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.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Saving Schools and Libraries by Giving Up the Land They Sit On? - Letters To The New York Times Editor (Whether or not printed in the Times), Courtesy CDL

[Back To Main Page]   This page will be updated.

This page is an opportunity to offer some corrective balance to a New York Times article promoting the sale of libraries.  Citizens Defending Libraries has added this web page as a place where all the responses to that Times article promoting the idea that libraries should be sold can be published to correct the record and balance the dialogue no matter what the Times would edit out.  Send your letters to us, or, if you can have them appear here by entering them a comment to this page.  (We may move some of those comments up into the main text of this page.)

As written about in some length in Noticing New York the New York Times ran a story on the front page of its Monday March 18, 2013 print edition that essentially promoted the real estate industry rationales being promulgated to justify the sale of New York City's libraries while the library system is shrunk and intentionally underfunded.  As Noticing New York also wrote the New York Times exercised tight control over any possible public dialogue on this important subject by not opening that article up for public comments and acting as gatekeeper, accepting only three letters to the editor criticizing the promoted policy even while editing out a pertinent part of obe of those letter's objections.  See: Friday, March 29, 2013, Saving Schools and Libraries by Giving Up the Land They Sit On? - Letter To The New York Times Editor (From Citizens Defending Libraries).

The New York Times was : Saving Schools and Libraries by Giving Up the Land They Sit On, by Joseph Berger and Al Baker, March 17, 2013.

Below is the Citizens Defending Libraries letter to the editor the Times did not run.  It is 149 words.  The Times requires 150 words or less.  (See: How to Submit a Letter to the Editor - The New York Times.)

Delivering a hard copy of Citizens Defending Libraries letter to the editor, in addition to a previously emailed copy, for extra good measure did not work to get that letter published in the New York Times

    * * * *

March 22, 2013

Letters to the Editor
The New York Times
620 Eighth Avenue
New York, New York 10018

Re:    Saving Schools and Libraries by Giving Up the Land They Sit On (March 17, 213)
To The Editor:

Your front page article (March 17th) on selling libraries describes the policy "increasingly . . used" in the city to sell libraries on land "developers crave."

The article doesn't say these sales, since 2008's Donnell closing, involve shrinking the system.  The Central Library Plan is a consolidating shrinkage, including effectively decommissioning 42nd Street's Central Reference Library.  Brooklyn Heights' library sale closely clones Donnell's shrinkage.   

Unreported is that Brooklyn Public Library's CEO admitted (Daily News) that money from the Brooklyn sales doesn't go to the libraries or that the BPL, not prioritizing public benefit, fixed upon selling properties without arranging for money to return.

Underfunding of libraries, the excuse to sell them, is Mayor Bloomberg's program.  Funding our libraries less than Detroit when libraries are one of the highest priorities of community boards and usage is way up?

Citizens Defending Libraries has a new petition (8,500+ signatures) protesting this unjust, shortsighted policy.


Carolyn E. McIntyre
Citizens Defending Libraries

    * * * *
Three letters opposing the library sell-offs appeared in the print edition of the New York Times Saturday published Saturday morning.  At least one of them suffered truncating edits before publication.  See: Letters - A Plan to Demolish Libraries to Save Them, March 22, 2013.
They are repeated in full below.  One of them, set forth as the first below (it actually appeared last), was from Martha Rowen from our Citizens Defending Libraries team.  Her letter was edited by the Times.  The bold and bracketed material is what the Times edited out and didn’t print from her original letter.  (The Times editor screening her letter also indicated to her that if she had been prompted to write her letter by virtue of a website they would be disinclined to print it):
    * * * *

To the Editor:

[Saving Schools and Libraries by Giving Up the Land They Sit On (March 17, 213), quotes a claim that “people don’t want to raise taxes” and characterizes the sale of our public property as an “intelligent investment”.   At a time when polling shows Americans consistently in favor of higher taxes on the rich, I question the premise and ask, “Who are the people who do not want to raise taxes?”]  Any plans to sell our public resources to private developers should be voted on by residents of New York City — stakeholders at least as important as developers.

I believe that with full disclosure of the facts and figures, including statistics on rising library use and the modest cost of consistent guaranteed funding, ordinary New Yorkers are quite capable of making intelligent decisions on issues that will profoundly affect them for generations to come.

    Brooklyn, March 18, 2013

[The writer is a member of Citizens Defending Libraries.]*

(* NOTE: This edit made it impossible for Times readers to find out about either Citizens Defending Libraries or its petition.)

    * * * *

To the Editor:

The front-page picture of a Brooklyn public library building that may be torn down (“Saving Schools and Libraries by Giving Up the Land They Sit On,” March 18) brought me grief. My childhood and professional life were partly lived in that borough.

That a building so rich in its beauty, character and connection to the past is now on the chopping block to make money for apartment house developers is a shameful comment on the city. I have traveled to places worldwide that treasure their history and do all they can preserve it. It’s what gives a city and a nation its identity.

I’m hoping to see demonstrations imploring the city to let that Brooklyn library, and historic reminders like it, remain standing.

Rockville Centre, N.Y., March 18, 2013

    * * * *

To the Editor:

It is the siren song of money, no matter the public interest and cost.

The Brooklyn Heights library may not be a New York City-designated landmark, but it is a landmark to our families. When our children enter this easily recognized building, they feel that they are entering a special place of learning, connecting with centuries of “great books” and their own history. In doing so, they start on a unique adventure, a lifelong journey.

In placing the library as a minor part of a high-rise building, more than the original library building is lost.

A part of us is lost.

Brooklyn, March 19, 2013

The writer is a former chairwoman of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Citizens Defending Libraries has added this web page as a place where all the responses to that Times article promoting the idea that libraries should be sold can be published to correct the record and balance the dialogue no matter what the Times would edit out.  One again, send us your letters in response to the Times article so that can appear here or enter them as comments to this page.

Here are other letters to the editor the New York Times didn't print:
To the Editor:

I was surprised and dismayed to see that the front page article "Saving Schools and Libraries by Giving Up the Land They Sit On" (March 18, 2013), made no mention of the organized public outcry that has arisen in Brooklyn Heights and elsewhere over the projected sale of public library property to private developers. In just the past few weeks, a rapidly-growing grass roots group -- Citizens Defending Libraries -- has obtained well over 8,000 signatures in Brooklyn Heights alone from people protesting the further erosion of public land and services in New York City. Leaders of this group have also testified against
the library sale at a City Hall hearing, but this, too, was not mentioned in the article -- leaving readers with the false impression that the library "land grab" is a done deal.

I had expected more from The New York Times, our city's "newspaper of record".

Brooklyn, March 19, 2013
    * * * *

To the Editor:

In the article by Joseph Berger and Al Baker, the writers ignore a basic flaw in the plan to have developers help fund public services.  Taxpayers elect public officials to protect those services. If those in office don't do so, if, indeed, 230 million in deferred repairs is owed the 60  branch libraries, the public can and should boot them out. Who controls the developers?

The handsome independent buildings designed to house our public libraries foster the sense of community so essential for the good life in our hectic city. They stand as beacons of culture outside of the commercial sphere, beholden to no landlord but the taxpayer. Will they still be “public” when they are hidden in residential towers, subject to the rules of doormen and inhabitants, not to mention the whims of developers to buy and sell. Will the libraries still be ours, or theirs?

New York,
March 18, 2013

CONTACT: To contact Citizens Defending Libraries email Backpack362 (at) aol.com.
You may also leave a comment with information in the comments section at the bottom of this page.

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
You can also paste the following url into your browser.


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