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, August 23, 2022

Citizens Defending Libraries Main Page

Defend our libraries, don't defund them. . . . .  fund 'em, don't plunder 'em 

SIGN OUR PETITION TO SUPPORT LIBRARIES:  Sign our new updated petition here:
Mayor de Blasio: Rescue Our Libraries from Developer Destruction
You can also stay informed by following us on Twitter (@DefendLibraries) and by liking our Citizens Defending Libraries Facebook page. And we post videos on our Citizens Defending Libraries YouTube Channel.
When We Started and Why

Citizens Defending Libraries was founded in February of 2013 in response to then breaking headlines about how, across the city, our public libraries were proposed to be sold and shrunk at great public loss, with libraries being intentionally underfunded, their books and librarians eliminated.  Citizens Defending Libraries was first to point out how the the real estate industry's interest in turning libraries into real estate deals was driving such sales and the reduction of funding and library resources.


Citizens Defending Libraries has had a number of significant successes fending off and preventing library sale and shrinkages and there has been some progress towards restoration of the funding of libraries to a proper pre-library-sales plan level of proper funding.  These successes include: 
    •    The sale of Mid-Manhattan, the most used circulating library in Manhattan, was prevented with the help of two lawsuits in which Citizens Defending Libraries was first in the list of named plaintiffs.  That sale was prevented as Citizens Defending Libraries joined with others to successfully derail the New York Public Library’s ill-conceived consolidating shrinkage of major Manhattan libraries known as the Central Library Plan.  Citizens Defending Libraries accurately predicted this sell-off and shrinkage of libraries was likely to cost over $500 million, far more than the $300 advertised by the NYPL as it promoted its real estate deals.  Unfortunately, work remains to be done as aspects of the Central Library Plan still ominously survive:
    •        The NYPL still plans to sell and close the largest science library in New York City, SIBL, the Science Industry and Business Library, eliminating its collection of science books just when they are needed most,
    •        Millions of additional books are still missing from and need to be brought back to the 42nd Street Central Reference Library at Fifth Avenue (yes that's the building with the lions, Patience and Fortitude).
    •        The NYPL still plans to subject the Mid-Manhattan Library to a consolidating shrinkage with a concomitantly vast reduction in available books.
    •    The sale and closing of another beloved central destination in Manhattan, the 5-story Donnell Library is now widely understood to have been a mistake. Library administration officials now apologize acknowledging it was a significant mistake, but that is only so long as we keep reminding the public what was lost and how the library was sold for a pittance, while real estate industry insiders like Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner benefitted from this first “shrink-and-sink” deal by replacing it with luxury tower, a tiny underground and largely bookless library in its base.
    •    Working with others in the community, we have so far prevented the sale the Pacific Branch Library, the first Carnegie in Brooklyn, next to Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards megadevelopment (now aka “Pacific Park”), which in 2013 the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) announced was one of its two highest priorities to sell as it launched a program of real estate deal sell-offs.
    •    For almost four years, from 2013 to 2017, we delayed and fended off the sale and destruction of Brooklyn’s second biggest library, the central destination Brooklyn Heights Library, which included the central Business Career and Education Library and a now shuttered Federal Depository Library making federal documents, records, and history available to the public.  This was another “shrink-and-sink” sale of property, also next to (and involving) Forest City Ratner property was the BPL’s other first announced highest priority.  Again, a luxury tower will stand where an important central destination library once stood.  Garnering over 2,000 testimonies from the community we surprised everybody by causing Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams to come out against the project after it was launched.  It was also reportedly the subject of a “play-to-play” investigation with respect to the development team that was an inferior bidder channeling funds to Mayor de Blasio.  That investigation appears to have been dropped immediately after Donald Trump stunned the public by firing U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.
    •    We alerted the public and Red Hook community about “Spaceworks,” a real estate company formed Mayor Bloomberg’s administration to shrink libraries viewing library space as being under utilized we helped to prevent the already woefully small 7,500 square foot Red Hook library from being shrunk down to just 5,500 square feet.  Brooklyn Community Board 6 helped kill the shrinkage.  (While we also worked to get the word out to the Williamsburg community about a proposed shrinkage there with Spaceworks being handed the second floor of the Williamsburg Library, we were not able to act fast enough and Councilman Steve Levin and Brooklyn Community Board 1 were supporting the scheme.)
     •    We alerted the Sunset Park community about long-secret plans to sell the Sunset Park Library and redevelop it into a mixed used project.  We believe that because we were on the scene to shine this spotlight, and also because the BPL wanted to overcome our opposition to the Brooklyn Heights Library sale, Sunset park is the first time the BPL actually proposed to enlarge one of the the libraries it was targeting for sale.  That will be a sort of victory if there is no subsequent bait-and-switch.  Unfortunately, it is not a perfect victory.  Our sense is that for good and valid reasons the informed Sunset Park community was still largely, perhaps 90%, opposed to the library replacement plan they were not involved in developing and from which they will suffer while the library is closed for many years before it is replaced.  Unfortunately, those who were in place to fight for the Sunset Park community’s interests did not ultimately defend them.  That includes Brooklyn Community Board 7 and City Councilman Carlos Menchaca.
     •    Citizens Defending Libraries was also on the scene to shine a spotlight and help put things quickly in perspective for the Inwood Community when the NYPL announced it wanted to turn the Inwood Library into a real estate deal, likely also as a part of an effort to help push through a upzoning of the area.
     •    Citizens Defending Libraries similarly sounded the alarm before word was out publicly about a proposal for a consolidating shrinkage of the Brower Park Library with the Prospect Heights Children’s Museum (reversing a previous expansion).
     •    Citizens Defending Libraries has been engaged in an education and publicity campaign.  It included:
     •        Forums, including a mayor forum during the 2013 election with most of the candidates endorsing our proposals that libraries be properly funded, not sold and shrunk.  Mayor de Blasio, whose position we changed during the campaign, joined with us in July to proclaim that our libraries should not be sold saying: “It's public land and public facilities and public value under threat. . . and once again we see, lurking right behind the curtain, real estate developers who are very anxious to get their hands on these valuable properties.”  Unfortunately, by October he was taking money from developers behind the curtain.
        •    As a result of our activism there have been hearings about the sale and shrinkage of libraries starting with a very important June 27, 2013 New York State Assembly hearing that embarrassed city library administration officials. 
       •    A letter of support signed by multiple community organizations, electeds and candidates running for office.
        •   In May of 2016 Citizens Dfending Libraries was honored to be a recipient of the Historic Districts Council's Grassroots Preservation Award.
Despite our battles won, our NYC libraries are still besieged by a major war and the threat of such plans.

What libraries are affected?
Library officials said early on that they wanted to sell the most valuable NYC libraries first.  And indeed, that is exactly what the NYPL did when its first move was to sell the central destination Donnell Library, a library that was documented to be on most valuable block in Manhattan at the time.  Similarly, the concurrently launched Central Library Plan with its proposed sale of the Mid-Manhattan Library focused on the choicest real estate.  The BPL did the same thing prioritizing two prime site libraries adjacent to Forest City Ratner property for probable luxury towers, the Brooklyn Heights Library and the Pacific Branch library.  Unfortunately, the libraries that are most valuable to real estate developers are also the most valuable to the public for very similar reasons, including central accessible locations.

The most valuable libraries may be at the top of this list, but all libraries in the New York City system are currently under siege.  All libraries are under siege because of the deliberate, unprecedented and absolutely unnecessary underfunding of NYC libraries that is being presented as an excuse to sell libraries affects all libraries in all our city's boroughs.

All libraries in the New York City system should also be considered currently under siege because each and every library sale becomes precedent and a model for the next.  The shrink-and-sink sale of the Brooklyn Heights Library replicates the shrink-and-sink Donnell Library (in fact it was conceived at the same time with the same people in the background).  Moreover, BPL president Linda Johnson told the City Council when it was approving the shrink-and-sink Brooklyn Heights Library sale that it would be a model for future library deals by all three city library systems, the BPL, which she heads, the NYPL and the Queens Library.  Johnson has referred to herself as head of the Brooklyn Library system as having "over 1,000,000 square feet of real estate" at her disposal.

While Library officials are attracted to seizing for conversion the most valuable libraries first, they are also usually tactically coy about their plans. At this point they openly acknowledge going after only a few libraries at a time.  They go after the very valuable ones they want and they also go after the libraries where they believe they have ascertained that they can overcome community opposition and expect that they can, at the same time, perhaps achieve another objective that attracts them, like laying the groundwork for an upzoning in Inwood or establish and entrench a principle of reduction as with Spaceworks in Red Hook and Williamsburg.

For more details about affected libraries click here:  What Libraries Are Affected By City Strategy Of Defunding, Shrinking, Selling Off Libraries?

Are The Libraries Being Shrunk, Pushed Underground, Books and Librarians Eliminated Because the World Is "Going Digital"?

Although the people promoting library sales and elimination of books would like to use as an excuse that the world is going digital, that is not the case.  New York City libraries are more used than ever.  Although use was up 40% programmatically, most of the recent increased use is in terms of circulation, 59%, and almost all of that circulation is physical books.  That is despite an effort by NYC library administration officials to steer people into the use of digital books (which, maybe surprisingly, are actually more expensive for the libraries) and away from what they derisively refer to as "old-fashioned analogue books."

While digital books sometimes have some advantages the general population tends to prefer physical books.  Further, there are advantages with physical books related to the way people learn and think and there are problems and concerns about digital books that need to be considered.  See:  Physical Books vs. Digital Books.

At the same time, libraries do need to address digital needs and provide access to the internet; they need to help bridge the so-called "digital divide" between those who have ready access to computers and the internet and those who don't.  For that reason libraries should actually be growing to address these expanded needs rather than shrinking.  In this regard it is, indefensible and inexplicable that two top-notch libraries with some of the most advanced and robust support of computer and internet libraries, SIBL the 34th Street Science, Industry and Business Library and the downtown Brooklyn Heights Library with its Business, Career and Education Library, were both targeted for simultaneous elimination.

Are Libraries Just Too Expensive a Luxury to Pay For?

In the overall scheme of things, New York City libraries cost virtually nothing.  When it comes to libraries, no matter how you slice and dice it, we are dealing with total funding figures that come to fractions of a percentage point, this despite the fact that, economically, libraries more than pay for themselves, and: “More people visited public libraries in New York than every major sports team and every major cultural institution combined.”

Notwithstanding, subsidies to sports venues like the Ratner/Prokhorov “Barclays” arena dwarf what we spend on libraries. In 8 years when we spent at least $620 million on just three sports arenas, (the Ratner/Prokhorov "Barclays" included) that amount was 1.37 times the amount spent on libraries serving seven times as many users.

The underfunding of libraries is notwithstanding that libraries are one of the public's top priorities. The city’s 59 community boards ranked library services as their“third highest budget concern” and“Brooklyn’s community boards ranked libraries their top priority.”  In 2013 when the NYC Comptroller polled the public about its priorities for "The People's Budget" libraries were again one of the very top priorities.

Valuable in so many ways in their own right, libraries must also be considered an essential adjunct to schools and ensuring proper education and literacy of the population.  One thing that a recurring trope in science fiction scripts gets right is that there is a high correspondence, if not quite one-to-one correlation, between the demise of great libraries and the collapse of once great civilizations.

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

People ask whether the public is at least getting good deals or "value" when we sell our libraries.  We absolutely are not.  We are selling our libraries for far less than their worth and far less than we have invested in them.  The losses are actually profoundly embarrassing notwithstanding the proclivity of library officials to deceptively characterize proceeds from sales as "profits," and as "hefty" rather than "paltry."  That's been true since the beginning. . .

. . .  The first library sold, the Donnell Library, the central destination, 97,000-square foot, five-story central destination library on what was documented to be the most valuable block in Manhattan at the time, was sold to net the NYPL less than $25,000 million.  The penthouse in the luxury tower that replaced it in the 50-story luxury tower replacing Donnell went on the market for $60 million.  Another single lower-level condo unit in the luxury building, 43A, sold for $20,110,437.50.  There is also a 114 guest room luxury hotel in the tower.  according to the Wall Street Journal, Chinese investors made that hotel,“the most highly valued hotel in the U.S.” after agreeing to buy it for “more than $230 million. . .  .more than $2 million a room.”

. . . The central destination Brooklyn Heights Library in Downtown Brooklyn, expanded and fully upgraded in 1993, one of the most modern and up-to-date libraries in the system would cost more than $120 million to replace.  The city sold it for less than its tear-down value, for less than its value as a vacant lot, and because it was sold to a developer who's inferior bid was not the highest bid, it's sale became the subject of one of the pay-to-play investigations of the de Blasio administration.  When costs are finally calculated it is likely the city and library administration officials will have netted less than $25 million from this library's ruination.

. . . In two suspicious real estate deals the NYPL has sold the 34th Street SIBL library, the city's biggest science library . . . . .

TO READ MORE- Click:  TO READ MORE- Click: Libraries Being Sold For Huge Losses And Minuscule Fractions of Their Value

Who Is Selling Our Libraries?

The plans to sell our libraries were announced under the Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration and it appears that they go back to at least 2005 and probably at least 2004.  Prior to the Bloomberg administration, NYC libraries were being expanded significantly under the Giuliani administration.  During the 2013 mayoral race, candidate Bill de Blasio said that the library sales should be halted, but in short order Mr. de Blasio was taking money from real estate developers "behind the curtain  . .very anxious to get their hands on these valuable properties.”

Once in office, Mayor Bill de Blasio continued with the library sales he decried as a candidate, although, to give the devil his due, de Blasio did not proceed with the full-blown NYPL Central Library Plan.  While the Mid-Manhattan library is now being subjected to a consolidating shrinkage it is no longer being sold straight out, but, under Mayor de Blasio we are still selling SIBL the city's biggest science library.  We are also still exiling research books off premises from where they were once readily and quickly retrievable at the 42nd Street Library.

There are other elected officials that are avidly taking the lead pushing these city library sales.  Foremost among them is city council member Brad Lander.  Also clearly conspicuous in his enthusiastic and unrelenting support for these plans is Jimmy Van Bramer head of the City Council Cultural Committee of which the city council's library subcommittee is a sub-component he domainates in leading.  .  .

 . .  Each particular local city council member must also be held responsible for what happens to the libraries in their districts, but revelations are that many of them, like Councilman Stephen Levin (Brooklyn Heights and Williamsburg libraries), Ydanis Rodriguez (Inwood Library) and Carlos Manchacca (Sunset Park Library), were brought on board behind the scenes in advance to  . . .

TO READ MORE (including about the involvement of a Trump presidential son-in-law, Blackstone's Steve Schwarzman, the library boards of trustees, law enforcing officials standing idly by the sidelines and what are supposed to be charitable organizations serving the public) - Click:  WHO Is Selling Our Libraries?

When Did The Plans To Sell Libraries (Plus The Launching of The Concomitant Underfunding of Libraries) Begin?
Chart from Center From an Urban Future report showing sharp decline in funding (coinciding with plans to sell off/"leverage" libraries) against escalating use.  
As noted, although plans to sell NYC libraries were not announced by the Mayor Michael Bloomberg administration until much later, those plans actually to go back to at least 2005 or probably 2004David Offensend was hired by the NYPL in June of 2004 and, though he is imprecise, he says that he started working on library deals not long after his arrival there.  Janet Offensend, his wife, who helped launch BPL library sales started haunting the BPL and its board in 2005.  Other city development officials were being positioned by Mayor Bloomberg on the BPL board around that time.  (The Bloomberg administration took office January 1, 2002, shortly after 9/11.  By contrast, the Giuliani administration implemented library expansion plans that carried over into the early Bloomberg years.)

The BPL's minutes for 2005 show that in January a developer, perhaps jumping the gun based on inside knowledge, was angling to buy the 12,200 square-foot Midwood Library.  In November 2006 the New York Times ran a little noticed article about tearing down “obsolete” branch libraries to produce “new,” "better" library space in multi-use developments saying that a study had produced "an inventory of nearly every branch library in New York City" to identify "candidates for redevelopment" (like the "Red Hook, Sunset Park and Brower Park" libraries and the "Clinton Hill Library," which involves pushing through an accompanying rezoning.)  The article mentions "deferred maintenance" as a reason to redevelop the libraries.

In May of 2006 it was revealed that four Connecticut librarians had won a fight, secret because of a gag order since it began in July 2005, to resist broad federal surveillance of their library patrons.

Although the public did not know what it needed to know in order to see it happening, 2007 and 2008 were extremely eventful years in terms of furthering the plans to sell NYC libraries: 
    •    In January 2007, Booz Allen Hamilton (known principally as a private surveillance firm, the "colossus" in the industry, working for the federal government) was hired to assist the NYPL trustees with their strategy of the sale and reformulating of libraries.
    •    In the Summer of 2007 the Mayor Bloomberg and First Deputy Mayor Patti Harris expressed enthusiasm for the NYPL’s plans to sell and redevelop major central destination Manhattan Libraries.
         •    In November The Donnell Library sale was announced . . . .

TO READ MORE (a complete timeline of library sale events and maneuvers in 2007, 2008 and right through to to the formation of Citizens Defending Libraries) - Click: When Did Library Selling and Underfunding Begin?

It's Not Just The Real Estate Industry Threatening Libraries

While most New Yorkers are attuned to the power and excesses of the city real estate industry and therefore easily understand its role as a key motivator in the assault on libraries, it's unfortunately naive to believe that only the real estate industry has an agenda that is adverse to the tradition of continuing libraries as the democratic commons we have known them to be.

This gets us into some other big questions. TO READ MORE- Click: Examining The Panoply of Threats

Control of Information

Does dumbing down the public make sense, is it truly workable if you want an effective democracy?  The availability and control of information, including in libraries as copious storehouses of information, has always long disconcerted authoritarians.  For instance, is it surprising to know that Senator Joseph McCarthy exercised his influence to ban from U.S. controlled libraries the music and scores of the "Fanfare For The Common Man" composer Aaron Copeland, because McCarthy believed  . . . .
TO READ MORE- Click: Examining The Panoply of Threats 
No doubt there are those for whom it would be preferable if information in libraries was tidily circumscribed so that it just slipstreams comfortably behind the limited thinking and reporting of the corporate conglomerate controlled national media.  That's a corporate media which among other things and by example underreports the climate change crisis, and  . . .
TO READ MORE- Click: Examining The Panoply of Threats
 While the tradition has been to protect and preserve the information entrusted to libraries, information on the internet can be startlingly evanescent, its continued existence subject to decisions made by whim or out of wrath about what the public should see. . . .
TO READ MORE- Click: Examining The Panoply of Threats
The Internet And Digital as Business

As the world speeds into digital, it is important to recognize the pull and tugs of what the internet corporations would like, including reasons for wanting things to go digital.  There are reasons why, when just five or six (as of 2017) people control as much wealth as half of the rest of the world's population, that Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon (and Washington Post) owner Jeff Bezos, and Microsoft's Bill Gates are three for them (with another Carlos Slim Helu incidentally, as part of his media holdings, being the largest shareholder of the New York Times.  Those reasons coincide with the reasons Apple, Google/Alphabet, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft are all vying (along with Exxon Mobile) for the spot as largest U.S. company.

 . . . Think where all this money comes from.  There is, of course, the ubiquitous advertising, as the pop-up ads that saturate far-flung corners of the internet will remind you, just as advertising saturates the monopolistically owned TV and radio airwaves.  There is also the data-scraping.  As the "old internet saw" was quoted when Google was wiring all of NYC's streets for wireless internet "for free": "If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product."  What the private internet companies know about you helps target you . . . .
TO READ MORE- Click: Examining The Panoply of Threats (or start by reading some of the snippets in different categories below.)
Privatized Political Advantage

Among those buying the data are political parties and their campaign operations looking to control the elected seats of government. Now with unprecedented insight into your preferences, those actors and operatives use the data to decide, with tools like gerrymandering, how much your vote should or should not be allowed to count.  With "voter preference files" that contain tens of thousands of "sets of data points" they have graduated from "microtargeting specific groups" to "nanotargeting" with different kinds of messages (whether true or not) designed elicit particular `emotional responses' from voters.  "Pay to sway" services supply a smorgasbord of  . . .
TO READ MORE- Click: Examining The Panoply of Threats
Owning Ideas and Culture to Charge For Them

The content industry has its wants as well.  Its purveyors desire, for instance, to get the public out to the very latest movie you see touted on billboards, simultaneously on the sides of city buses, via the ads on Comedy Central and other channels, perhaps also boosted by a "sponsorship" mention on your local public radio station as it does featurette reporting . . . 
TO READ MORE- Click: Examining The Panoply of Threats
A Reduction to Dollar$ Sense

. . Traditional libraries have always stood as models opposite to the concept that everything in the world, plus everything that ought to be prioritized and perpetually pushed to the fore should exist in stripped-down monetizable dimensions.  To evaluate the world exclusively in the very limited terms of seeing things in terms of just numbers or only following the money is, in an of itself, impoverishing.  A 2015 report published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review studied how  . . .
TO READ MORE- Click: Examining The Panoply of Threats

The last big subject to mention bears a relationship to the first topic.  When the government, whoever is in charge, isn't actually preventing citizens from reading certain books it might proscribe, it can, nevertheless, be interested in surveiling what books and information members of the public are reading.  In theory, this could allow the government to  . . . .
TO READ MORE- Click: Examining The Panoply of Threats
Who Is Hurt Most When Libraries Are Defunded and Dismantled? The Poor, The Racially  Discriminated Against, Scholars, Future Leaders

Defunding and dismantling our libraries hurts society broadly, probably more broadly than many may have considered.

It is, of course, usually recognized that cutting back on library services significantly impacts low-income neighborhoods relying on them.  A PowerPoint presentation to the Queens Library board told it that library service is most important to low-income users: 2/3rds visit at least weekly, & almost 30% visit every/most days.  A recent Pew research Center report says "Low-income Americans, Hispanics and African Americans are more likely than others to say that a library closing would impact their lives and communities," see them as community anchors, and use them to pursue jobs.  And it's been astutely commented that wherever it happens the loss of libraries is "another surefire way to entrench inequality."
Researchers and students also use the libraries.  Arguing to destroy libraries, the NYPL tried a divide-and-conquer-the-community approach suggesting that the research library was elitist and not sufficiently populist when in any given year the researchers and students at its 42nd Street central reference library consult "only 6% of print sources."  The same argument was being used to thin out collections at neighborhood libraries and move books off-site from those locations too.  That "6%" consultation rate was referred to by Ada Louise Huxtable in her very last column, published just weeks before her death (Wall Street Journal: Undertaking Its Destruction, December 3, 2012), in which she lambasted the NYPL's Central Library Plan including its stingy thinking that books should not be kept on hand if they are consulted infrequently:
If we could estimate how many ways in which the world has been changed by that 6%, the number would be far more meaningful than the traffic through its lion-guarded doors. The library's own releases, while short on details, consistently offer a rosy picture of a lively and popular "People's Palace." But a research library is a timeless repository of treasures, not a popularity contest measured by head counts, the current arbiter of success. This is already the most democratic of institutions, free and open to all. Democracy and populism seem to have become hopelessly confused.
Among other things, the 42nd Street Central Reference Library and SIBL are the libraries for the graduate students at CUNY, the City University of New York, who  . . . .

TO READ MORE (about how the benefits of libraries are transmitted throughout society, the racial discrimination in selling libraries and divide and divide-and-conquer-the-community ploys) - Click: Who Is Hurt Most When Libraries Are Defunded and Dismantled?

How Many Books Are Disappearing?

Venturing into a library to witness scads of empty book shelves is a disorientating experience.  The empty shelves constitute early warning signs: Empty shelves at Mid-Manhattan Library, SIBL, the Brooklyn Heights Library, the Grand Army Plaza Library, the 42nd Street Central Reference Library have meant that these libraries have been targeted to be involved in library sale and shrinkage plans.

It is stunning how many books have disappeared and become unavailable, multiple millions overall.  (Library administration officials have done their best to obscure true counts of the reductions.)  If the books disappear from targeted libraries far enough in advance library administration officials can deceptively promise that there will be as many books after the shrinkage of the library as before.  Another deception is for library officials to claim that if books are exiled to be consolidated elsewhere in a "deduping" center there will actually be "more" books as a result.  ("Deduping" is euphemism for book elimination, the idea being the more books you consolidate in a central location the more books you have that are "duplicates" to be eliminated.)

Amazingly, despite the increasing difficulty in obtaining books NYC book circulation is going up and circulation increases are mainly the physical books that patrons generally prefer.  The idea that because some books (not all- for instance, Robert Caro's "The Power Broker") are available digitally we no longer need libraries to supply physical books is a myth.  That library administration officials disparage physical books as "old-fashioned analogue books" or just "artifactual originals" or that those officials will spend more money to push people in to digital reading than what spending on physical books costs does not make that myth any more true.

When library officials solicit contributions from the general public they will jive about how they are asking for that money in order to buy more books because they know that is a vision the public will support and respond favorably to, but at the same time library officials are less than transparent about how they are actually removing books from library premises and from the system entirely.

For more information about how many millions of books have disappeared from which libraries . .

TO READ MORE- Click: 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

At first blush, many people have accepted what city development and library officials have regularly asserted about the deals launching this city-wide program of converting libraries into real estate deals (or, similarly, "redeveloping" our schools for that matter), that by "unlocking" library real estate development rights with multi-use developments it is a "win-win" proposition that benefits the libraries as well as the developers and real estate industry.

The offer of a free lunch is a tempting thing to hope for, but it doesn't bear scrutiny.  The math, when you do it, simply doesn't work out: It is expensive to tear down existing, frequently recently renovated libraries that the public has already invested substantially in.  When these development ideas are promoted the math goes from initial wishful fantasies, to deliberately obfuscated lack of transparency, to outright mendacious misrepresentation.  If library officials had insisted that the Donnell Library or the Brooklyn Heights Library be fully and completely replaced when they were sold (irrespective or their spaces being shoved underground), the sales would have to be calculated showing deep and obviously absurd public losses. . .

There is also the disruption that affects the public. And, although library and city officials try to skip over the point, when library assets are being divested, the libraries are, in the process, shedding their opportunities for future expansion and to keep pace as the city grows.

Moreover and probably most important, such multi-use development schemes force the libraries to "partner" with powerful private real estate interests that ultimately wind up in the drivers seat, setting the priorities with big checkbooks that bankroll false and misleading PR.  With the moneyed interests throwing their weight around, the public is exposed to bait-and-switch variations.  The Donnell Library sale deal that was described to the press and public when it was announced in no way resembled the deal that was consummated.

Selling Libraries And The Broader Issue of Private Sector Plunder of Public Property

Libraries are not our only public commons that are undemocratically under attack.  The attacks on libraries reflect a much wider scourge of plundering our public assets with the selling off and privatizing of schools, hospitals, public housing, parks, and even the privatization of our streets and sidewalks.  Accordingly, instead of just fighting the library fight, Citizens Defending Libraries (and you can join us) has reached out to other activists to hold a series of forums on the selling off of public assets and help engender and understanding of the commonalty of the threats and tactics an subterfuges we see.  For instance, as Noam Chomsky has explained one such "standard technique of privatization: defund, make sure things don't work, people get angry, you hand it over to private capital.". .  (In other words, when the door is open to privatization and sell-off there is an inducement to underfund.)  And then, with the transfer to private ownership, the result for public gets even worse.

Some of The Biggest Lies To Watch Out For 

City and library officials working with real estate developers trot out a standard set of misleading falsehoods and ploys to promote library sales.  If you think they sound good, watch out, often what they are saying is pretty much opposite to the real truth.

Want to know what lies to watch out for? . .

TO READ MORE- Click: The Biggest Lies To Watch Out For When Official Sell Libraries

(Read about: lies about public process * Lies about how to oppose a sale * Lies that "replacement" libraries will be as big or bigger *  Lies that libraries are too "dilapidated" to fix * The "same number of books" lie)

Where Does It Go From Here?  What Can You do?

One thing you can do is consider this a worthy cause and inform yourself and others about it.  Protection and preservation of our libraries is something that most people instantly and automatically understand.  As one member of our group observed early on: "If you can't stop them at libraries, where can you stop them?"  That's why we must stop them.. .

 . .  But also, because people do understand what it means to protect libraries, because they understand it in their very bones, the protection of libraries is an issue and a cause that can be used as a fulcrum to push back on the many other issues that relate to it, the impoverishing privatizations of public assets in general, abuses of the real estate industry, the corrupting influence of money in politics, inequality of power and wealth and the abuses of power by the wealthy. 

What Can We Do Next?

TO READ MORE- Click: How to Defend Our Libraries.

(Read about: Altering the law * Insisting on transparency * defending library buttons * Our Letter of Support * Our petition * Our mailing List * Testimony at public hearings *  Birddogging elected officials  *  Contacting the press *  Social media * Having us speak to yous community organization * Letters to the editor/comment on web articles * Research help * FOIL assistance * Singing the marvelous Judy Gorman library song )

The morning crowd waiting for the Brooklyn Heights downtown library to open
The Petition Being Put Forth By Citizens Defending Libraries

The first petition (gathered over 17,000 signature, most of them online- available at signon.org with a background statement and can still be signed).   On June 16, Citizens Defending libraries issued a new updated petition that you can sign now:
Mayor de Blasio: Rescue Our Libraries from Developer Destruction
CONTACT: To contact Citizens Defending Libraries email MDDWhite (at) aol.com.

The archive of our previous web page (used into December 2017) can be found by clicking HERE.

Monday, August 22, 2022

Upcoming WBAI Town Halls

Library defenders may remember that for much the same reason that Citizens Defending Library co-founders Michael D. D. White and Carolyn McIntyre have been fighting to defend our libraries, they have similarly gotten involved with WBAI radio, 99.5fm, the only truly listener supported radio station in New York City.  (The both went on WBAI's local station broad.)  Free speech radio WBAI can also be called, as it sometimes is, "radio for the 99.5%."

 As part of WBAI's grassroots celebrating governance tradition, WBAI holds Town Halls for public discussion and input.  Library Defenders may want to get involved with these as Michael and Carolyn have.  As you will see from the descriptions below for prospective featured Town Hall topics, the concerns to be grappled with in the WBAI community and the Pacifica free speech radio network of which it is a part, tend to have a lot in common with concerns involved in defending libraries.  This includes concerns like censorship and narrative control, what happens when our traditional analogue has to contend with the arrival sometime dubious benefits of digital revolution, and finally having to fend off skulking would-be privatizers.

Our next Town Hall has been decided upon and will be held by Zoom on Sunday, August 28th at 4:00 PM (see below).  Library Defenders are invited and welcome.

You may also want to give input on what Town Halls you'd like to see prioritized to be held next or may have ideas for additional topics or coverage to what appears below.

To get information about attending email Michael White at MDDWhite [[at]] aol.com. 


Debating Debates, Particularly On The Most Divisive Issues, Probably Starting With Covid.  (Sunday, August 28th at 4:00 PM-  Listen to or watch the Recording HERE using the Passcode: uq@$8Uam:) Will debates improve and help make the WBAI and Pacifica environment healthier?  Can debates increase audience and bring in revenue?  Can debates create a more unified, free and exploratory thinking free speech radio audience and valuable listener membership?  Perhaps the best and most topical example, which is up for discussion, is the way that Covid questions  divide and fracture the cohesion and unity of political cultures that, once upon a time, self identified regarding themselves as anti-corporate, anti-monopoly, pro-health and anti-big Pharma, and anti-authoritarian (and possibly as Left).  At least two sides in Covid discussions are claiming that they are “following the science,” while others absolutely don’t.  Anthony Fauci has announced that he is “science,” and he along with those of whom are Fauci followers say that to doubt Fauci is an “attack on science,” moreover an attack on “truth.”  If shows on Pacifica showcase Fauci while describing invermectin as a “horse dewormer” that is spuriously “touted in right-wing media” as a beneficial treatment for Covid, if Pacifica stations run government PSAs about Covid safety, should the slant of that `reporting’ and air time use get debated?  If so, by whom? Some serious money has been talked about as flowing in connection with the prospect of Covid issue debates: Multi-millionaire and activist Steve Kirsch has issued multiple million dollar backed challenges for qualified people just to show up and debate the Covid issues, but some people parry that because people like Fauci “are science” it would be undignified for them to debate, or they feel that only those who have credentialed themselves by receiving money from Fauci and the Big-Pharma should be allowed offer opinions as to what may be the facts respecting Covid, vaccines, and best health practices.  NOTE: Attendees of this Town Hall are also invited to play a social justice and debate game of chance– To play this game take any three of the last four digits of your phone number, and arrange them into a number between 23 and 894 and then submit that number together with your name when you attend.  

WBAI and Pacifica Decisions- Competing Successfully With the Internet vs And/or Becoming Internet Successful.  (Sunday, September 18th at 4:00 PM- Zoom information to attend is in the Pacifica/WBAI calendar-click on the date- and the CDL Calendar) Listen to or watch the Recording HERE using the Passcode:!0b0MppY  The Pacifica Network originated as a network of terrestrial radio stations.  It’s no secret that the internet has brought a lot of “creative destruction” to all businesses, but particularly to virtually all forms of media, terrestrial radio included.  Just as the Craig’s list usurpation of classified ads worked to defund and financially starve newspapers, terrestrial radio’s business model has been challenged as audiences are siphoned off by an ever greater multiplicity of internet-based challengers supplying huge varieties of content, listening experiences included, that frequently seem even more convenient to access.  Most people now carry a smart phone in their pocket. Those phones easily access the internet providing podcasts or other forms of available listening streams, but those ubiquitous phones don’t provide terrestrial radio connections (although they easily could have that added feature).   Search engines and algorithms readily (and censoriously) direct people to internet-based content, but not, per se, without added effort, to terrestrial radio.  Terrestrial radio has understandably seen its audiences diminished.  This doesn’t mean that the audience for alternative media is diminishing: Alternative media on the internet is flourishing.  It is flourishing despite Big Tech’s exercise of considerable censorship.  Its audiences are growing to increasingly dwarf the audience of the Big Tech promoted legacy and corporate media.  But the Pacifica network stations, that once were the sine qua non in providing definitive alternative media, have not participated in that audience growth and shift to alternative media.  Is that because of Pacifica’s lack of internet savvy and presence?  Is internet savvy and slickness what’s needed to keep pace and similarly outpace corporate narratives?  Maybe, but as the recent spectacularly ignominious demise of CNN+ demonstrates, internet slickness alone means nothing in terms of capturing audience.  Also, as we reposition ourselves, reinventing ourselves in this internet world, might it not also be important to recognize characteristics of the internet from which audience might want to escape?: the data scraping, and regular surveillance, Big Tech’s curation and constant steering of what you see there along with censorship that includes the evanescence with which what’s on the internet can disappear when censored.  While we probably want to do both, what takes priority: for WBAI and Pacifica to compete with the internet on our own terrestrial radio terms, or to become internet successful with all the tools associated with success in that realm?

Recognizing The Methods By Which Public Assets Are Targeted, Taken Over, or Otherwise Neutralized (And Goals of Those Doing So).  Sunday, October 30, 2022 at 4:00 PM- Listen to or watch the Recording HERE using the Passcode:9?gHZPw4.   WBAI and all its sister stations in the Pacifica Network are part of our public commons.  They are publicly owned and controlled public assets.  Anyone can listen.  There are no bars to access, no user fees are demanded.  It exists through public contributions donated to freely benefit, without restriction, the entire larger community.  It therefore stands in contradistinction to and it competes with privately owned entities, including the corporately owned mainstream and legacy media.  Those other entities exist for different purposes pursuing different goals.

More and more frequently, we see the private sector targeting public assets and the commons for privatization, or sometimes just working toward its destruction, neutralization and/or possible replacement.  An explanation sometimes given is that, as capital continues to build up, it exhausts traditional investment opportunities and is forced to seek new, less traditional assets to acquire and monetize.  Or is it partly just what happens when there’s so much of this money sloshing around?  Quite importantly, it is important to remember that the competition from the Pacifica stations is a threat not only just to the goals and purposes of the corporately owned media, but also to the agenda of all the corporate expires and the rest of the establishment institutions with which corporate owned media is so fearsomely and completely interlocked.  Also efforts are always made to quash, any examples that model alternatives to the profit based capitalism (e.g. how we relentless impose sanctions of socialist countries, then declare the systems don’t work).

There is substantial overlap, but public assets may be privatized, or public entities that own and control such assets may also be taken over accomplishing the same thing. Similarly public purpose organizations may be targeted, or political parties, political movements, or causes may be targeted for takeover, redirection or ineffectualizeation.

In learning to recognize the tactics that used it is probably important to discern the goals of those acting to commandeer public realm assets and enterprises.  Those goals can be multiple: To monetize or privately profit from the changed ownership or control (e.g. privatized road for toll collection, library real estate turned into luxury condos); elimination of alternative models of success; squelching competition; thwarting an anti-corporate mission or promulgation of any anti-corporate narratives; while intending that good work of an entity should cease, it may also be the goal to use the accumulated prior good work and built up good will and trust of a captured entity to send the public off in wrong directions (e.g. captured environmental groups touting fracking as a “clean transitional fuel”); the captured entity can be used as a resource drain or suck (e,g. a captured public purpose entity political faction that continues to seek donations so that donated money is sidelined, not going to productive use; similarly, a takeover may be slow or incomplete, existing for a long time as a battlefield to drain the financial strengths, talent and available man hours of those fighting for pubic goods– much as the U.S. lured the Soviet Union into Afghanistan intending to sap its resources); lastly when privatization shifts functions away from the government (.e. the internet, the Post Office, surveillance agencies) to private entities, those private entities may have a freer hand (decision making included) to do that, which the Constitution (or voter control) might prevent the government from doing.

In this context, can we identify and discuss some of tactics used when targeting the public commons?  They include draining and starving the entity of funding (creating an argument that someone else or alternatives are better), creating crises, undervaluing the assets, working in stealth to formulate top-down takeover plans, infiltrattion of decision-making processes with people who are unsympathetic to the public and to public goals; dismissing, avoiding and interfering with workable alternatives and ways to keep public assets robust and self-sustaining; sending in disrupters who may engage in obvious power plays (“steering committee” grabs) and divide and conquer techniques (they may also use the CIA/FBI COINTELPRO tactics of promoting unworkable bureaucracy), and, for the longer term, sending in “pivot people” (and information collectors) who will be regarded as helping until their numbers build sufficiently for a flip in tactics/board control/etc; buy influence and position within the entity with appreciable donations, co-opting the goal-and-purpose language of the entity, which can also include redefining that language into less meaningful watered down expressions of purpose; set up astro-turf alternatives and competition.  We leave this list open for more thought and additions.

Music Programming on WBAI and Pacifica Stations.  Sometimes some of our biggest radio listening audiences, often along with reliably sizable donations come in from music programs.  But music comes in such variety. .   what music should best make its way onto our airwaves and how much should be played of all varieties to make way for all the richness that is available?  Furthermore, isn’t music deeply imbued with cultural message?  In this regard, should we now ask: Where have all the anti-war songs gone?  The protest songs?  Are they still being written?  Or should music perhaps be a justifiable and carefree respite and refuge from the blocks of talk radio Pacifica programs where we assiduously exercise our consciences searching for solutions for the world’s societal problems and what own role should be in pursuing such solutions?  Other questions: Should we strive to feature, perhaps prioritize: local talent?; live performances?; new current era music vs. music that, like the oft revered American Song Book or the nostalgic oldies you hear played in supermarkets, have withstood the test of time becoming familiar airs?  

Improving WBAI and Pacifica Reputation and Brand. Do WBAI and Pacifica suffer from “reputational handicap.”  Do our stations have a reputation for lack of professionalism?  Does our democratic, grass roots governance structure mean we have reputations for destructive infighting, and if so, is this inevitable or available?   Do we undermine the free speech radio brand we seek to promote with signals that we only tolerate a narrow range of discourse?  Are we viewed as a welcoming home to, and reliable platform for, new, different and a wide range of voices that can provide alternatives to the corporate media?  Or are we hobbled by uncertainties about that?  If our reputation handicaps us, it can dissuade people, potential show hosts and producers, from bringing programs, messages and content to WBAI’s air.  Similarly, it can limit our pool of applicants for those who might work at the station or network.  It can drive away potential LSB board members or others who might be willing to contribute constructively in different ways to WBAI’s and Pacifica’s governance.  It can intimidate people who might step up to provide special fundraising premiums based on their work.  It can scare away potential contributors who could be making donations. Listeners may not then have a positive and clear perception of the WBAI brand, plus it may interfere with a full spectrum of good feelings about the station as a welcoming community. It can foster the idea that WBAI and Pacifica have no future.  Robust disagreement and debates between friends and allies is valuable.  It can even be friendly.  Alternative media can be a very big tent without ever retreading any of the corporate media narratives. But are we instead suffering from the effects of divide and conquer?  If so, what do we do to improve our brand and reputation.

WBAI and Pacifica Stepping Into The Breach As We Increasingly See More Internet Censorship.  If we are free speech radio, do we find that our most valuable content for the airwaves will be in inverse proportion to that which is censored?  Maybe that’s always been the case, but is it possible that the increasingly blatant censorship of the internet coming from Big Tech as an arm of government gives WBAI and Pacifica a perfect opportunity to strengthen, burnish and promote our brand?  And doesn’t it mean that the areas where there has been the most intense censorship is exactly where we should step in with flourish.  With the RT takedown much valuable alternative media programming was banished and disappeared, including our own “Chris Hedges On Contact” program.  Chris Hedges is one area where we stepped into the breach to broadcast a new resurrected version of Hedges’ weekly broadcast.  That’s something we can toot our horn about! It’s an age-old story with us that anti-war content, and content about promoting peace, have been intensely censored and squelched in our mainstream corporate media.  Likewise, criticism of capitalism and information about systematic racism, particularly the forms it takes with our police and in our prisons.  What else is high on the censorship list these days? It would seem at least the following: The conduct of the Israeli state in occupied Palestine, the topic of Big Pharma’s influence and the reliability of related Covid issue narratives, certainly now discussion about Ukraine and NATO, the topic of Big tech and authoritarian censorship itself, and now getting onto the list is the question of whether the U.S. is in a “recession.”  Participants in the discussion can probably add to the list.  Participants are also free to argue that they think certain points of view, or people they might identify, should be censored or “curated” off the air.  Most important is whether WBAI and Pacifica are stepping up to meet and take advantage of the challenges and opportunities here.

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Brooklyn Public Library Opens Shrunken, Sunken Library At Downtown Brooklyn Site of What Was Once Brooklyn Second Biggest and Most Important Library

BPL President Linda Johnson there at the shrunken sunken library opening to greet the public

Today at exactly 1:00 PM the Brooklyn Public Library opened the shrunken, sunken library that at the site of what was once the downtown Brooklyn Heights Library.  The Brooklyn Heights Library, centrally located in Brooklyn’s downtown business district was Brooklyn second biggest and most important library.

The library that opened today will not be a Business Library, a Career Library, and Education Library, or a federal depository library, all of which the former library with many more books was.  The new library’s most toutable feature is that it has some very high ceilings.  These high ceiling serves to boost the luxury apartments in the tower above it up high above the homes of neighbors.  It’s a symbol and a message that some folk should be boosted up over others in the community.  That goes along with the reason that in this shrink-and-sink deal the library’s publicly owned real estate assets were sold off to create the luxury tower.

The air conditioning in the new library also works.  That’s something people will appreciate.  They refused to fix the air conditioning in the former library as an excuse to sell it.

When the old library was sold, the public was told a new library would “replace” it in three years.  The former library shut down back in July of 2016.  You could actually say that it was subject to a long slow gradual shutdown that started way before that, long before books were being removed by the truckload in June 2016.  The trees were removed from outside the closed library in February 2017.  Today’s date is June 8, 2022.  So how long a wait did it actually take to open this one?  That’s notwithstanding that the luxury tower in which the library is housed didn’t stop construction during Covid under the pretext that the luxury tower should be considered affordable housing according to the shutdown rules.

The public’s 1:00 PM admission to the library was after a 12:00 Noon Ribbon Cutting ceremony.  That Ribbon Cutting ceremony was private and just fro the invited.

When we asked developer David Kramer (picture below) if Bruce [Ratner] was there, he said, “Of course” and then went on to say that Ratner had not actually benefitted financially from the sale of the library as he said that Citizens Defending Libraries reported.  Ratner’s company owned the adjacent real estate, which had to participate in a combining of zoning lots that allowed the Saint Ann’s School to get a financial windfall selling its air rights for building of the new luxury tower.  We guess that what Mr. Kramer meant is that Mr. Ratner and his companies did a favor for the real estate industry here with no direct, discernible, and traceable quid pro quo. 

We heard that the button to operate the front door for exiting handicapped people was observed to be not working.  Oh, my,- . . .  maybe they will have to sell this library and downgrade to a smaller library to pay to have electronics for working buttons?

When we asked developer David Kramer (picture above) if Bruce [Ratner] was at the private ribbon cutting, he said, “Of course” and then went on to say that Ratner had not actually benefitted financially from the sale of the library as he said that Citizens Defending Libraries reported.  Ratner’s company owned the adjacent real estate, which had to participate in a combining of zoning lots that allowed the Saint Ann’s School to get a financial windfall selling its air rights for building of the new luxury tower.  We guess that what Mr. Kramer meant is that Mr. Ratner and his companies did a favor for the real estate industry here with no direct, discernible, and traceable quid pro quo.