flyer - Click to enlarge

* * * *
Citizens Defending Libraries flyer
Here is the text of the Citizens Defending Libraries flyer:
For years running the Brooklyn Heights Association supported the sale and shrinkage of the second biggest library in Brooklyn, the central destination downtown Brooklyn Heights Business, Career and Education Library.  As a result, replaced in a luxury tower shrink-and-sink deal, that library, now a hole in the ground, will be smaller, more underground and will have far fewer books (while a looming tower overshadows Cadman Plaza Park).

Not long before, BHA support had won the community the expansion and complete upgrade of the library.  It is not too late for the BHA to reverse course again and lobby for a bigger replacement library.  (This would also restore funds raided from the Department of Education!) 
(pushing our libraries out the door to plundering plutocrats, handing them over to developers) HAS CONSEQUENCES
It has been noted that if Steve Mnuchin had been vigorously prosecuted at the local level for his business’s mortgage fraud, misrepresentations, backdating and falsification of documents to rev up the pace of his OneWest foreclosure mill, he wouldn’t be Treasury Secretary, appointed by Donald Trump today- Similarly, had NYS Attorney General Eric Schneiderman investigated the shrink-and-sink Donnell Library plunder with Blackstone’s Stephen A. Schwarzman involved on the selling side and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner as principal financial beneficiary, those two Trump henchmen might not be in significant positions of power today.  The whole political landscape at the national level could be different, not to mention having healthier local politics.

When our local officials and organizations allow the corrupt plundering of valuable public assets, like the shrink-and-sink Brooklyn Heights Library deal modeled on the sale of Donnell with some of the same people in the background, it feeds the beasts who go on to prey on us in so many other ways.

It doesn’t serve us that Stephen A. Schwarzman, spearheading Trump’s economic policy and sale of American infrastructure, is also one of Senator Schumer’s biggest donors, just as Schumer’s wife’s connections with selling libraries and privatizing public assets also do not.  City Councilman Steve Levin misleadingly assured that he would do his job and insist on transparency respecting the library sales but, betraying his constituents, never has. Thus the lack of transparency in Brooklyn Heights helps Donnell sink unchallenged into the sunset (even as Preet Bhrara investigated the mayor’s play-to-play).

Sign our petition on the web: Citizens Defending Libraries
The BHA reported this year that it had constructively received a donation of $2 million from the law firm of  Jenner & Block for the pro bono work that attorney Richard Ziegler has done attempting to block development of towers at Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park.  Unfortunately, the faltering fights against development in the park, the over-tall Pierrehouse included (same architect involved in trashing the library) are examples of fights where the BHA entered the fray late.  “A stitch in time saves nine.”
The Heights Association’s cause–de-jour at the meeting is an effort by the association to get legislation passed in Albany to allow reconstruction of the cantilevered BQE (Brooklyn Queens Expressway) roadways under the Brooklyn Heights Promenade to be handled through a “Design Build” contract rather than through the normal competitive bid processes that are normally prescribed for this kind of public construction.  The Brooklyn Heights Association is promoting passage of the legislation with a petition and other lobbying efforts including a bus trip to Albany.

The BHA’s featured speaker of the evening, NYC Department of Transportation Deputy Commissioner and Chief Bridge Officer Robert Collyer, addressed the subject.  Interestingly, he mentioned that the Pier 6 Towers being built near the BQE in Brooklyn Bridge Park and other luxury towers going up in the vicinity were going to make the needed repairs to the BQE more difficult to do.  He said that the impending tower construction was creating a “narrow window” to get the repairs done as efficiently as possible.  We know that some library defenders have raised the question of how construction to build the luxury tower to replace the library may conflict awkwardly with BQE repairs as it is predicted that the Hudson Companies construction at the former library site will often block both Clinton Street and Cadman Plaza West.  This might happen just as traffic from the BQE is diverted through the same set of neighborhood streets.

Collyer noted that Furman Street under the BQE needed to be raised because of climate warming and rising sea levels.  He said there was no plan to raise the levels of the BQE roadways.

When Mr. Collyer was asked why the “Design Build” legislation was not yet enacted, he said that it had not passed in the NYS senate, but said that he did not comment on politics.

The Brooklyn Heights Association has communicated to the community its conclusion that the BQE should be reconstructed via a “Design Build,” contract and it has communicated this to the community as if it is a no-brainer.  It did not offer for discussion any of the reasons that “Design Build” could be less preferable.  The BHA may have reached the right conclusion about this, but it is hardly a no-brainer.

“Design Build” diminishes certain competitive bid and cost protections.  It also scrambles loyalties and duties of those doing the construction for better and/or worse giving the overseeing city public works engineers less control over the project.  It could possibly be argued that the balance of interests in play if a “Design Build” contract is used for this section of the BQE is that the work, including work on the Heights Promenade would be completed more quickly, but at a higher cost paid for by all the city’s residents.  (Neither is absolutely provable or certain.)

Through performance specifications, one has to be careful that “Design Build” does not encourage inappropriate cost cutting on the part of the contractors.  For instance, costs may be cut that increase the cost of maintenance and repair later on.  That is one reason that one of the several variations of “Design Build” contracts are DBOM contracts, “Design-Build-Operate-Maintain” contracts.  But as you contemplate such a concept, you may begin to recognize how “Design Build” partakes in an overall and increasing tendency to contract out more and more of the traditional work of government to the private sector.

There is plenty of work, there are plenty of endeavors, that, final analysis are probably best handled by the private sector, but when more and more work is handed off to private sector and the government that is supposed to oversee that work and is simultaneously starved of resources it can be a problem.  It is especial a problem when there is corruption that needs to be protected against.  It should be remembered that government is supposed to be the guardian of the public interest, even if it is more and more often abdicating or selling off that function.

Point of interest: When it came to the sale and shrinkage of the library, Citizens Defending Libraries asked the Brooklyn Heights Association to get involved in fighting the corruption involved and the Brooklyn Heights Association declined.

Quite a few times during the meeting Mr. Collyer was asked about what design decisions were being made with respect to repairing the BQE and answered that he didn’t know, that was to be determined . . . (in essence by a contracting out).  His answers in this regard were quite consistent with being headed toward a contracting out of such analysis to the private sector with a “Design Build” handling of the matter.

Here are articles about the considerations inherent in deciding whether or not to do a “Design Build” contract.
    •    American City and County- The growth (and growing pains) of design-build construction, Edward J. Pabor and Richard Pennington, April 1, 2012 (terrible date for a serious article)

    •    Schiff Hardin- Seven Legal Issues Unique to Design-Build, by Mark C. Friedlander, June 5, 2015

    •    Design-Build Effectiveness Study, Final Report, Prepared for: USDOT - Federal Highway Administration, January 2006
Want to read more about the meeting?  Here is where you can go:
    •    Brooklyn Daily Eagle- Repairs to Brooklyn Heights BQE & Promenade hit home at BHA Annual Meeting- Waterfront tunnel not option, dire local traffic scene feared; Bus trip to lobby Albany, By Mary Frost

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Testimony Respecting Proposed Sale of Inwood Library for Redevelopment and Upzoning of the Inwood Community

The community's message in chalk outside the library vs. that of elected officials creating "done deals" without public knowledge or participation: Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer standing next to City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez in blue suit as he promotes the sale of the Inwood Library.  The man with the folded arms on Gale Brewer's other side is from de Blasio's HPD, also there to promote the sale of the Inwood Library. The man with the lowered head is a PR official from the NYPL.
Here is the testimony that Citizens Defending Libraries has submitted to Manhattan Community Board 12 and its Land Use Committee respecting the proposed sale of the Inwood Library for redevelopment and the upzoning of the Inwood community.

* * * * 

February 20, 2018

Mr. Wayne Benjamin, Chair
Land Use Committee
Manhattan Community Board 12
c/o Ebenezer Smith, District Manager
Manhattan Community Board 12
Re: Testimony respecting proposed sale of Inwood Library for redevelopment and upzoning of the Inwood community
Dear Manhattan Community Board 12 and Land Use Committee:

Don’t let the NYPL and de Blasio administration put another notch in the belt sacrificing a public library to real estate interests with real estate deals that harm and don’t benefit the public as they waste and squander public assets.  We are asking that Manhattan Community Board 12 and its Land Use Committee not let another such notch be put in that belt with the sale for redevelopment of the Inwood Library which is tied in with another attack on the Inwood neighborhood. . . that is the upzoning of the neighborhood as real estate greed goes on the war path.

As the community will surely testify, the upzoning will drastically change the character of the neighborhood with the expected introduction of upsurging gentrification that will displace existing residents.  Existing lower income residents are likely to be hit especially hard.  Plus what thought has been given to how the existing fabric of the neighborhood and its culture will be shredded as change evicts the familiar and affordable mom and pop stores?

The sale of the library has been laminated to the upzoning.  Why?  What a strange thing to do.  At the developer meeting held in connection with the prospective sale of the Inwood Library the developers when they asked were told by city and library officials the library sale would only go forward if the upzoning goes forward.  Therefore the developers were told not to prepare any packages of proposals that did not assume that the upzoning would not go forward at the same time.

But to show you how out of control this process is, a developer at the meeting noted that the Request For Proposal guidelines specified that the proposals for a redevelopment of what is now the Inwood library should take into account the character and nature of the surrounding neighborhood.  The developer pointed out that the upzoning was going to change the neighborhood tremendously, probably in ways that can’t even be predicted.  He asked whether proposals should take into account the character of the existing neighborhood or the character of the neighborhood as it might possibly be after the effect of the rezoning.  “You figure it out,” library and city officials told him.  That illustrates not only how out of control these proposals are, it also illustrates an attitude that is execrably cavalier.  The last thing it illustrates is just how completely laissez faire public officials are being in turning over the public welfare to the whims (or worse) of the real estate industry and those trolling for profit at public expense.

The real estate industry looks at libraries, not as the community does, but as playthings with which to manipulate the community and perhaps bamboozle it into accepting what is against the community’s interest.  At a January 12, 2015 New School conference that addressed the real estate uses of libraries the New School’s host told the assembled professionals that in the end “a library is real estate” and that she had found:
it's often a nice placating gesture in a real estate development. You want to do commercial development?: Put a library in it and you win a new public that you might not have had on your team initially.
The sale of the Inwood Library may have been strangely and confusingly laminated to the upzoning in this instance, but probably the greater fool-or-confuse-the-community manipulation associated with the proposal to redevelop and privatize much of the site where the library now stands is the talk of the so-called affordable housing that is unlikely to replace the affordable housing lost when existing residents are displaced.

It is wrong to sell a library that has just been renovated and expanded.  It is impossible to recoup that investment when you destructively tear down and have to rebuild all over again.  The proposal is to give up most of the library real estate that the public now owns and put a replacement library in the bottom of a privately owned residential building.  That means the library can never be expanded when it needs to be.  If the library were to be put into a city-owned building that was also commercial it could be expanded, but that is not the proposal. .

. . . The proposal is the shrinkage of what the public owns, a shrinkage of the public realm, a shrinkage of the public commons.  And because libraries are the public commons that represent democracy so quintessentially, this is a shrinkage of democracy.  Because the shrinkage is laminated to an overall upzoning of the neighborhood that shrinkage is proportionately all the greater.

And the NYPL and de Blasio officials do not care one whit about that loss.  At the meeting they held for developers submitting RFP’s to tear down the Inwood library and acquire the site for redevelopment we made sure certain questions were asked and answered.  Will developer proposals supplying a bigger library get extra credit? No. Will developer proposals supplying more above ground space for the library get extra credit?  No. Will developer proposals that create the possibility for an expansion of the library in the future get extra credit?  No.  Is there a particular shape or configuration that would be good for the library that officials would like to specify would be good (rather than just leaving the public with the dregs after the developer has creamed off for itself the space the developer likes best)?  No.   

It is to be remembered that all these Nos were after the plan to sell the library was presented to the community as a `done deal’ with unaccountable local politicians signing onto the plan before it was ever communicated to the public for reaction in any way.

As others in the community will surely testify, the library is an essential ancillary facility to the neighborhood schools it abuts and is immediately proximate to.  These schools stand to suffer loss for a generation of the student classes passing through.  This loss should not be underestimated.  No interim arrangement is going to come close to meeting the community’s true needs- But then, from the standpoint of the real estate industry, and therefore city and library officials, that is not the point.  Don’t let them put another notch in their belt.

If you let them sell the Inwood Library for a concocted real estate scheme, you put every other library in New York City more at risk.  And even if you want to move out of Inwood after the rezoning and loss of the library you stand to be affected in those other neighborhoods.

Citizens Defending Libraries, formed in the beginning of 2013, has been witness to the callousness of the many concocted plans of the real estates industry supported by the library and city administration officials. We invite you to study our web page where we lay out and catalogue a record on the part of those officials that is not at all pretty.  Please consult the attached addendum with more information about what is on our web page.  It is the intent of Citizens Defending Libraries to shine a light and hold accountable over the long term all those participating in the irresponsible sale of our libraries.

Michael D. D. White
Citizens Defending Libraries   

- - - - -

Citizens Defending Libraries Web Page Information

Citizens Defending Libraries Main Web Page is at:
Or you can read the page LONG FORM if you want to read straight through to go more deeply into topics without clicking on them to do so as you read:       
Here is the way that our web page now breaks down into important subject headings, each of which can be individually read:
SIGN OUR PETITION TO SUPPORT LIBRARIES (Defend our libraries, don't defund them. . . . . fund 'em, don't plunder 'em)

When Citizens Defending Libraries Started and Why
Achievements of Citizens Defending Libraries

What Libraries Are Affected By New York City Plans To Sell Libraries As Real Estate Deals, Shrink And Underfund Libraries And Eliminate Books?

Are The Libraries Being Shrunk, Pushed Underground, Books and Librarians Eliminated Because the World Is "Going Digital"? NO, That's NOT a Reason It Should Happen.

Are Libraries Just Too Expensive a Luxury to Pay For? Absolutely NOT!

NYC Libraries Are Being Sold For Huge Losses And For Minuscule Fractions of Their Value

WHO Is Selling Our Libraries?

When Did The Plans To Sell Libraries (Plus The Launching of The Concomitant Underfunding of Libraries) Begin?

It's Not Just The Real Estate Industry Threatening Libraries: Examining The Panoply of Other Threats

Who Is Hurt Most When Libraries Are Defunded and Dismantled? The Poor, The Racially Discriminated Against, Scholars, Future Leaders

How Many Books Are Disappearing From New York City Libraries?

Why Turning Libraries Into Real Estate Deals Isn't The Good Deal Library and City Development Officials Describe

Selling Libraries And The Broader Issue of Private Sector Plunder of Public Property
The Biggest Lies To Watch Out For When Officials Sell Libraries

How To Defend Libraries - What You Can Do

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Library Selling NYPL Trustee Schwarzman Becomes $1 Billion+ CEO

Did you catch the news last week in Crain’s that library selling NYPL trustee Stephen A. Schwarzman is going to be the first $1 billion+ CEO?  He's the head of the Blackstone Group.  His salary must have just gone up a few hundred million this year.  It is hardly surprising that as Schwarzman’s salary went up, the NYPL trustee library-sale-pushing Schwarzman is doing all sorts of deals with Trump son-in-law/advisor (without a permanent security clearance) Jared Kushner.  Kushner was a principal financial beneficiary of the plundering Donnell Library sale the NYPL trustees pushed out the door.  Worse yet, amongst the swirl of Trump/Schwarzman/Kushner/Saudi deals that are going on Schwarzman is leading the charge with Saudi money to sell off American public assets to private interests . . .

. . . The Trump administration is helping with SALT (State and Local Tax) deduction curtailment and otherwise striving to impoverish all government in furtherance of the Koch agenda.

For the latest and more about the Schwarzman Kushner deals see Noticing New York: Reporting About Multiple Troublesome Real Estate Deal Connections Between Presidential Son-In-Law/Advisor Jared Kushner and Presidential Advisor Stephen A. Schwarzman, New York Times & Press Overlook Connections, Including Library Sale (January 29, 2018)
NOTE: Crain's did not publish a comment on its article linking to information about the Schwarzman/Kushner deals.  If you want to come to a forum about where you get your information and how mainstream media often unreliably curtails the information you get see:
Coming March 4th- Forum: Where Do You Get Your News? What Are The Channels of Public Information Communication Can You Plug Into?

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Coming March 4th- Forum: Where Do You Get Your News? What Are The Channels of Public Information Communication You Can Plug Into?

We hope this interest you.  Citizens Defending Libraries is all about people getting the information they need and should have.
Forum: Where Do You Get Your News? What Are The Channels of Public Information Communication You Can Plug Into?

Sunday, March 4, 2018, 1:00 Pm to 3:00 PM
First Unitarian Universalist Congregation Chapel
119-121 Pierrepont St, Brooklyn, NY 11201

Join a discussion to exchange information and ideas about how you get your information about important events in the world.  Where do you go to seek reliable news and complete information?  Should the country’s main stream media have reported the recent succession of unprecedentedly calamitous weather events without mentioning climate change?  Does a media drumbeat for war seem off-base? Do we hear about its cost?  Picking up newspapers, do you feel like you are reading compiled corporate press releases? As much of media ownership is consolidated in fewer corporations and when a wealthy few with disinformation agendas like the Kochs buy up ownership of outlets like Time magazine, where does truth take refuge to be found?  If your media literacy tells you that the most important part of narratives you are being served is what has been edited out how do you find what fills in the blanks?  Let’s identify what kinds of critical stories go unreported and how can we find out about them.

Conversely, when things need to become news, need to be known by the general public, what channels are there to transmit that information?  When structural reforms need to be made in our society they cannot be made unless we are able to exchange information about the changes that are needed: Serviceable channels for circulating information may be our threshold basic need.  How reliable is social media as an avenue for transmitting information and in what ways is it deceptively not?

* * *
Facebook Event Pages To Share and Say You Are Coming

There are now two Facebook Events posted for this event:
•        One Facebook Event Page is posted by Citizens Defending Libraries (if you click on "see all posts" on the event page there are postings of relevant articles for discussion).

•        The second Facebook Event Page is by the UUU Weaving the Fabric of Diversity host.
* * *
A Grist For Thought Sheet For the Forum

See if the sheet below helps you think about and prepare for the forum.

Grist for thought.  (Click to enlarge- You can also print it.  Or you can save the image to zoom in on it.)
* * *
Maybe you would like to start early?  In the comment section to this page you may want to supply information about where you go to get your news and why.  Or maybe you'd like to post about what you think are the biggest issues that mainstream media is not reporting on?  Climate change?  The cost of war?  Voting irregularities in the last election?

* * *