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, February 27, 2014

February 27, 2014 Open Letter from Carolyn McIntyre To Brooklyn Heights Association Delivered At It’s Annual Meeting That Day

After the Brooklyn Heights Association annual meeting the Brooklyn Heights Blog put up a poll (above)- `Whom do you support, Citizens Defending Libraries or the BHA?' You can still get to that poll to VOTE through the link to the Brooklyn Heights Blog story at the end of the Noticing New York article about the annual meeting.
Carolyn McIntyre's Open Letter to the Brooklyn Heights Association

February 27, 2014

Dear Fellow BHA members and neighbors,                           

My husband and I have been members of the  Brooklyn Heights Association for over 25 years and attended almost every house tour fund raiser.  (One year I was a recipient of BHA recognition for community service).  I write to you now to let you know about the position the BHA has taken on the sale of the Brooklyn Heights Library.

The Brooklyn Heights Association a year ago rushed to be one of the first to supportively condone the sale and shrinkage of the Brooklyn Heights Library.  The BHA reports that (without telling people truthfully how tall the replacement building might actually be) they found 83 Brooklyn Heights Association members who support the redevelopment.  From a petition we started a year ago, we have more than a thousand people from the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood (zip code 11201) who oppose the sale.  In addition, we have many, many more users of the library from neighboring areas of Brooklyn who have signed the petition opposing the sale.  Even the BHA's own results say that the majority of the people who are from the neighborhood, from 11201, OPPOSE the sale of the library.

The local community and New Yorkers were outraged by the sudden secretive sale of the Donnell Library in Manhattan for a pittance (netting less than $39 million).  The 50-story luxury high rise replacing the 5-story (97,000) square foot public library will have a tiny library in the basement.  (Google Donnell library and see the plans for a mostly bookless library). The penthouse of the luxury high rise is on the market for $60 million.

Had the sale of Donnell been stopped, it is unlikely that library sales would have continued. The sale of the Brooklyn Heights Library is replicating the sale of Donnell library. Stopping the sale of the Brooklyn Heights Library could save not only this library but should prevent them from moving on to sell other libraries which we know now include libraries in Mid-Manhattan, Harlem and other developing areas of Brooklyn.

We started our petition a year ago to stop the sale of the Brooklyn Heights Library and the many other libraries slated for sale are in expensive real estate areas.  We have over 16,000 petition signers a year later and have joined with two other groups, The Committee To Save The New York Public Library and Library Lovers League, to stop the sales and the removal of books from libraries in Manhattan and Brooklyn.  In just the past couple of weeks we generated more than 3,000 emails to Mayor de Basio (CCs to other elected officials) opposing these sales.

What has happened since the BHA got involved with the library through a "Community Advisory Committee"? The Brooklyn Heights Library has been stripped of much of its books.  The staff has been reduced.  The hours and staff were drastically reduced over the summer.  Patrons, staff and seniors had to endure a hot library over the summer because the BPL refused to fix the air conditioner.  This is a disgrace!

The BPL issued a report on the costs of repairs over the summer after raising the repair costs for the air conditioner multiple times starting with $350 thousand and going up to $4.5 million and adding all kinds of additional repairs and costs.  After having an architectural expert look at the report, he said it was "laughable" and wondered how anyone could do such a report with obviously inflated numbers and unnecessary repairs. 

Most of us who are following the library issues do not trust the BPL leadership and don't understand why the BHA does not represent the community and is providing cover for a leadership that was put in place to sell libraries.  There are people looking to push the sale by saying it's a “done deal.”  It is absolutely not!  Our group, Citizens Defending Libraries, stood on the steps of the 42 Street Central Reference Library with candidate Bill de Blasio and other defenders of the libraries when he called for a halt to the Bloomberg pushed Central Library Plan involving spending $150 million of taxpayer money (perhaps almost a half billion dollars in redirected library funds in all) to sell and destroy the two most well used libraries in Manhattan and move research books to a warehouse in New Jersey.  De Blasio also denounced Bloomberg’s proposed sale of Brooklyn’s libraries. It would be unfortunate if the BHA's failure to represent the community resulted in this Bloomberg plan moving forward by even the tiniest increment.

The aggressive selling off of our shared public assets such as our libraries, our hospitals, and our schools shows a heartlessness that should be disturbing to anyone who wants to live in a healthy and caring community.  The more we sell off our public treasures, the more we fuel income inequality, a major issue in the last mayoral campaign.  The BPL leadership and the BHA have been pushing away library users and the voices of people concerned about this greed-driven exploitation. 

We envision a day when the BHA and CDL will come together to work for what is best for our community and the neighboring communities.  We understand the growing disconnection needs to be bridged and it is increasingly clear that no matter what neighborhood we live in we are all connected.
Carolyn McIntyre
Citizens Defending Libraries
718 [Area Code]-797-5207
BHA member over 25 years

No comments:

Post a Comment