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.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Open Letter To Brooklyn Public Library Trustee Peter Aschkenasy Re Commitment to Provide Information About Library Sale

BPL Trustee and Board Treasurer Peter  Aschkenasy in foreground.  BPL Spokesperson David Woloch in background

Below is what we have written in follow-up to BPL Trustee and Board Treasurer Peter Aschkenasy about information he indicated he would provide concerning the sale and shrinkage of libraries.

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February 6, 2015

Re: Information you indicated you would provide concerning the sale and shrinkage of libraries

Dear Mr. Aschkenasy,

I am writing on behalf of Citizens Defending Libraries to follow up more formally with respect to the Thursday, January 22, 2015 Independent Neighborhood Democrats forum about the Brooklyn public libraries that gave special focus to the proposed sale and shrinkage of the Brooklyn Heights Library.  You represented the Brooklyn Public Library at the forum as a trustee and the BPL Board Treasurer.  When I made a request for your commitment to provide certain information you told me and the forum attendees that you expected it could be provided, and I am, accordingly, following up now to ask that the information be provided promptly.

    •    I asked for your commitment to provide a complete floor plan of the Brooklyn Heights Library with crosshatching worked out to indicate specifically everything that the Brooklyn Public Library is writing off as being not of value to the public AND with regard to all those areas the reasons the Brooklyn Public Library is respectively indicating various areas to be not of value.

    •    I also asked if you would like to volunteer to provide us with:
    •        The Karen Backus “real estate strategy”
    •        The Revson Study
    •        The response we have requested from BPL President Linda Johnson for a calculation of the losses to the public of selling the Brooklyn Heights Library and what the public is giving up.
You stated that you had no objection to my request in principle and that you thought it could be agreed to.  I had also offered you the opportunity to comment on the subject of transparency and you said that you do not think there is any reason for the BPL to be hiding facts concerning its decisions.  David Woloch, a BPL spokesperson on staff who was the second person on the panel representing the BPL, supplemented your statement saying, “There is certainly more information we can give you,” and acknowledged a “lack of clarity” concerning facts the BPL needs to articulate.

You said that you were not sure of all the details concerning everything I was requesting- That’s presumably in relation to items in the second set of bullets above, not the first.

Let me provide some relevant background.

Prior to the forum I asked at the Brooklyn Heights Library for a copy of the floor plan for the building.  Librarians there told me that an available floor plan exists, but that it could not be released to the public without clearance from the BPL central administration office at Grand Army Plaza.  (There are, by contrast, other libraries where copies of floor plans are readily available.)  My request was passed up to the central administration office from which I have never heard anything.

The Karen Backus-authored “real estate strategy” and the Revson Study are two of items that should be readily available (and which have been referred to by BPL trustees like you in their decision making) that we have requested of the Brooklyn Public Library via the Freedom of Information Law.  Although these items are readily available and are items that we believe we are clearly entitled to, we have not been provided with them after what is now a very considerable period of time.  We believe that the documents we have requested under the law are highly relevant to discussions about whether to sell and shrink libraries, and there are many more documents than these that have similarly not been provided by the BPL pursuant to requests.

The response we have requested from BPL President Linda Johnson concerning the unrecognized cost to the public of selling and shrinking the Brooklyn Heights Library has been carefully articulated in our open letter to Ms. Johnson sent to her, available on our web pages, and distributed to the trustees at their board meeting:  Open Letter To Brooklyn Public Library President Linda Johnson.

Please confirm that you expect to provide the requested information as you indicated January 22, 2015, and by what date we should be able to expect it.

Your consideration in this matter is appreciated.


Michael D. D. White
Citizens Defending Libraries

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At the January forum: Independent Neighborhood Democrats President Lawrence Gulotta standing, panelists Peter Aschkenasy and David Woloch from the BPL far left and Doreen Gallo and Marsha Rimler, critics of the BPL's sale and shrinkage plans on right    

This video of the interaction at the forum is available at Citizens Defending Libraries YouTube Channel (click through for best viewing): BPL Reps Promise More Disclosure On Heights Library Deal.


IMPORTANT UPDATE: As of March 9, 2015 the BPL, finally partially responded to Citizens Defending Libraries' long-standing requests with the release of floor plans for the Brooklyn Heights Library available here:  Floor Plans of the Brooklyn Heights Library Considered In Light of the Library's Proposed Sale and Shrinkage.

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