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, September 25, 2018

Authors Anand Giridharadas, Eric Klinenberg, Kristen Ghodsee, and Activist Blair Imani, On Panel at Brooklyn Book Festival Discuss, `How To Change The World’ (With Libraries and Social Infrastructure!) Plus Who NOT To Trust— When In Jumps Untrustworthy, Library-Selling Councilman Brad Lander!!

Brooklyn Book Festival "How Do We Change the World?" panel. Left to right, after moderator (and fellow author) Jessica Bruder: panelist authors Kristen Ghodsee, Eric Klinenberg, Blair Imani, and Anand Giridharadas
Sure you want to charge out and get started `changing the world’: You’re revved up because it sure seems the world could use a lot of changing these days!  But it is amazing how twisted things can get right at the outset and how insanely easy it is to trip up in trying to choose your allies. . .

Starting off the morning Sunday (it was the 16th) at the Brooklyn Book Festival was a panel of authors (two of whom we have written about already, Anand Giridharadas (Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World) and Eric Klinenberg (Palaces for the People: How To Build a More Equal and United Society*) and two of whom we have not yet written about, gender and communism scholar Kristen Ghodsee, (Why Women Have Better Sex Under Socialism: And Other Arguments for Economic Independence) and activist Blair Imani (Modern HERstory: Stories of Women and Nonbinary People Rewriting History).
(* Mr. Klinenberg has both a British title for his book for U.K. release, “Palaces for the People: How To Build a More Equal and United Society,” and a United States Title, “Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life.”)
The panel's topic was: "How Do We Change the World?"

We wrote about Mr. Klinenberg because he wrote an op-ed derived from his new book about the importance of libraries as an example of how critically libraries represent the need for us to conserve and build our social infrastructure.  His op-ed sounded extraordinarily like it was cribbed directly from the web pages of Citizens Defending Libraries, including his assertion that one reason libraries are besieged these days is because those in power see them as “out of sync with the market logic that dominates our world” plus his rallying cry that libraries need “defending” because they are ties to our freedom and equality.

See: Eric Klinenberg in NY Times Op-ed calls for Defending Libraries Promoing His New Book- "Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life"

We wrote about Mr. Giridharadas because of his warning about who not to trust and more specifically his book’s admonitions that when the wealthy, all the “new philanthropists” who come out (to once again use Mr. Klinenberg’s phrase) infected by their “market logic that dominates our world” we should, indeed, stop to look their gift horses in the mouth— because the gifts they are presenting are likely to be more harmful than beneficial.

See: There’s Much You Should Not Trust When The Wealthy Give- Anand Giridharadas’ “Winners Take All- The Elite Charade of Changing the World” and David Callahan’s “The Givers: Wealth, Power and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age”

The panel discussion was in the Brooklyn Borough Hall Courtroom, the very same space where multiple “hearings” have been held about the sale of Brooklyn Libraries to turn those libraries into real estate deals, such as the shrink-and-sink sale that got rid of Brooklyn’s second biggest library, what was the Business, Career and Education Federal Depository Library, the central destination Brooklyn Heights Library in Downtown Brooklyn.   . .   BTW: The luxury condos in the tower replacing that library are just now coming to market.  See: 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.

Thus it was highly ironic in multiple ways that, before the panel even had a chance to commence, who should jump in but library-selling Brad Lander who previously grabbed the spotlight at so many of such hearings leading those who  champion and push for the selling of libraries in deals that will impoverish the public.  (For instance, see him in several clips here: Will Steve Levin Save the Brooklyn Heights Library?)
Brad Lander presenting himself as a progressive activist at the Brooklyn Book Festival's "How to Change The World."  The lectern is the same one where so many people have testified opposing the NYC library sales Mr. Lander promotes when he testifies.
Lander did a breathless double-time spiel associating himself with the `politics’ of ‘activism.’  Like every other knave these days who dresses up in fauxmanteau progressivism, Lander ventured forward in his “bonding” with the audience, starting with an all too usual and easy `I am anti-Trump pot-shot.’   Here are the Landerisms the audience had to sit through before the panel they came to hear got to talk:
I am so exited to come and listen to this panel- I don’t know about you, but I feel like my normal day is something like, you open Twitter and you’re like `Oh my god, what did Trump do today? . . .Who is going to be harmed by it?’  Then you see all this incredible activism taking place.  You think: `Wow!; people are really rising up in creative and new ways, and maybe there is a new world we could build that reflects people’s full selves!’ . . . What would it take to actually bring the change that we need?  I feel like we are in a moment when people have woken up for the need for really big change.  The question of how to bring it remains really, really challenging, so people are focused on just how big the inequalities are economically, but across so many lines of difference as well.  What would it look like to have real equality, real representation in our world, the climate crisis, weakness in our democracy.  But each of those challenges also presents a challenge for the kind of activism that we need to make that change, those very lines of division that general hopelessness about our institutions, they present those challenges: How are we going to make those changes? . . .
This is the same city councilman whom the library selling BPL president Linda Johnson and the library selling Jimmy Van Bramer both proclaimed to be  "very clever."

It gets worse, as we will come back to, during the Q&A that wrapped up the panel discussion, Mr. Klinenberg told the audience that those seeking to change the world (including apparently people wanting to defend and build libraries) should seek out Lander to help them, because they were not going to be able to do it alone.

In the same room, at the same lectern where Brad Lander pitched himself as a (library supporting?) activist, many members of the public testified against library sales Lander was promoting.
We were prepared, in fact we were on the very edge of our seat, trying to get called upon during the Q&A.  We wanted to ask a question about the degree of care with which we need to select our allies for activist change.  We were eager to ask this given the example of Mr. Lander’s usurpation of the opening moments with his self-promoting appeal, and also because of many cautions from Mr. Giridharadas during the session telling us to beware of how the wealthy use their money and foundations.  Giridharadas told us the wealthy try to always to be in the driver’s seat steering, or “changing change” so that change will never take off in a direction offensive to what they have in mind respecting continuing their self-enrichment; over and over again their goal is to just soften the abrasive edges of their self enrichment by appearing to be on the side of the public  — Ah well, we did not get called upon and therefore did not get to ask our question about how to decide who to trust before it was all over.

Here are some highlights of the discussion preceding the Q&A that pertain most interestingly to libraries:
    •    Mr. Klinenberg told the audience that “a week ago, I did an op-ed about libraries, public institutions, which for me are extraordinary a source of inspiration and are in neighborhoods that we live in . . . a place that deserves our resources, our attention, our love. . .”  (We should note that Mr. Klinenberg should have a certain amount of credibility dating a ways back- We previously wrote how Jane Jacobs, in her last book, admired Mr. Klinenberg’s work as a graduate student done a number of years ago.)
Anand Giridharadas

    •    Mr. Giridharadas sounded the alarm not to trust appearances or announced good intentions when the wealthy deploy their philanthropy.  His words sounded sharper than we’ve heard them before (we wrote more about this before):
       •    “We live in a day where the elites seem to really want to help, and yet this is by any reading of the numbers this is the most predatory elite we’ve had in America in one hundred years.  I became interested in how billionaires are helping us while screwing us at the same time. . . . Is the help what upholds their hoarding?”
       •    “When rich people . . . come into the space of changing the world, they never sit in the back row of changing the world; they sit in the front row.  They always get on the board of directors of changing the world.  The wind up as the COO or CEO or something with a `C’ of changing the world, and they change change.  They defang change; they tend to define change in ways that don’t threaten winners.”
       •    He said we get a “light facsimile of change that is the kind of change Mark Zukerberg can get on board with.”
       •    We shouldn’t be looking at these “sugar daddies” to fix inequality and “outsource change.”
       •    He said, “I don’t think that we should be turning first to the `woke’ billionaires to fix this.  My goal is to remind people that we built things like this [the grand court room and Brooklyn Borough hall building we were in] again, and we don’t need permission slips from the powerful to make changes.”
       •    He said we have to clear the brush of a lot of widely believed bullshit and terminology that needs to be dismantled:
          •    “Win-Win”- Neoliberal bullshit.
          •    “Thought Leaders” are thinkers that don’t threaten power.  There are “thinkers” and then there are “thought leaders”- You don’t want to be a “thought leader,” bad thing to be.
          •    “Doing good by doing well, and doing well by . . .”  Again, not good, not real change.
          •    “Innovation”- Not the same as “progress.”  We got a lot of innovation in the last 30 or 40 years.  Unfortunately it just skipped about half of us.
          •    “Giving back”- Sounds nice?- Not the same as “taking less.”
        •    “There is a significant silent minority within the power institutions of our age that understand that they are sitting in temples of cruelty, that understand that they are part of system that’s indefensible.”
Kristen Ghodsee

   •    Kristen Ghodsee said,  “I am trying to think outside of the box of capitalism.  I am trying to push back: Why is it we always turn to the billionaires?  And why do we think of our social infrastructure as something that has to happen within a fundamentally private market where the prices of good and services are always informed by the caprices of supply and demand.”  She blamed “a particular form” of “unregulated neoliberalism capitalism” as the “source of all our problems,” devastating us with “the idea that everything has to have a price” and “even our most intimate experiences are increasingly commodified.”  (She also said she was “totally on board with” the practical benefit of building more libraries.)

   •    Klinenberg said he believed in turning toward the state for help, not billionaires.  We agree with him on this.  It’s one reason why it is so worrisome when the city cuts back on funding libraries with private partnerships and “new philanthropies” stepping up as the potential replacements.
Following the panel, there was this self-explanatory exchange with Mr. Klinenberg that starts with the following email from Citizens Defending Libraries co-founder Michael D. D. White:
Dear Mr. Klinenberg,

When we talked after the morning Brooklyn Book Festival panel and you signed my copy of your new book (inscribing it “solidarity”) I noted that during the Q&A when you were answering for the audience the question of `what to do to change the world’ you told them to `find Councilman Brad Lander’ and work with him; and I was clear with you about how Councilman Brad Lander has been in the forefront promoting turning New York libraries into real estate deals, their sale and shrinkage and elimination of books, (basically across the board) and including specifically, for example, the NYPL’s Central Library Plan and the shrink-and-sink sale of Brooklyn’s second biggest library, deals that benefit real estate developers, not the public.  The latter, the shrink-and-sink sale of Brooklyn’s second biggest library was modeled after the shrink-and-sink sale of the Donnell Library.  Those two shrink-and-sink schemes were conceived essentially at the same time.  I also see that, although you say that Citizens Defending Libraries and the Committee to Save the New York Public Library were unknown to you when you wrote your book, your book includes descriptions of both of those library sales we were so active in criticizing.

I have reviewed your Brooklyn Book Festival remarks when you told people who were seeking to change the world to `find Councilman Brad Lander’ because I intend to write about what you said, and it seems reasonable that people hearing how you phrased things and the context in which you were offering your advice, would probably conclude that you were instructing them that, rather than work alone (which you said would be unsuccessful), they should “find Brad Lander” because they could “believe” in him, should “support” him, that Lander is some who we can think of as helping to “build libraries,” and, finally, that Mr. Lander is someone who exists safely exterior to the trap of neoliberal thinking.

I’ll also remind you that just before the panel began its discussion, Councilman Lander jumped in to speak to the crowd and portray himself with some heavy duty rhetoric as a fellow political activist looking to make the same changes the audience of activists were wanting.

Accordingly, before I write about your instruction to “find Brad Lander,” I wanted to contact you and see if you wanted to retroactively supply some sort of caveat or warning that I can pass along from you, perhaps particularly to people seeking to defend libraries and our public assets and infrastructure, about Mr. Lander and what to expect from him. . . before they put themselves in Mr. Lander’s hands or let him lead them.  Would you like to do so?

Perhaps I should also mention that I have found the descriptions in your book about the Donnell and Brooklyn Heights Library sales. The flaws I find in them is the overall mildness of what you wrote and what is missing be virtue of what you elide in your descriptions.  I can take that up with you further a bit later.
Mr. Klinenberg responded:
Dear Mr White,
I respectfully ask that you do not misrepresent my statement. I told the audience that they cannot change the world by asking alone. I told them to speak to people like Mr Lander because he is an elected representative in our local democracy. That is clearly not the only way to change the world, and I said that as well. The way you’ve described it here is a gross simplification of my remarks.

I believe in solidarity. I’d like to see advocates for the city libraries work together more effectively. I know there are differences in strategy and in opinion about some matters, including how to finance the system. I take a position in the book. You can write Bantu it, of course. I simply ask that you represent it fairly.

Bets wishes,
Mr. Klinenberg did not take up the first or a subsequent invitation extended to him to join Citizens Defending Libraries in warning people about what Councilman Lander is up to in terms of the libraries.

— Another thing that Mr. Klinenberg could do in the interest of “solidarity” (and staying informed) would be to sign our Citizens Defending Libraries petition that the New York City’s administration should adequately fund our libraries,  not sell them as real estate deals. 
Mr. Klinenberg's book inscribed with "Solidarity," by him.
Here is exactly what Mr. Klinenberg said in answering the question about how to change the world.  It is up to you to decide its implications with respect to Mr. Lander who had orated entreatingly earlier.  To be fair, Mr. Klinenberg does not technically say exactly why it would be good to seek out this elected representative.

Mr. Klinenberg:
The question is how can I as an individual do something to change the world?  The answer is you can’t.  But if the question is how do we do something, then there is a world of possibilities, because these are major problems that we are fighting right now; it’s about the shape of the world.  The only way we do something is if we do something as a collective.  And that means that we export that collective out of the space of neoliberalism that has made us think of ourselves as individual actors who can change the world with our consumption.  So whatever it is that’s your passion, and in this room there are going to be a lot of passions (there are a lot of things that are fucked up and need to be changed), find the other people who share your passion, persuade people who don’t know what they are passionate about that this is a passion worth fighting for, take time out of your schedule to meet with those people and do something.  Find Brad Lander and other members of the local political infrastructure or the national political infrastructure; find the organizations that you can believe in and work with them and support them.  And I am not an opponent of social media, but we are not going to change the world by “liking” things; we are going to change the world by building libraries and day care centers, and safe places where people can spend time and enjoy each other’s companionship.  That’s the world we want to make together.
Perhaps you want to know what Mr. Klinenberg’s book said about the library sales that we think is misleadingly mild?

Below are the paragraphs he wrote. For balance and perspective we will intersperse them with our comments to indicate his shadings and what he left out of the story- 
Klinenberg: The current battle pits the library's executive leadership, which is anxious about the system's declining fortunes, against local patrons who fear they'll lose neighborhood branches and specialized services if the system consolidates.
[Our comment: Portraying the library's executive leadership (presumably the library boards interconnected with that “leadership”) as “anxious” (does that mean “caring”?) about the “declining fortunes” skips over possible characterization of the board and “leadership” as being real estate deal oriented and wealthy in the kind of way* that Mr. Giridharadas scrutinizes in his analysis.  It is also perhaps inconsistent with Klinenberg’s own endnote buried at the back of the book- for those who read endnotes- mentioning the NYPL’s Central Library Plan describing it as a “misguided, massively expensive, and ultimately ill-fated effort . . .led by elite trustees who, as one former library executive said, “only care about the 42nd Street Building” and “don’t care about the branches.”  For that quote, he refers to Scott Sherman’s book Patience and Fortitude- Power, Real Estate, and the Fight to Save a Public Library about the Central Library Plan which was derailed in part by the efforts of Committee to save the New York Public Library and Citizens Defending Libraries and by two lawsuits in which Citizens Defending Libraries was the first named plaintiff, but Mr. Klinenberg told us he’d heard of neither group when he wrote his book.
(* In fact, just a few pages before Klinenberg has a few sentences that make him sound perplexingly, but not exactly, similar to Giridharadas: “Like Zuckerberg, corporate leaders are always happy to experiment with projects that promote the common good while raising their market capitalism.  But there are limits to how much they can accomplish by giving while taking.  How much more wealth do they need to accumulate before they are ready to help?”  Both men’s books are promoted by Greenlight Bookstore.– Klinenberg next writes he finds the lack of support for libraries from the corporate tech world “puzzling,” but the minute you start wondering about that question there are plenty of answers available.  Amazingly, Klinenberg acts as if he comprehends so little that he cites as an exception to this stinginess, as an example of generosity, the transfer of money by Stephen A. Schwarzman to the NYPL on the understanding that the NYPL would proceed with the Central Library Plan selling major Manhattan libraries.) 
At this point in Klinenberg’s narrative, it would have been an excellent time for him to mention the Central Library Plan and how it involved the proposed sale of central destination libraries: Mid-Manhattan, New York’s biggest circulating library and SIBL, the Science Business and Industry Library (among other things the city’s biggest science library), and, as it was announced at the same time, the central destination arts and media Donnell Library.  It also involved the banishment of millions of books intended to be shelved at the 42nd Street Central Reference Library.  He could have mentioned these things here, but they go unmentioned in his book.—   Klinenberg does mention what he calls the current “renovation” of the Mid-Manhattan Library and money for it coming from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, but only in a way that his readers would assume that it was unquestionably good, not questioning the shrinkage or book loss involved or the questionable expenditures of money.

“Consolidates,” the word used by Mr. Klinenberg, sounds relatively neutral, like a possible good thing, compared how we more fully we convey the threat of these “leadership” proposals describing them as “consolidating shrinkages.”]
Klinenberg (continued): They have good reason to fear. According to the Center for an Urban Future, the New York Public Library system has more than $1.5 billion in construction needs-just for repairs and maintenance on existing facilities. In Manhattan, the city sold land and air rights to the beloved Donnell Library, across from the Museum of Modern Art on Fifty-Third Street, in 2007, for $59 million, promising to open a new facility within the new luxury hotel and condo building there by 2011. It opened in summer 2016, and while some appreciated its twenty-first-century design, both users and critics complained that it felt soulless, more like an Apple Store than a community hub.
[Our comment: The “They have good reason to fear” formulation, splits the possible blame for that fear between the described underfunding of the libraries and the first mention of any sell offs of NYC libraries.  This doesn’t describe for Klinenberg’s readers our admonitions about efforts on the part of the library “leadership” to overstate and exaggerate repair figures (even while holding back available funds) and, as can been seen in part from the minutes of the BPL trustee meetings, an agreement with Bloomberg city administration officials to start building up those repair figures made just as they were also launching the library sell-off plans.  In his back of the book endnotes, Klinenberg says he is taking his figures from the testimony of Jonathan Bowles of the Revson funded Center For an Urban Future at the September 30, 2013 City Council hearing.  That hearing, at which Citizens Defending Libraries delivered copious opposing testimony, was the first city council hearing about selling libraries, and was set up and orchestrated by the City Council and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer to justify selling libraries (including at that time the NYPL Central Library Plan) shortly after plans for selling libraries were eviscerated (including follow up in the newspapers) in at a June 27, 2013 state assembly hearing on the subject. Klinenberg doesn’t note that Bowles and the Center For an Urban Future have actually advocated the library sales that Klinenberg is only softy bemoaning in his text here.  (In our communication with Mr. Klinenberg we said that we wondered where he was getting his information.)

While “beloved Donnell Library” is the phrase we consistently use remembering its unforgivable sale, Klinenberg says that the library was sold “for $59 million,” without indicating, especially for non-New Yorkers not knowing real estate prices here, how much less this figure was than the huge central library’s actual value to the public.  He also does not note that this is a gross figure and that if he was paying attention to Scott Sherman’s book, what the NYPL netted after expenses for selling the valuable library was probably less than $23 million at best.  Also, maybe because he doesn’t know, Klinenberg does not say that the Donnell was sold off in what was for practical purposes a no-bid deal where one of the principal financial beneficiaries of the transaction was Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law.

Klinenberg says the NYPL promised to open “a new facility” in what was rebuilt.   What they really promised was that the Donnell Library would be rebuilt.  Ultimately, the NYPL was too embarrassed to call what was built a new “Donnell”: it became just a “53rd Street library,” jettisoning reference to the past.  They did not, at the time the sale was announced, tell the public about the huge luxury tower that was coming.  The NYPL just talked about an “11-story hotel” being built.

For Klinenberg to say that the criticism of the “new facility” was that it “felt soulless” is an extreme understatement.  What about the fact that library was smaller, just over a fourth the size?  That it was largely underground?  That books were largely eliminated, along with other facilities like that auditorium and media center as well?  That, to add insult to injury, the new facility was showing huge picture screen slides of fancy real estate developments and construction?  And how can Mr. Klinenberg be aware of any of this criticism at all without knowing that Citizens Defending Libraries and the Committee to save the Public Library were leading demonstrations about it, plus consolidating the published criticism that regularly quoted us?    As for the twenty-first-century design gibberish, that’s pure Center for and Urban Future PR speak, some of the “brush” and “widely believed bullshit and terminology” that needs to be cleared away in this context.

To point out that the library’s opening in 2016, after almost nine years, was later than promised is to miss the point that its opening lagged the opening of the luxury hotel, restaurants and condos by more than a year or what that, in turn, said about the NYPL’s priorities in making the library into a real estate deal.]        
Klinenberg (continued):  In Brooklyn, where estimates for repairing the borough's sixty branch buildings top $300 million, the public library board tried to sell the historic, heavily used Pacific Library branch in Boerum Hill to real estate developers, only to withdraw the offer because of fierce neighborhood protests. Soon after, the board voted to sell the land rights to the Brooklyn Heights Library for $52 million, so that another developer could build a thirty-six-story, mixed-use tower that, as in Manhattan, would include a new library, considerably smaller than the current one. Once again, neighbors protested, but this time for naught. The Brooklyn Borough Board approved the sale in early 2016.
[Our comment: Again, Klinenberg promotes the believability of the repair figure that “leadership” trotted out to sell libraries they were intentionally underfunding to have an excuse to sell these valuable assets.  Klinenberg notes the “fierce” opposition to the sale of the Pacific Library, but somehow again, by his account, never noticed our Citizens Defending Libraries leadership in the fight?   Once again, Klinenberg describes the sale of the central destination Business, Career, and Education Federal Depository Brooklyn Heights Library in downtown without noting that it was the second biggest library in Brooklyn, recently expanded and fully upgraded, or how much below its value it was sold for, for less than its tear down value of that of a vacant lot in what was criticized as pay-to-play deal for campaign contributions to the mayor.  He doesn’t lay it out for non-New Yorkers or indicate that, $52 million aside, the library sale will, just like Donnell, actually net far less than that gross figure he gives.  This time, Klinenberg does say that the new library will be “considerably smaller,” (about 40% of what it was), but he doesn’t note the loss of books, the discontinuation of the Business, Career, and Education plus Federal Depository functions banished from the site, and he doesn’t note that, again, like Donnell, the public will be pushed more underground.  Again, he notes the protests and, once again we must wonder how he professes to be unaware that we led them.  Mention of us would, of course, have the consequence of leading people into a more informed state of affairs.]     
Klinenberg (continued): The fiscal crisis in the New York Public Library has had more immediate consequences too. Between 2008 and 2013, New York City cut the library system's operating funds by $68 million, resulting in a 24 percent drop in staff hours. A century ago, most branch libraries were open seven days a week; today, most are closed on Sundays, which have always been popular days for immigrants, blue-collar workers, and families to visit. No other institution can fill the void.

[Our comment: There is no reason for the libraries to be underfunded, especially when they are a top public priority and cost relatively little to fund.  Mr. Klinenberg writes as if he does not recognize the games that are being played here, dangerous ones at that.  If underfunding of the libraries is allowed to work as an excuse to sell libraries then that underfunding will persist as long as the real estate industry and its allies still want libraries to be sold.]
If Mr. Klinenberg is writing so mildly, taking the edge off what he is telling the public every conceivable which way, should we be wondering why?

In the acknowledgments to his book, Mr. Klinenberg offers an origin story with respect to his writing of his book— It started with an approach to him to write about libraries— And that approach came from the Revson Foundation which has funded all sorts of initiatives in connection with promoting the sale of libraries (it has on its board Sharon L. Greenberger who lead the Brooklyn Public Library’s launch of its library sales, while Reynold Levy, another of its board members is president of the unaptly named Robinhood Foundation spearheading the Inwood Library sale)– emphasis is supplied:
I am also lucky to have met Julie Sandorf, president of the Charles H. Revson Foundation and fierce champion of public libraries.  In early 2016, Julie came to IPK [Institute for Public Knowledge- established in 2007 by the President and Provost of New York University] and pitched a small, collaborative project on the state of New York City’s branch libraries.  I raised the bid, and came back to the foundation with a proposal for what ultimately became a wide-ranging project on libraries, social infrastructure, and civic life.  Julie and her team have been all in ever since, and I thank them for their support.
We have asked Mr. Klinenberg about his funding from the Revson Foundation and how much it was.  He hasn’t informed us about that.  He did respond to another inquiry when we asked whether his writing about the library sales was reviewed by the Revson Foundation or the Center for an Urban Future (whose promotion of Library sales is funded by the Revson Foundation).  He told us he did not have the “Revson or CUF vet my writing.”

Mr. Giridharadas tells us to be wary of the foundations of the “new philanthropy,” because they are not what they seem, often wanting to soften the edges of greed to let it persist in its pursuits.  And he also describes foundations that veer off course from what would actually be helpful, because keeping the interests of the wealthy always in mind they set the wrong priorities. But until we have settled down with his book to read it through, we won’t know whether he has ventured to describe foundations such as the Revson Foundation, the Robinhood Foundation and the Center for and Urban Future (not to mention the oddly comprised boards of the libraries themselves), who apparently represent something worse, efforts to use the guise of charity to plunder public assets, case in point, turning libraries into real estate deals that benefit the real estate industry, but impoverish the public that relies on libraries.

Back of book blurbs
Mr. Klinenberg’s book is likely to get good readership.  He seems to have risen to a certain level of access that plugs him into the mainstream media.  He has appeared on Bill Maher.  The back of his book has endorsement blurbs from a number of recognized names: Jon Stewart (Citizens Defending Libraries would over to have had Mr. Stewart or John Oliver pay attention to our publicizing of the library sell-offs; hasn’t happened yet), Renzo Piano (who designed the New York Times building), sociologist Alie Hochschild (who credits Mr. Klinenberg with a “Jane Jacobs-eye”), Rebecca Solnit (of “mansplaining” fame) and “How Democracies Die” authors  Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt.  That may mean that Klinenberg’s story about what is happening with New York City library sales will tend to become more the official one than ours. . . Especially if our press releases are not picked up. . . .

 . . . We think it would be unfortunate if that proves to be the case.  Among other things, we think the information we provide is far better researched and is a far more neutral and careful expression of the facts and the concerns that face us.  And, we are careful about with whom we ally; we don’t take money from the Revson Foundation!


  1. And how does one get in touch with Mr. Klineberg to engage him in further discussion?

  2. Excellent analysis and research as usual. Thanks for piercing the veil of faux progressivism.