Why Is New York City Planning to Sell and Shrink Its Libraries?

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

Mayor Bloomberg defunded New York libraries at a time of increasing public use, population growth and increased city wealth, shrinking our library system to create real estate deals for wealthy real estate developers at a time of cutbacks in education and escalating disparities in opportunity. It’s an unjust and shortsighted plan that will ultimately hurt New York City’s economy and competitiveness.

It should NOT be adopted by those we have now elected to pursue better policies.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

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.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Scott Sherman Writes An Article In The Nation That Declares Us As Activists The Winners In Thwarting Library Destruction Plans: Is It Believable?- Let’s Boil It Down To Some Quotes

Scott Sherman's new article in The Nation declaring Library Defenders victorious- His 2015 book and bio from its dust jacket.

Let’s begin here with a few quotes:

I hate careless flattery, the kind that exhausts you in your efforts to believe it.
   Wilson Mizner
History is written by the victors.
That’s an old adage that so reflexively accepted as true, we don’t even know who first said it and there are so many various iterations of it that hardly matters. . .  like Winston Churchill famously saying, “history will be kind to me, for I intend to write it.”  

We begin with these quotes because?–  Because Scott Sherman has written an article in The Nation that declares us as library defending activists the victors in the fight to rescue our New York City libraries from destruction by the trustees.  See: The Rescue of the New York Public Library—Activists—and The Nation—thwarted NYPL trustees’ harebrained plans and restored democracy to this vital public institution, July 26, 2021.

When you’re flattered, there is always the impulse to go along willingly to accept it as true, but that can be dangerous, which is why Machiavelli counseled shunning flatterers.    “Flattery is all right so long as you don’t inhale.” said Adlai E Stevenson somewhat more lightly.

The reason why we are not inhaling Mr. Sherman’s flattery, is because, to go back to our first quote, his flattery is so careless that, try and exhaust ourselves as we might, we just can’t believe it.

What also makes Mr. Sherman’s article so hard to believe is his very strange way of writing this history of us as the ostensible victors: He may have proclaimed us as the `victors’ but he never contacted us for quotes or perspective on the conclusions he was about to assert.  So much for ‘history being written by the winners’!

In fact, whatever accomplishments we might in fact admit to, and they exist, and whatever caveats Mr. Sherman supplies about his proclamations, we overall disagree with Mr. Sherman’s simplistic conclusion that we’ve rescued the NYPL libraries or restored democracy to the NYPL as an institution.

We were one of two groups with overlapping membership foremost in taking the lead and working together to prevent the library destruction that Mr. Sherman writes about: The Committee to Save the New York Public Library and Citizens Defending Libraries.  Although Mr. Sherman names our groups in the book he wrote and in earlier articles he had published in The Nation, we go unnamed in this latest article.  Citizens Defending Libraries was the first of the named plaintiffs in the “two lawsuits” Mr. Sherman mentions were filed against the NYPL’s destructive Central Library Plan. The plan was the intended consolidating shrinkage of Manhattan’s most important centrals destination libraries: The 42nd Street Central Reference Library (the one with the lions), The 34th Street Science, Business and Industry Library, the Mid-Manhattan Library and the remnants of the then just destroyed Donnell Library.

Mr. Sherman notes that the “trustees, from 2007 to 2014, were bent on selling the property, on 40th Street and Fifth Avenue, to real estate developers,” and he rhetorically asks “How did one of the world’s greatest libraries get into the real estate business?” then supplying his analysis that the “sordid” answer was that the NYPL wanted to “profit from the city’s real estate boom” by central Manhattan real estate.  While Mr. Sherman had already written derisively about the NYPL’s dismantling plans for the 42nd Street Research library, Citizens Defending Libraries was first to identify the role that real estate interests played in driving proposals so adverse to the public interest.

We don’t want to underrate the value of Mr. Sherman’s prior work.  He was on the scene writing about the expensive foolishness of the NYPL’s plans for the 42nd Street central reference library as early as November, 2011.  That’s before Citizens Defending Libraries was born in the very beginning of 2013.  His 2015 book “Patience and Fortitude: Power, Real Estate, and the Fight to Save a Public Library” brought further attention to these issues and included valuable additional research.

The main criticism some offered of his analysis back then was that he was too kind in the judgments he offered of the New York Public Library’s wealthy and powerful trustees even while he described them as inept and clueless.  He never accused them of greed, self dealing, or of placing any other goals above the public interest in setting their agenda.  As he described it, the main flaws these wealthy trustees had was apparently not being very clear sighted about financial matters and not caring enough about scholarship and the real value of the information in libraries, and being too enamored of the glitzy, glamour of the redesign of library space by starchitect Norman Foster.

Mr. Sherman also confined himself to writing about just the NYPL, which only has  responsibilities for the New York City libraries in the boroughs of Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten island, and he wrote mostly just about a few libraries in Manhattan.  He did this without relating how the issue of library trustees straying off path this way was a citywide issue.  For example. he pretty much neglected to mention the sell-off of libraries in Brooklyn. Although, as he obviously had to, he wrote often about David Offensend the NYPL’s Chief Operating Officer being very involved in steering the NYPL into its library sales, including, the shrink-and-sink sale of the beloved 97,000 square foot Donnell Library across from the Museum of Modern Art, he totally didn’t mention the striking non-coincidence that at the very same time Janet Offensend, David Offensend’s wife, was a trustee of the Brooklyn Public library who was steering that library system into its own library sales including the shrink-and-sink sale Brooklyn’s second biggest library (63,000 square feet) in a transaction mirroring the Donnell sale.       

Mr. Sherman’s book did unveil relevant numbers showing that when the very valuable Donnell was sold in 2007 in what was essentially a secretly handled no-bid sale (the transaction brought Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law a hidden windfall), the NYPL netted less than $30 million for it, maybe only about only $25 million when all costs are reckoned.  In other words, it netted less than individual apartments would be selling for in the in the luxury hotel and condo building that would replace Donnell.  It likely netted less than the hidden windfall to Jared Kushner (a windfall that Mr. Sherman did not identify or mention, something he has never caught up with to include in his writings).

Although Mr. Sherman tells us in various of his writings that the NYPL’s Central Library Plan was “born in secrecy, with Booz Allen Hamilton as the midwife” he does not tell enough about Booz Allen and he leaves it mostly to the readers of The Nation and his book to be self informed enough to wonder an important question: Why Did The NYPL  Hire Booz Allen Hamilton, A Top Spy Firm Working For The U.S. Government, Before Launching These Book Banishing Plans?

Booz Allen Hamilton is really an arm of the intelligence community,” that we know from the 2013 Snowden revelations has been involved with the federal government’s “most controversial federal surveillance programs in recent years.”  It is:
virtually indistinguishable from our government itself when it comes to surveillance, with as Bloomberg Businessweek said, the "federal government as practically its sole client."  The government's surveillance work is now carried out predominantly through `private' spy organizations like Booz: "About 70 percent of the 2013 U.S. intelligence budget is contracted out, according to a Bloomberg Industries analysis."
And with the U.S. contracting out the huge preponderance of its surveillance to private firms, and mainly to just a very few firms with  Booz Allen Hamilton regarded as the “colossus” of those few.

Mr. Sherman mentions Booz Allen Hamilton being hired and describes the firm as “a gargantuan consulting firm that derives much of its revenue from U.S. military and intelligence agencies.” He did not, however, follow up well on the implications of that passing statement.  The closest he got was in the one of his last Nation articles, (The Hidden History of New York City's Central Library Plan- Why did one of the world's greatest libraries adopt a $300 million transformation without any real public debate? August 28, 2013) where he expressed some anxious concern about what Booz was up to, but neglected to identify Booz as a spy agency, instead identifying it to readers of The Nation in alternative, if related, terms:
Finally, what was the role of Booz Allen Hamilton—the gargantuan consulting firm whose tentacles reach into the defense, energy, transportation and financial service sectors—which was hired by the NYPL in 2007 to formulate what became known inside the trustee meetings as “the strategy”?
Mr. Sherman did us a favor by combing through the minutes of the NYPL to find juicy tidbits that help tell his story in compelling ways (for instance he reports Booz Allen was paid $2.7 million by the NYPL), but he neglected to report how those NYPL minutes reveal that the NYPL hired Booz Allen not very long after its board was advised of the expectation that new federal law might “require” the NYPL and “to reengineer their Internet service facilities to enhance law enforcement's ability to monitor and intercept communications.”  Moreover, under direction from Mayor Bloomberg’s administration and his First Deputy Mayor, Patricia Harris, the Booz services were extended to the Brooklyn and Queens library systems, thus applying to all three. The NYPL’s initial hire was also around the time that it was finally disclosed to the public that a group of Connecticut librarians had fended off a federal government attempt to surveil their library as the government secretly asserted the PATRIOT Act for years.  

Scott Sherman also let us know that, before Booze Allen was hired, McKinsey & Company, replaced by Booz, had been advising the NYPL starting around 2003 on what became its real estate sell-offs.  Since that information about the NYPL hiring McKinsey & Company was furnished a lot of has come out affecting people’s understanding of the unsavory things McKinsey & Company (a private company that thereby avoids publicly reporting its activities) routinely gets involved with.  It has recast the firm’s reputation.

See: Why McKinsey’s Century Old Brand Name Is at Risk- Accused of aiding corruption, bribery, fraud, and opioid sales, the consulting giant faces reputation damage it may never recover from
Lance Ng, March 18, 2020,  Has McKinsey Lost Its Luster? More tough headlines for the consulting firm. By Andrew Ross Sorkin, Jason Karaian, Michael J. de la Merced, Lauren Hirsch and Ephrat Livni
February. 25, 2021, How McKinsey Has Helped Raise the Stature of Authoritarian Governments, By Walt Bogdanich and Michael Forsythe, December 15, 2018, The McKinsey Way to Save an Island–  Why is a bankrupt Puerto Rico spending more than a billion dollars on expert advice? By Andrew Rice, April 17, 2019, The Secretive Firm Profiting from Puerto Rico's Crisis, WNYC, April 18, 2019, CIA has paid millions to a consulting firm to help with reorganization, By Greg Miller, July 1, 2015, Spies fear a consulting firm helped hobble U.S. intelligence- Insiders say a multimillion dollar McKinsey-fueled overhaul of the country’s intelligence community has left it less effective. By Natasha Bertrand and Daniel Lippman 07/02/2019, US gov, Tony Blair, and McKinsey plan to rebuild Gaza – with sweatshops to exploit Palestinian workers, Max Blumenthal·October 16, 2014, Immigration and the Prison Industrial Complex, – Major companies like Booz Allen Hamilton, Deloitte Consulting, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and McKinsey & Company have contracted with ICE, and it is the latter which has gained the most notoriety for its connections.  By Andrew Moss,  January 8, 2020, Doing Business with Tyrants, By Lawrence Davidson, January 9, 2019

McKinsey & Company surfaced as a topic in the 2020 election given that it was part of Pete Buttigieg’s resume.  He worked there from June 2007 to March 2010.  At first Buttigieg treated this as a commendable part of his past, but then while being evasive about what he did for the company, he switched over to saying that McKinsey has made a lot of “poor choices” in recent years and that some of its work was  “disgusting.”  The issue of his employment there was being raised by those referring to Buttigieg as “Deep State Pete” who saw such evidence of deep state connections in Buttigieg working for McKinsey on unspecified assignments in Iraq and Afghanistan and his thereafter going back to Afghanistan to work alongside the CIA while serving as a high-ranking Naval intelligence officer in 2014.  See: Media darling Pete Buttigieg was in unit that worked with CIA in Afghanistan, Alexander Rubinstein, February  7, 2020

In other words, there is a pattern that’s become much clearer in recent years of seeing McKinsey & Company get hired for dirty business.  This is something that Citizens Defending Libraries has come to appreciate only lately and well after the fact of knowing earlier that NYPL had hired McKinsey in connection with its library restructuring plans.  So we can’t chide Mr. Sherman for similarly not making more of a point of disreputableness of McKinsey & Company when he first wrote, but we are catching up with our writing here.

Mr. Sherman could, however, have brought more attention to the implications of hiring the Booz firm.  Did he hold back because he worried about sounding too shrill or too suspicious?  Or did his editors at the Nation want him to write at the level that the issue would only be picked up on by Nation readers capable of recognizing the issue and knowledgeable from reading other Nation articles about Booz and surveillance?

Booz Allen aside, had Mr. Sherman contacted us for quotes about how successful we consider ourselves to be in the ongoing fights to defend our libraries and where we consider ourselves to be in those fights, we would have brought up things not mentioned in Mr. Sherman article proclaiming us victorious.  We would have brought up things relating exactly to what Mr. Sherman mainly wrote about in his previous writings, the sale of libraries and the elimination of books.

We would have . . .

. . . brought up the fact that, just as previously planned, one of Mid-Manhattan’s central libraries has been sold: SIBL, the NYPL’s Science, Industry and Business Library and the city’s biggest and only real science library was sold one of the very richest of the world’s multi-billionaires to be turned into a “comic book museum.”  See: Wall Street Journal Reveals Fate Of SIBL, The City’s Biggest Science Library: Super-Wealthy Paul Allen Will Turn It Into “Pop-Culture Museum.  June 4, 2018.  More shutting down of science just as we are facing challenges like global warming’s climate chaos?

Losing SIBL we lost a library that held a research collection of 1.2 million volumes, plus a circulating collection of 40,000 books and videos, over 10,000 business and scientific serials, open shelf-shelf reference offering 60,000 volumes.
Where are those 1.2 million+ volumes from SIBL going?–  To the revamped Mid-Manhattan Library with which SIBL is supposedly being consolidated?  The NYPL is not even really pretending that such is the case.  The resource is more or less simply vanishing with the NYPL saying to the public that it is abandoning collection of science books, expecting that people can resort to “the internet” to learn about science instead. . . . That's the increasingly censored internet. . . that's also data scraped and surveiled.

In his latest, Mr. Sherman retreads his previous account of the loss of Donnell and while asserting that we Library Defenders were victorious he says that “much was still lost,” cites as the examples of what he means the money lost and squandered on the plan he indicates was abandoned and he does not mention the loss of SIBL as being part of that plan fulfilled and he does not mention the loss of its books.  In fact, what he writes implies that with our saving of the Mid-Manhattan Library there has been a happy outcome with respect to the availability of books at Mid-Manhattan.  He says:
The NYPL wars of 2011–2014 were about saving the libraries and preserving the books on the shelves. When the trustees hatched their plan in 2007, they mistakenly assumed that e-books would replace actual books. That faith impelled them to hastily remove 3 million volumes from the 42nd Street facility; those books were never returned to the stacks under the Rose Reading Room. It is appropriate that the new Stavros Niarchos Library* has 400,000 books.
(* The Mid-Manhattan has been renamed the “Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library”– We say SNFL, Sniffle, for short– after the Greek Shipping Magnate with whom Edward G. Robinson, who played a librarian in his very last role, had a beef.)
Mr. Sherman does not put into context that "400,000" quantity of books for Mid-Manhattan, New York City’s largest circulating public library, as we have, when we, for instance, point out that Karl Lagerfeld’s personal, one-man, private library when he died held 300,000 books.  (See: Through The Windows of Privilege (Like Karl Lagerfeld’s) The Enduring Value Of Physical Books And Libraries With Big Collections Can Readily Be Discerned, March 8, 2019)

Moreover, no one reading Mr. Sherman’s words would know that the previous incarnation of the Mid-Manhattan was designed to hold 700,000 books, Plus, aside from supposedly absorbing SIBL that once held 1.2 million+ volumes, Mid-Manhattan was supposed to absorb another 175,000 books from just one of Donnell’s collections when that central destination library was shut down.  And the NYPL has publicized that there could be even fewer books in the library in the future because the bookshelves “are not structural . . . you can take [them] away later if you want.”  Another dirty little secret: Although some administration space will be converted and added onto the public space, with only 100,000 square feet, the “renovated” SNFL Mid-Manhattan will have one third less space than the pre-renovation library.  This significant loss of valuable floor space is due to the floor space lost through the creation of atriums in the building.  See: Open House New York Hosts an NYPL Presentation of Its Mid-Manhattan Library “Renovation” Plan March 6, 2018

Had Mr. Sherman interviewed us we would also have told him that when it comes to the 42nd Street Central Reference Library and its banished 3 million books we Library Defenders are complaining strenuously about proposed and ongoing renovations designed to commercialize it.  See:  NYPL’s Presentation of its “Master Plan” to alter and commercialize the 42nd Street Central Reference Library, January 27, 2018.  Heaven knows what has rushed forward under the concealing cloak of Covid.  

Moreover, we have pointed out and objected to in testimony before the City Council the NYPL’s very contracted and shortened hours for use of the 42nd Street Central Referenced Library by scholars in order to hold private gala events at the library, and “cocktail parties for the connected” represents a highly inappropriate privatization of that public asset intended to serve the public.

We would also have told Mr. Sherman to talk about the loss of other libraries and library space, like the Inwood Library, Sunset Library, etc.

Mr. Sherman’s article has a feel to it that he wants to close the book on this story, but his journalism in doing so is a very poor first draft of history.

There are well-known sayings about history, knowing and remembering it.  One of the best known is George Santayana’s “When experience (which is history) is not retained...infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” which may be viewed as something of a retread of Cicero’s “Those who have no knowledge of what has gone before them must forever remain children.”  Malcolm X took a crack at essentially the same sentiment with: “History is a people's memory, and without a memory man is demoted to the lower animals.”

If Mr. Sherman had so much as mentioned Citizens Defending Libraries or the Committee to Save the New York Public Library by name instead of just referring nondescriptly to “an indefatigable group of citizens came together to save the libraries” as the victors his readers might have gone to our respective websites to get a far different picture of the status of our fights than he portrayed.

Dwelling on problems unrelentingly without solutions can be enervating and it can defeat the activist spirit.  That’s why on our Citizens Defending Libraries main page we proudly do declare our actual victories.  See: Achievements and Partial List of Successes of Citizens Defending Libraries (founded early 2013).
Notwithstanding the importance of giving due recognition to our victories in maintaining spirit and forward momentum, Mr. Sherman’s account that everything is now happily taken care of in some kind of lulling “end of history” way seems designed to send all the activists home and for all challenges to and questioning of the library trustees and their decisions, current and future, to cease.   Such a happy-ending erasure of our ongoing fight and important history raises this concern: If history is, as they say, written by the victors and we did not write this history, then somebody else somewhere, other than us, must be the actual victor. .  Somebody who had more to do with what te wanted written.  Then, with dread we remember George Orwell’s, words: “Whoever controls the past controls the future.”  

Hope you found some quotes you enjoyed reading this post, because, answer is, if you are looking at Mr. Sherman’s latest article in The Nation we don’t think you’ll find anything in it that’s in any way worthy of quoting. 

Monday, August 16, 2021

Library Defenders Are Running For The WBAI Local Station Board To Keep WBAI Independent, Accountable To The Listeners, A Free Speech Bulwark Against Censorship


Library Defenders, names you’ll probably recognize, are running for the WBAI local station board to keep the WBAI 99.5 FM radio station (“Radio for the 99.5%") independent, accountable to the listeners, a free speech bulwark against censorship.

We hope all WBAI listener members will vote for them and the rest of the Indy (Independent) slate that they are running on.

 Who To Vote For To Keep WBAI Independent, Accountable To The Listeners, A Free Speech Bulwark Against Censorship.

The WBAI Local Station Board election voting has begun.  You should have gotten your ballot.  Voting will continue until October 15th.   You must cast your ballot by 11:59 PM EST, October 15th, 2021, but you can make up your mind and vote now.  If you didn't get your ballot let us know.*

(* And remember that if you donated the qualifying amount-- $25 or more for each member voter-- your WBAI donating household is entitled to cast more than one vote and should.  If you're having any problems, see below about who to contact including us.)

Who to vote for?  We suggest you vote for everyone* on the Indy (independent) slate.    Vote for the Indy slate members to keep WBAI independent, accountable to the listeners, and a free speech bulwark against censorship (like the escalating censorship and sly manipulation the internet is increasingly subject).

(* It's tough to explain, but voting for every candidate on the Indy slate, because of ranked choice voting, helps every candidate on the slate.  So it actually helps me get elected personally if you vote for all the other Indy candidates as well.)

Here is who to vote for on the Indy slate.  This year we are not formally ranking our Indy candidates, but I certainly hope that you will place me high on your list.  You'll see some familiar faces here (including activist faces familiar from our fight against library sales and real estate takeovers), and you see some exciting new blood, some of it younger, bringing an infusion of energy and new ideas.

Here is our Indy listener candidate slate that you can vote for:

    •    Michael D. D. White
    •    Scottye Battle
    •    Katherine O’Sullivan
    •    Phil DePaolo
    •    M. Kay Williams
    •    Priscilla Cancar
    •    John Hoffman
    •    Jim Dingeman
    •    Matthew Reiss
    •    Bruce Greif

End of story if you want to vote now? Maybe, but here is more information to help you.

As background, also know that while the listeners will elect 9 listener Local Station Board members this election (with ranked choice voting you can vote for more candidates but only candidates you want) the WBAI staff will elect three staff Local Station Board members.   Here is our Indy staff candidate slate that staff can vote for:

    •    Shawn Rhodes
    •    R. Paul Martin
    •    Max Schmid

What about voting for others beside those on the Indy slate?  Maybe (one or two?).  There are two other slates of candidates running.--

. . .  We suggest that you do not vote for candidates on the JUC or "Justice and Unity" slate as they have an an agenda that is most different from ours in that several of their candidates have for a very long time been supporting a transfer or lease of WBAI (sometimes called a PSOA- Public Service Operating Agreement) that would end listener accountability and control- sometimes it is misleadingly referred to as some sort of "partnership").  In other words, it would end the democratic structure that protects WBAI from privatizing takeovers in very much the same way the two proposed bylaw referendums we had to fend off and defeat would have done.  Those bylaw referendums came from the same people who illegally and sneakily shut down WBAI for the month of October in 2019.

. .  There is another slate, the DSA, Democratic Socialists of America, slate that is running two listener candidates.  The DSA elected LSB members in the last election and they have often, but not always, voted with the Indys.  All of the DSA candidates oppose and sale, swap of signal or lease (PSOA) of WBAI, unlike the member of the JUC.  DSA members also have a good record of being cooperative and fair, where as some of the JUC have, we think, sometimes been negative in a way that's deleterious to the station's reputation, and unproductively disruptive.

Ranked choice voting is sufficiently mysterious in the way it works so we don't know for sure whether voting for the DSA candidates or other wild card candidates would push down Indy success in the election or would help them win over JUC candidates.  

Your call- you may want to vote for the two DSA listener candidates, but only after you have voted for all the INDY candidates first in your ranking.

Those two candidate are:

    •    Dylan Saba
    •    Nicodemus (Nick) Nicoludis

The additional wild card candidates who are not affiliated with any slate? If they are not on on our Indy slate, it's because they didn't join with us, even though we may have reached out to them to do so.

Want to know more about our Indy candidates, watch their videos, read their statements?  OK, but first we'll tell you some people endorsing our Indy slate

Our Indy Slate Is Endorsed BY:
•        Judy Gorman- The singer song-writer activist, mentored by Pete Seeger who wrote our Defending Libraries Song.
    •    Maxine Harrison-Gallmon- An Indy on the LSB intimately familiar with how the station works through her dedicated volunteer work there.
    •    Alicia Boyd- Activist who founded MTOPP to fight the aggressive real estate interests in Brooklyn, intent among other things, on over-shadowing the Brooklyn Botanical Garden with towers.
    •    Tracy Rosenberg- One of Pacifica’s best historians and analysts keeping facts straight.
    •    James Sagurton- Pacifica’s current Treasurer from the Indys’ who has done so much to put Pacifica’s financial house in order.
    •    Carolyn McIntyre- A Co-founder of Citizens Defending Libraries and Chair from the Indys of the Local Station Board for the last three years.
    •    Alex Steinberg- Current Pacifica National Board chair expert at tactically navigating Pacifica through crises.
    •    Grace Aaron- Former Indy chair of the Pacifica National Board who had much to do with obtaining the loans that allowed WBAI and Pacifica to extricate from the financial drain of the exorbitant Empire State Building antenna lease.
    •    Lucy Koteen- prominent member of Human Scale New York, fought Atlantic Yards, Fighting destruction of Fort Green Park and fighting various other city environmental and community protection battles.
    •    DeeDee Halleck- Famed Indy film and documentary maker and another Indy on the LSB elected last election.     

Indy Candidate Info, Statements and Videos

For a deeper dive, here is more about our Indy candidate listener slate:

Michael D. D. White- Needs to be re-elected! Activist lawyer, dynamic and productive on the LSB, skilled in public finance, urban planning & social policy. A writer-activist defending free speech & cofounder of Citizens Defending Libraries who helped beat back the city’s powerful real estate establishment.

    •   Statement
    •   Video

Scottye Battle- Veteran learning specialist and professor of English, she spent many years living in Japan and is an empowerment advocate for students with special needs. Her effervescent personality will bring needed positive energy to the board.

   •   Statement
    •   Video

Katherine O’Sullivan-  Performance artist devoted to public advocacy. She helped form Moving Forward Unidos to fight privatization of the commons in NY, fought the radical upzoning of Inwood that will displace a lower income population while destroying the Inwood Library. She is also a bookkeeper whose skills the board will welco
    •   Statement
    •   Video




Phil DePaolo-  Seasoned political advisor and organizer for local activist groups fighting real estate and industry exploitation. Co-author with Professor Tom Angotti of “Zoned Out! Race Displacement and City Planning.”

    •   Statement
    •   Video




M. Kay Williams- Williams-An experienced Physician's Assistant with a Masters of Public Health from Columbia, she aided refugees in Thailand and health workers in Nicaragua. Former chair of the Free Speech Radio Alliance.
    •   Statement
    •   Video




Priscilla Cancar- Product Manager at an EdTech company that supports the learning experiences and voices of youth. Creates activist videos and oversaw social media and website design for City Council candidate Victoria Cambranes. Born & raised in Brooklyn, Puerto Rican and Croatian – an ear for all the diverse voices of our city’s youth.

    •   Statement
    •   Video (done for Citizens Defending Libraries fight)



John Hoffman- WWBAI listener for 50 years, grew up in Brooklyn. Skilled in finance, preparing and monitoring budgets, forecasting and deciphering balance sheets, he will help stabilize and solidify WBAI’s precarious cash flow.

    •   Statement
    •   Video

Jim Dingeman- Needs to be re-elected! WBAI and Pacifica historian, experienced print, radio and TV journalist and military analyst. Doing vital work to recover WBAI’s lost CPB grants worth more than $4 million. Also spearheading move to get WBAI its own HQ building. Focused and goal oriented, a dynamic organizer. Helped speed long delayed premiums to thousands of frustrated donors.

    •   Statement
    •   Video

Matthew Reiss- Award-winning investigative journalist (Village Voice, NY Times, The Nation, Mother Jones, Counterpunch). Has interviewed everyone from Noam Chomsky, Mort Sahl and Dick Gregory to Seymour Hersh, Woodward/Bernstein and Bernie Sanders. Also dodged bullets and bad guys as a war correspondent in Guatemala, North Korea, Kosovo and Yugoslavia. Currently professor of Journalism at Rutgers.

    •   Statement
    •   Video/Audio

Bruce Greif- A wizard at data tracking and project management in complex organizations, he will work hard to normalize the station’s often chaotic administrative issues.

    •   Statement
    •   Video

Faces of Our Endorsers

Endorsers of the Indy slate above, left to right: Judy Gorman, Maxine Harrison-Gallmon, Alicia Boyd, Tracy Rosenberg, James Sagurton, Carolyn McIntyre, Alex Steinberg, Grace Aaron, Lucy Koteen, DeeDee Halleck.

Here is another late entry endorser- Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan:

And here is another late entry endorser- Casper the Friendly Ghost- Why? because another slate of candidates running for office has decided to have dead people endorse their slate, so it seemed only fair to follow suit and figuring that Casper is friendly, we should have have him endorse us in the same not quite so meaningful way:

The candidates are having debates.  Visit the website: elections.pacifica.org for debates.  For the first debate that has already been held you can find audio in the WBAI Archive for Sunday, August 15, 2021 and Zoom Video is available here.  The first third of the debate has library defenders Michael D. D. White and Katherine Sullivan.  M. Kay William was in the second third.  Scottye Battle and John Hoffman are in the last third.


Ballots were sent on August 16th, 2 pm ET / 1 pm CT / 11 am PT.

For any ballot request you must file a ballot request form.
Emails are insufficient.

Please contact us Michael White or Carolyn McIntyre,cemac62@aol.com, if you are having problems voting or getting your ballot when you request if it has not already arrived.

Visit the website: elections.pacifica.org for candidate statements and debates.

Again- Please cast your ballot by 11:59 PM EST, (10:59 PM CST, 8:59 PM PST,) Oct 15th, 2021

MOREOVER, Please make sure you contact all your WBAI listener members and make sure they also vote.  Thank you.

Disclaimer: This is not an official communication of WBAI or Pacifica.

For even more information, background and views: Steve Brown sent out a mailer about the election and the candidates that you may have already received (yes we cribbed). 
Citizens Defending Libraries has also posted previous pages about how the fight to protect our libraries and the fight to keep WBAI strong are related fights, both opposing privatizing takeovers, both related to how we must fend off attempts by moneyed interest to own our information and control our narratives and thinking.  You can access those earlier posts by scrolling down from this link.  

Also, you will find the website for theCalifornia Pacifica station listeners saying what the Indy candidates ("The Good Governance Coalition") stand for.