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.

Friday, December 21, 2018

A Beloved Library Defender Is Gone, But Not Forgotten: Justine Swartz, Our Ambrosia

In the seat of honor, Justine Swartz, Ambrosia- On each side, co-founders of Citizens Defending Libraries, Carolyn McIntyre and Michael D. D. White
Most of the time we speak here of the threat of losing beloved libraries.  Sometimes we have to report losses of those libraries.  This time we have to report our loss of one of most beloved and spirited library defenders, Justine Swartz, who often sallied forth into this world by her adopted nom-de-frolic of “Ambrosia.”  The myths of ancient Greece tell us that ambrosia is the food and drink, the nectar of, the Gods, conferring long life extending into immortality on those who consume it.

We lost Justine the past fall that just ended with the solstice; she died on October, 12th.  We didn’t hear immediately: One of our library defending friends, Amy, reached out to let us know.  Justine was one of the longest residents in 30 Clinton Street across the street from the Business, Career and Education Brooklyn Heights, the central destination library she fought so hard to protect.  She died a few blocks south in the Cobble Hill Nursing Home after a protracted fight with cancer.  That fight didn’t stop Justine from, according to the report of one of her friends, spending her final summer “at Brighton Beach doing what she had always done (i.e., holding mermaid court among her admirers, flirting with the lifeguards, bobbing up and down in the surf, and telling people where they could place their beach towels....similar to her role at the St. Francis Pool)” until the beach "closed" for the winter.

Justine was with us as part of the Brooklyn Heights library fight pretty much from the very beginning.  If you go to our Citizens Defending Libraries YouTube channel and click to find the most popular, most viewed video, you will find Justine testifying.  With well over six thousand views, it leaves all our other videos in the statistical dust.  . . .  Justine was testifying against the sale of libraries at the New York State Assembly hearing on the subject held  June 27, 2013.  Starting out by making some more conventional points about why libraries shouldn’t be sold and also making clear why evicting Brooklyn’s second biggest library from easily accessible Downtown Brooklyn was worthy of an American with Disabilities Act compliant, Ambrosia then segued, breaking all the rules to launch into a poem of her own composition and she ended, literally, with a juggling act.  See:

Justine Swartz Poem to NY Legislators: Libraries Rock! Renovate, Don't Terminate (click through for best viewing directly in YouTube).
. . .  And somehow we thought the focus of the hearing should have been on the testimony of a Pulitzer-Prize winner like Edmund Morris!

No only was Justine a juggler par excellence, she also loved to belly dance: Check out her Facebook Page for videos.

Justine was the one who, living above to look down on the Brooklyn Heights Library was able to see, report and bring to the attention of the news media that the Hudson Companies developer who was dismantling the library to level and replace it with a luxury condo tower, was leaving unsecured construction debris to blow off the roof and rain down on the sidewalk like shrapnel. Justine made sure this news was broadcast on TV and got in the Brooklyn Eagle.

Justine got the news of the blowing, raining debris on News 12
We’ve lost track, and someone will someday have to calculate, how many letters to the editor Justine had published in the local papers.  We are sure her passionate outcries hold the record.

Justine sent us this picture of the Brooklyn Heights Library being demolished saying:  “The Library looks naked and vulnerable without its Windows.”
Justine/Ambrosia: “The Library looks naked and vulnerable without its Windows.”
Justine was on of the first to tell us when they began to start cutting down the many trees that surrounded the library.  She sent us these two pictures with the sad comment, "before and after."
"Before and after."
In happier warrior mode earlier this picture was posted by Justine on her Facebook page and often shared:
Here is a picture of Justine when she was enjoying a library defender lunch with Carolyn:
It was not too long ago that we last saw Justine in a good mood on Montague Street.  Her last communication with his was her wish to us on September 21st to have a Happy Rosh Hashanah, the first of the Jewish New Year.

A few days after learning that Justine had died, our screen saver popped up a picture of Justine looking merry, a sort of visit from beyond.  When we tracked that photo down in our collection we discovered that it was taken of us December 25th, 2015, Christmas Day, another time when we ran into Ambrosia on Montague Street. . . 

That is the picture you see right at the top of this post-

We wish that Justine were with us this season and into yet another new year.  We will remember her fondly.

There will be a memorial service for Justine in the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood on January 2, 2019:
Memorial for Justine Swartz, our Ambrosia
Wednesday, January 2, 2019, 1:30 PM
Multi-Purpose Room on the 2nd Fl
St. Charles Jubilee Senior Center
55 Pierrepont St., Brooklyn, New York 11201
Here are a few more photos of Justine we can share:


  1. This is such a gorgeous tribute! She was a oner, with great energy to right the wrongs she saw! Someone like you, Michael.
    Katherine Silverblatt

  2. Amazing tribute. Ditto comment above. BloomdeBlasio a nightmare...