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.

Monday, October 17, 2016

What Libraries Are Affected By City Strategy Of Defunding, Shrinking, Selling Off Libraries?

[Back To Main Page]  The information posted here at Citizens Defending Libraries, including this page, will be updated, evolved and developed further.

What libraries are affecting by city strategy of defunding, shrinking, selling off libraries?  All the libraries in the system are affected but here are highlights (which will be updated), focusing on the most immediate:
(We invite you to contact Citizens Defending Libraries with more information about what is going on with libraries you know about to add more information to this list.  See contact information and comments sections at bottom of page.)
    •   Libraries everywhere in New York City?  At a November 18, 2015 City Council hearing Brooklyn Public Library President Linda Johnson said that the sale and shrinkage of the Brooklyn Heights Library (itself modeled after the sale and shrinkage of the NYPL's Donnell library) was being looked at by all three NYC library systems (Brooklyn, the NYPL and Queens) as a model for similar transactions.

    •    Four Main Libraries in Manhattan (plus?):
    •        The Donnell Library (53rd between 5th and 6th Avenues) was closed for shrinkage in 2008, its collection disbursed.  Its former location now a construction site, “plans” having not worked out.  Perhaps a half-size library will be provided by 2014.
    •        The main research library at 42nd Street will have its recently-renovated research stacks destroyed, decommissioning it as the premier world class research resource it was meant to be.
    •        Mid-Manhattan (Across Fifth Avenue) will be sold as part of the consolidating shrinkage plan.
    •        The relatively new Science Library at 34th Street will also be sold as part of the consolidating shrinkage plan.
    •        Further down the list are. . . ?
     •       When the NYPL unveiled its system-wide real estate plans to staff in March of 2008 it identified a plan to put a new hub library in Northern Manhattan (Harlem?).  This is the only new hub library that seems to have been proposed anywhere.  What this plans means cannot be said with certainty, but going back to the Donnell Library closing in 2008, following through with consolidating shrinkage of the proposed Central Library Plan and now the sell-off of the Brooklyn Heights library, all central or hub libraries of any kind have been associated with the sale and shrinkage of other previously existing libraries in the vicinity.  Therefore, there shoud be concern about the upcoming sale and closing of libraries in northern Manhattan and Harlem.
NYPL Libraries New To The List 
      •      New to the list of libraries to be sold- An unidentified library in "northern Manhattan" that the NYPL Trustees were told about at a meeting held specially in Harlem.
      •      Also new to the list of libraries to be sold- The Inwood Library (near Dykman Street and just downhill from the Cloisters) at 4790 Broadway, New York, NY, 10034 which was renovated and expanded in 2001.
      •     Based on events at the NYPL trustees meeting we believe that the Jerome Park Library in the Bronx at118 Eames Pl, Bronx, NY 10468 is being looked at for sale.
    •    Spaceworks and its mission to shrink and privatize NYC public library space as "underutilized" a threat to NYPL (Manhattan , Bronx and Staten Island) and BPL (Brooklyn) and possible Queens Libraries:
 Recent news has come out that the private company Spaceworks, created by the Bloomberg administration in the summer of 2012 is decalred to be partnering with the NYPL and BPL with the mission of taking over and privatizing space in NYPL and BPL libraries based on the premise that the space in the libraries, despite greatly increasing use, is "underutilized."  See: Thursday, July 3, 2014, Spaceworks And Its Privatizing Space Grab Of The Libraries.  The two of libraries first announced as guinea pigs for Spaceworks shrinkage are the recentlt renovated Red Hook and Williamsburg libraries.  Spaceworks mission is promoted by the Revson Foundation.  The Revson Foundation funded a recent study by the Center for and Urban Future that concluded that libraries that are only 10,000 square feet should be enlarged.  Notwithstanding, the Red Hook Library is only 7,500 square feet and Spacework was proposing with the BPL to shrink that library by 2,000 square feet down to to only 5,500 square feet.

Spaceworks has been asked to identify what other libraries is it working on plans to shrink in its partnerships with the BPL and NYPL.  Spaceworks has denied, despite its proclaimed partnership with the NYPL, that it has any plans underway to shrink any NYPL libraries in Manhattan, the Bronx or Staten Island and denies that it has any other Brooklyn libraries in its sites to shrink.  It is not clear whether, with the board changes now underway at the Queens library whether Spaceworks will try to operate in Queens as well.    
    •    Libraries in Brooklyn:
The Brooklyn Public Library has a strategic plan that is looking to "leverage" (turn into real estate deals) ALL of the libraries in the system.  The most up-to-date information about libraries being targeted and in the most imminent possible danger comes from a recent thorough review of a decades worth of the BPL's board minutes.   See: Sunday, August 31, 2014, Mostly In Plain Sight (A Few Conscious Removals Notwithstanding) Minutes Of Brooklyn Public Library Tell Shocking Details Of Strategies To Sell Brooklyn's Public Libraries.   Based on that review, Citizens Defending Libraries has launched its Citizens Audit and Investigation which includes using the state sunshine laws to obtain more information about all of the following libraries talked about as being part of the BPL real estate strategy:
    •        Brooklyn Heights Library
    •        Pacific Branch
    •        Sunset Park Branch
    •        Red Hook Branch
    •        Williamsburg Branch
    •        Brower Park Library
    •        Midwood Library
    •        Gravesend Library
    •        Clinton Hill Library
    •        McKinley Park Branch and another seven or eight leased libraries being acquired with or without the formal threat of eminent domain. 
 Here is more information:
    •        The Brooklyn Branch library at 280 Cadman Plaza will be closed and shrunk to become a much smaller library in what has been spoken of (internally by library officials) as likely being a forty-story building likely owned, library officials say, in a “Partnership” with Forest City Ratner.  Library officials have indicated they can justify keeping the smaller library open shorter hours.  The current library space, which also hosts the Business and Career library, is 62,000 square feet.  This would be reduced to and orriginall proposed 16,000 square feet (now 21,000 square feet).  Library officials are arguing that the space used by the public would effectively be cut only in half.
    •        The Business and Career library would be booted out of its current and traditional location at the edge of Brooklyn’s Central Business District (at a transportation hub and adjacent to universities).  (This would help the library to keep shorter hours in Brooklyn Heights)  To the extent that Business and Career library continued to exist at all afterwards it would be by virtue of jamming it into (and effectively shrinking) the Main Branch Library in Prospect Heights at Grand Army Plaza.
    •        The Main Brooklyn Library at Grand Army Plaza will be shrunk to the extent that other libraries elsewhere are closed and shrunk and shunted off services get jammed into this library.
    •        The Pacific branch library, (recently renovated), the first Carnegie Building opened in Brooklyn and a proposed landmark that the City Landmark’s commissioner has refused to act on since 2004, would be closed.
    •        There is information coming together from several sources that the Clinton Hill Library, 380 Washington Avenue (at Lafayette Ave, two blocks from Clinton), Brooklyn, NY 11238 is being looked at for sale to a developer.  It is one of the libraries that has been the subject of recent sporadic closures claiming air conditioning or (March 2013) lack of heat.
    •        The Midwood Library was one of the first libraries that a developer made an offer on.  The BPL said it is looking at all possibilities.

    •        The Sunset Park Branch was specifically identified as being a library that would be solf to be turned into a mixed-use property.

    •        The BPL received a developer proposal for the Brower Park Library and asked that it be made more specific.
    •        There is a list of other Brooklyn libraries on the list for development.  Although the Brooklyn Public Library system denies it, libraries on the list were handed out to developers at least as far back as 2007.  (People visiting the Brooklyn Heights library building are being told that the Brooklyn Heights library is the only library affected by the current sell-off and shrinkage plans, information that is obviously incorrect.)
    •        The strategic plan for the Brooklyn Public Library states that the plan is to “leverage” (i.e. “sell”) all of the real estate.  The BPL: “will leverage its over one million square feet of real estate by launching partnerships . . .”
    •        The (Rupert Murdoch-owned) Brooklyn Paper that promotes the interests of the real estate developers ran two articles March 27, 2013.  One was run in lieu of covering of covering a Community Board 5 hearing where the community was out in force strenuously objecting as BPL spokespeople presented their plans to sell the Pacific Branch library.  That article, labeled a "News Analysis" in the print edition of the paper, was comprised of quotes and talking points of the BPL spokesman stating why the library should be sold and why Andrew Carnegie who donated this and other libraries on the condition that they be kept open and maintained would want to see such libraries sold off.  Along with that article the paper ran another article where, according to Curbed, a real estate blog, the “Brooklyn Paper helpfully outlined every at-risk Carnegie branch in the borough.”  Accordingly, that article gives clues to other libraies likely to be put on the block for sale. Another clue to which libraries are likely to be sold are which libraries get reported to have air conditioning problems.  So far no library (going back to Donnell in 2008) has been proposed for sale without citing air conditioning problems, whether that library was recently renovated or not.  A list of libraries with air conditioning problems appeared in the Brooklyn Eagle at the end of the Summer 2012.  Libraries overlapping on these two lists as being in poor condition and having air conditioning problems, in addition to the Brooklyn Heights library and the Pacific Branch Library include also the Clinton Hill Library, 380 Washington Avenue and the Brownsville branch, 61 Glenmore Ave. at Watkins St. Brooklyn, NY 11212.  Other still open Carnegie libraries Brooklyn that the Brooklyn Paper listed as being in "poor condition" were:  Brownsville branch, 61 Glenmore Ave. at Watkins St. Brooklyn, NY 11212, Carroll Gardens branch, 396 Clinton St. @ Union St., Brooklyn, NY 11231, Flatbush branch, 22 Linden Blvd. at Flatbush Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11226, Arlington branch, 203 Arlington Ave. at Warwick St., Brooklyn, NY 11207, Walt Whitman branch, 93 Saint Edwards St. (between Myrtle and Park Avenues), Brooklyn, NY 11205, Saratoga branch, 8 Thomas S. Boyland St. at "Macon St.", Brooklyn, NY 11233, Leonard branch, 81 Devoe St. at Leonard St., Brooklyn, NY 11215, Eastern Parkway branch, 1044 Eastern Pkwy. at Schenectady Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11213, Washington Irving branch, 360 Irving Ave. (at Woodbine St.), Brooklyn, NY 11237.      
    •    All of the libraries in all of the boroughs affected:
    •        Because the current strategy involves underfunding all of the libraries in the New York City system in order to shake loose and prioritize these real estate deals wherever they be, every library is suffering negative consequences as a result.

    •    Libraries in Queens:
    •        The Queens Library sub-system has so far been the most protective of its libraries.  Some libraries in Queens lease space rather than being in publicly-owned properties so there is little real estate value to trying to sell off those particular libraries (unless there is s a very long-term, low-rent lease).  Still, because the strategy is to underfund all the libraries in the city to shake real estate properties loose from the system, the Queens libraries are also deleteriously affected; the Borough President must divert more discretionary funds in the direction of libraries (making those funds unavailable to the borough for other uses) and those funds are less effective in bringing library services up to an suitable level.
    •        The Elmhurst public library in Queens, which the Historic Districts Council fought with the community to save, was bulldozed.  That property was not sold off to a developer for another use; it only turned into a construction project the appropriateness of which can be investigated.  Alternatives would have included added library space to the existing library off or on site.
    •        According to the New York City Independent Budget Office’s critique of the mayor’s push to drive down funding of the libraries, “The funding fall-off is already taking a toll on the city’s three library systems, particularly the systems in Brooklyn and Queens.” . . .“more than three dozen branch libraries may be closed.”
    •        Here is a link to the HDC campaign to save libraries, which includes libraries in Queens.
    •     Libraries in The Bronx and Staten Island:
    •        The Bronx and Staten Island libraries are part of NYPL subsystem whose board of trustees have focused themselves on a prioritized creation of the real estate deals in Manhattan.  What we are seeing is that the juiciest real estate deals are getting priority, but what we know from the Brooklyn situation is that they are working their way down a list.
    •        Read the section on the Queens libraries about how the entire system is affected.
    •        The Historic Districts council is working to save libraries in the Bronx and Staten Island as well as the other boroughs.  
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
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  1. The New York Daily News had a story about the Fordham Library Center, open 7 days a week, being repurposed. They already tried to make it an animal shelter. Meanwhile, circulation is soaring. Don't forget the Bronx. This is outrageous.

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  8. I think they should have just one library in one city where you pick up all your books.

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  16. Thankfully, Spaceworks is not coming in to the Red Hook library. Great RH response!
    http://www.redhookstar.com/ (Feb.'16)