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.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

New Brooklyn Public Library Trustees- Can You Imagine?; One of Them Is Carolee Fink, Chief of Staff to Alicia Glen (formerly of Goldman), DeBlasio’s Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development

Carolee Fink, Chief of Staff for Alicia Glen and now a Brooklyn Public Library Trustee by de Blasio's appointment
As of today the Brooklyn Public Library’s web page giving information about its board of trustees and who is on it is not up-to-date.  It is missing some new appointments.  And it doesn’t give the name of the board’s current chair, which is Susan Marcinek who has already chaired her first board meeting.  Ms. Marcinek’s spouse, David M. Marcinek once described as a “deal making partner” as Managing Director at Goldman Sachs connects her in multiple ways with politics and library sales.
But maybe the BPL is not too eager for the public to always be up-to-date with who is on the board of trustees.

Before telling you that one of the new BPL trustees is Carolee Fink, you should know that when the BPL sold the second biggest library in Brooklyn, the central destination downtown Brooklyn Business, Career and Education Brooklyn Heights Library, which was also a Federal Depository library to access federal documents, that deal was pushed through at City Hall by Alicia Glen, DeBlasio’s Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development.

Ms. Glen came to the city to do development arriving from Goldman Sachs.  In December 2015 when BPL president Linda Johnson told the BPL board of trustees how the sale of that library sale went down, a shrink-and-sink deal replacing the central destination library with a luxury tower, Johnson told the BPL board of trustees that Ms. Glen had adopted the library sale and shrinkage deal as “her own” to “push it across the finish line.”  The secretive final negotiations at City Hall included raiding Department of Education funds for space in the luxury building to help the developer. 

Moreover, the trustees were told that this sale was a “huge turning point for the library system” and “across the city in general” with Johnson `pioneering’ the future of libraries.  And previously Ms. Johnson had told the city council that the shrink-and-sink sale would be a model for all three of the city’s library systems.
Who is Carolee Fink?  Ms. Carolee Fink is Alicia Glen’s Chief of Staff.  Ms. Fink was appointed to BPL board by Mayor Bill deBlasio.  She replaces another of deBlasio’s appointments, Rachel Lauter, de Blasio's appointments secretary, one of his first three appointment to the BPL board.  (Appointments Secretary is a powerful and key administration position.)  Lauter has reportedly headed off to the West Coast.

At their Tuesday April 17, 2018 meeting Ms. Fink was introduced to the BPL board by fellow BPL board member Jordan Barowitz from the Durst real estate organization who said that he had known Ms. Fink “for a number of years” and described her as a “City Hall All-Star.”   Ms. Johnson was quick to add that Ms. Fink was Glenn’s chief of staff and said that Ms. Fink “loves libraries.”

Ms. Fink has been heavily and continually involved in the city’s big and high profile development deals for a number of years.  When Ms. Glen first started Ms. Fink served as her senior advisor.  Before that Ms. Fink advised Glen’s predecessor, Deputy Mayor Robert Steel. Then before returning as Glen’s Chief of Staff Ms. Fink served as the Executive Vice President and Chief Development Officer of NYC’s real estate development corporation, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC).  That was a newly created EDC position for her to oversee EDC’s real estate activity as chief development officer.

Ms. Fink has worked on the dispensing of city property, and large-scale projects such as the Hunters Point South development in Long Island City, Queens.  Creating a lot of overlap with other BPL trustees who are involved in development projects, Fink was the lead City Hall Advisor for EDC, Brooklyn Bridge Park, the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and Hudson River Park Trust.  Similarly she is involved with the Downtown Brooklyn partnership.  It has gotten her involved with issues like the failure to create Williamsburg waterfront parks that were promised in connection with development approvals.

Ms. Glen’s Deputy Mayor position gives Glen responsibility for overseeing and coordination with the operations of EDC, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, New York City Housing Authority, Department of City Planning, Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment, Department of Consumer Affairs, the Public Design Commission, and the Department of Small Business Services, the Department of Parks and Recreation, and the Housing Recovery Office. The Deputy Mayor also serves as a liaison with city, state and federal agencies and other agencies responsible for the City's economic development and infrastructure, including: NYC & Company, Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, Housing Development Corporation, Rent Guidelines Board, Hudson River Park Trust, The Trust for Governor's Island, Landmarks Preservation Commission, Board of Standards and Appeals, and Brooklyn Navy Yard.

The development oriented Fink also shows up on boards like the Trust for Cultural Resources of the City of New York, the Build NYC Resource Corporation, and the Moynihan Station Development Corporation and Snug Harbor.

Another BPL board member who does not currently show up on the BPL’s webpage is public finance investment banker David M. Womack (currently at Regional Municipal Finance boutique NYC and previously at Rice Financial Products Company, Citigroup, Gates Capital Corporation,
Fairmount Capital Advisors, Inc., Advest, Inc., Chemical Securities, Prudential-Bache Securities and JP Morgan Chase.) 

Like the new chair Ms. Marcinek, Womack is conveniently close for the BPL’s Grand Army Plaza Library trustee meetings, he's a Park Sloper (Ms. Marcinek is a Berkeley Carroll parent, a Park Slope school.)  Mr. Womack has served recently as Treasurer and Vice Chairman of Poly Prep Country Day School.

Citizens Defending Libraries also has some work to do to keep its web page with information about the BPL board members up-to-date.  We will add information about these two new trustees not yet listed by the BPL itself and perhaps beat them to the punch.

 BTW:  In terms of know knowing who is who or what is exactly what: On April 10th, just a few days before he attended the April 17th BPL Board meeting, BPL Trustee Michael Liburd, as Chair of Brooklyn Community Board 9's land Use Committee (where he is often criticized by the community for pushing through development proposals) was hosting a surprise presentation of the BPL's Central Library Plan, an overhaul that will make the Grand Army Plaza Library less familiar as a library. . .

Near the end of the CB9 Land Use Committee meeting Michael Liburd said “thank you very much library folks” as if these presenters were somehow separate from him---  On the contrary, what he doesn’t say is that he is a trustee of the Brooklyn Public Library, a member of the board to whom the “folks” must report and are accountable to.  If you don’t believe it without seeing it with your own eyes come to a Brooklyn Public Library Trustees meeting and watch these same presenting  “folks” deferentially report to Liburd and the other trustees.  In other words, Liburd is the BPL just as much as they are; he is himself one of these “library folks.”   

This is a particular concern in terms of what then happens immediately afterward—  Liburd tells the Land Use Committee that he is interested in giving “these folks” (he uses that term yet again) “what they are looking for.”  There was no quorum of the committee (a problem in an of itself), but then Liburd has the committee members who are present vote their approval of the proposed plan, himself leading off the vote with his own raised hand voting approval. . .

We throw that in just in case people think that myriad conflicts of interest on the BPL board may not matter.

Currently the BPL, not yet caught up, lists its trustees as such while misidentifying its chair: 
Peter Aschkenasy—Treasurer
Jordan Barowitz —Vice Chair
Michael Best
Nina Collins—Secretary
Anthony Crowell
Joseph Douek
Roseann Fodera
Blake Foote
Abe George
Nicholas A. Gravante, Jr.—Chair
Hank Gutman
Tim Ingrassia
Miriam Katowitz—Vice Chair
Kyle Kimball
Cindi Leive
Michael Liburd
Susan Marcinek
Gino P. Menchini
Cassandra Metz
Brian O'Neil
Kim-Thu Posnett
Lisa Price
Lisa Puleo
Hon. Alice Fisher Rubin
Sandra Schubert
Robin Shanus—Vice Chair
Christina Tettonis
Dr. Lucille C. Thomas
Patrick Train-Gutierrez
Antonia Yuille Williams
Ex-Officio Members & Designated Representatives
•    Hon. Bill de Blasio, Mayor of the City of New York Represented by Rachel Lauter
•    Hon. Eric Adams, President of the Borough of Brooklyn, Represented by Ingrid Lewis-Martin
•    Hon. Melissa Mark-Viverito, Speaker of the New York City Council, Represented by Reginald D. Shell
•    Hon. Scott M. Stringer, Comptroller of the City of New York, Represented by Gregory Davidzon
Want to know more about them?