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, September 20, 2018

As Condo Apartments Set Brooklyn Heights Sales Records (You Heard About Matt Damon’s $16.645 Million Penthouse?) Central Library Sold To Build (Now About To be Marketed) Luxury Condos Nets Mere Pittance

What Brooklyn Heights real estate news do you want to hear about first?

Do you want to know that the condos in One Clinton, the luxury tower that’s replacing Brooklyn’s second biggest library, what was the Business, Career and Education Federal Depository Library, the central destination Brooklyn Heights Library in Downtown Brooklyn, are about to be marketed?

The Standish
Or do you want to hear that condo apartments are setting sales records- yes, apartments, not even townhouses, with Matt Damon showing up in Curbed and the Wall Street Journal with reports that he is in contract to buy a $16.645 million penthouse in The Standish, converted from what was once a hotel.  That’s maybe more fun to hear about.  As Curbed points out, if the reports prove to be true, the $16.645 million asking price for the penthouse will “beat the record” set by the  sale of a Cobble Hill townhouse, 177 Pacific Street, bought by photographer Jay Maisel going into contract for $16 million (but closing for just $12.9 million) in 2015.  The next runner up cited by Curbed was another apartment, Dumbo’s Clocktower penthouse, which sold for $15 million. . . . Wow!  Such a price, even when The Standish is fairly nondescript by Brooklyn Heights standards!

New, about to open sales office for One Clinton at 153 Remsen Street.  Is this a transaction to depict in shades of grey?  Probably not. 
Back to One Clinton: Sunday’s New York Times Real Estate Section reported on the commencement of the apartment sales.  See: The High End- A Condo Tower on a Library Site- Sales begin at a Brooklyn Heights building that faces Cadman Plaza and replaces a 1960s library with a smaller branch and 134 condos.-  By C. J. Hughes, September 14, 2018

The Real Estate Section article puts front and center the critical issue of the library sell-off that preceded these condo sales well, and it quotes one of our Citizens Defending Libraries co-founders while doing so:
Opponents say that the project, from the Hudson Companies, has done something deeply offensive: bulldoze a library, and a popular one at that, to make way for luxury housing.

 “The developer is coming to clearly enrich himself at the expense of the public,” said Michael D. D. White, a co-founder of Citizens Defending Libraries, a group formed in 2013 after city officials announced plans to redevelop the site, which is on Cadman Plaza West at Clinton Street, near Brooklyn Borough Hall.

“Memories are not going to go away,” added Mr. White, who over the years has organized protests near the former library, which was built in 1962, and plans to stage another with the opening of the condo’s sales office.

    . . .  Mr. White said the new library would be a pale substitute for the old version, in part because it’s so much smaller than the former library, which measured 59,000 square feet. Many rooms in the new library will also be underground, another unwelcome change, Mr. White added.
Unfortunately, this good press regarding how unfortunate the sale of the library is, comes after the sale has occurred and the library destroyed.  And it’s in the Real Estate Section, a section of the paper most readers find their way to because they are interested in tracking real estate business or buying (an often luxury) place to live.  There are other sections of the paper that have more to do with holding our public officials to account, officials like those who pushed this library sale through: Mayor de Blasio (in what was looked at as a pay-to-play deal), Councilman Brad Lander and Councilman Steve Levin among them.

The Times article also notes the role of Brooklyn Community Board Two and the Brooklyn Heights Association in pushing through the library sale.  In fact, given yet one more opportunity to back off from its crucial support in putting through the library sale and shrinkage with the elimination of the Business, Career, and Education and Federal Depository library parts of the library previously there, the Brooklyn Heights Association speaking through its executive director Peter Bray reiterated all over again its continuing support for the sale of the library saying, “We’ve taken a very close look at this project from day one.”   The Times, in passing, made sly note of the  incongruity that the Brooklyn Heights Association “has railed against other residential towers.”  That includes the association’s objections to the very similar and similarly located Pineapple Walk tower that was proposed . . .

. . . The Times article didn’t mention that one difference with the library sale luxury tower, as opposed to those other residential towers “railed against,” was that Saint Ann’s School was cashing in as a big beneficiary of the transaction and the BHA allowed BHA board members from the community connected to Saint Ann’s a great deal of influence with respect to approving the transaction.

More objectionable than Saint Ann’s School cashing in on the sale of this public asset is the comparative pittance that went to the public in exchange for giving up its library.  The library had been significantly expanded and fully upgraded quite recently in 1993, making it one of the most modern and up to date in the system with lots of computer resources.  The library would cost over $120 million to replace.  But the library was sold for less than its tear down value, for just a very few multiples what Matt Damon is paying for his apartment.  Unfortunately, that figure is not what the Brooklyn Public Library will net from the sale after all the losses and expenses are tallied.  That figure will be considerably less.

The Brooklyn Public Library has not been forthcoming about the numbers that should be worked into such a final reckoning, but if our estimates are close to the mark, then the BPL will net probably not much more than what Matt Damon is paying for his penthouse.  If our figures are off the mark and we have overestimated what the BPL will net, the BPL might even net less than Damon is plunking down for his new Brooklyn Heights digs.

As for the buyers of One Clinton condos?  They may not be encountering prospects as gilded as they hope.   The library, before it was destroyed, was inscribed with a promise on its wall that faced north under the shade of what were Truth Park’s trees.  The promise was that those who came to the site would not find gold, just truth and wisdom as long as that’s what they sought.  The inscription read:
All that come here to seek treasure will not take away gold but the seeker after truth and instruction will find that which will enrich the mind and heart
It was a promise offering hope and inspiration to the many coming to the library site for the public purposes to which the library was dedicated. . .  But it was an admonition to those less pure coming to the site seeking instead only to satisfy their greed.

“Memories are not going to go away”: The inscription, `truth, instruction and an enriched mind and heart, not gold' on the side library facing Truth Park

2 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Absolutely sad and another instance of the decline of a once great city.
    Greed and profit for a small group of people, as if that is all that matters.

    ReplyDelete