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.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

PRESS RELEASE & ADVISORY- City Council Vote On Library Sell-Off & Shrinkage Program Prototype- Many questions to be asked about backroom deal involving de Blasio

New York City 
WHAT: The New York City Council's expected vote is expected to vote this Wednesday,on the precedent-setting proposed fire sale of a major public asset, Brooklyn's second biggest library, the central destination library in Downtown Brooklyn.  A decision from Mayor de Blasio (who has been taking money from the developer and whose Department of Education as of Thursday per an announcement last Thursday is redeploying substantial resources to promote the library sale) is expected soon afterward if the Council approves. 
WHEN: Wednesday, December 16, 2015, 1:30 P.M. 
WHERE: Council Chambers, City Hall, City Hall Park New York, New York 10007  
WHAT ELSE?:  Citizens Defending Libraries will be on hand to provide facts about the decision before the City Council.
Last Thursday, the City a Council Land Use Committee and its subcommittee voted to approve the sale and shrinkage of the Brooklyn Heights Library (down to 42% of its current size) based on a complicated backroom deal kept under wraps until the last minute.

Tomorrow, Wednesday the 16th, the City Council will be asked to confirm the Land Use Committee's vote, its first ever of this kind, initiating a program of similar library sales based on this prototype.

Here are questions that we hope the City Council members, the NYC Comptroller, NYC Public Advocate and members of the press will be asking about the backroom deal (hopefully before the vote), and which Citizens Defending Libraries is distributing accordingly:
    1.    What is the now reduced amount available from the sale that could become available to other libraries?  When the backroom deal was announced Councilman Levin, Councilman Lander and Brooklyn President Linda Johnson all made statements to the public and press that they still expected an estimated “$40 million” netted from that sale that could go to other libraries.  However, at her Tuesday board meeting this evening Linda Johnson told her board the net amount will actually have to be appreciably less because the shrunken Brooklyn Heights Library will be 5,000 feet larger (“that much more to fit out”) than previously planned (and there will actually be “less money” to go elsewhere).

    2.    What is the amount of money that the BPL and Levin have agreed to redeploy to the enlargement of the Greenpoint Library (“earmarked specifically” from the Brooklyn Heights sale said Ms. Johnson)?  The Greenpoint library, another in Levin’s district, for which Ms. Johnson said Levin has an “affinity” is to be demolished and enlarged.  Why was this item on Levin’s backroom deal list not disclosed to the public with the rest?  Was it disclosed to the Land Use Committee and its members?

    3.    What exactly is the K-12 "STEM" facility that the de Blasio administration is putting into the developer's proposed tower when the Department of Education buys back from the developer (at what cost) previously public property pursuant to its commitment which involves also outfitting the space (at what cost) and operating it (at what cost)?  Linda Johnson told her board that “what exactly” a "STEM" facility "means" still has to be fleshed out.  Since disclosure of the deal, Steve Levin has said that, based on estimations, the space might be room for up to three (K-12) classrooms.  Also, since disclosure of the deal, he has said DOE will lease the space for ten years with an option to buy.  Levin did not say what the lease amounts would be (hopefully less than installment-to-purchase payments) and said that DOE’s outfitting costs were unknown.  Are they estimated? $6.75 million?

    4.    How long were plans spent working this out in City Hall with the Mayor's office?  How long was the plan that was reached kept undisclosed, specially in is major aspects?  Linda Johnson referred to "months" of prep work and refereed to many days sitting in City Hall working on it.  At the meeting the BPL trustees were told that Deputy Mayor for Development Alicia Glen had personally adopted this project as "her own." The item on the list that was saved for the last to put in place involved some (relatively feeble?) concessions to the unions.  Only days before Levin denied a deal was in the offing.

    5.    What is the story with the promised tiny new DUMBO library (which will also be  in Levin's district).  This will also be subtracting from what funds could (but can’t be guaranteed to) go elsewhere.  Linda Johnson said how this will be “executed” needs to be figured out. (She suggested that in the small space they would be at lot of children’s and tech services.)   Even for a library that is just 5,000 square feet, DUMBO is expensive.  Will it be leased as was the plan for it conceived in 2007 (the same time the Brooklyn Heights and Donnell sales were being conceived and implemented)?  How much will it cost to lease or buy?  How much will it cost to outfit?  $3.75 million?  What then is the overall estimated reduction of funds that might thus be available elsewhere?

    6.    Is the proposed DUMBO library still considered a model for much smaller libraries in the future as was planned in 2007?  With the shrinking 2,500 square foot library in the Walentas BAM South project (286 Ashland Place) we now seem to have two of these very small libraries.  (The DUMBO library was originally supposed to be just 1,700 square feet.)  (Anything less than 10,000 square feet for a library is considered woefully small.”)

    7.    According to Johnson's report to the board, under its potential "profit sharing" deal with the developer, NYC will pay Kramer's development company $1.5 million for its slight reduction of rents for the off-site "poor door" style "affordable" housing, but only if the developer makes enough money.  Explain this.

    8.    How is this first sale and shrinkage offered for the Council's approval viewed as a “model” for other deals throughout the city and in all three systems as Ms. Johnson testified at City Council’s hearing on the matter?   At the BPL trustee meeting with the trustees applauding this sell-off, the trustees were reminded how sale of this library was chosen as a demonstration for what was possible.  They were told that this was a “huge turning point for the library system” and “across the city in general” with Johnson `pioneering’ the future of libraries.  They were told that Alicia Glenn, de Blasio’s Deputy Mayor for Development has been “one of the best resources to get the project across the finish line.”
That is a short list of the myriad questions surrounding the proposed sale and shrinkage the City Council is asked to approve.  Before this de Blasio/Levin backroom deal there were many more outstanding questions that have never been answered.

Big picture, it is important to remember that this is valuable, recently expanded and fully upgraded library, one of the most modern in he BPL system, that is being sold off for a minuscule fraction of its value to the public, a tiny faction of the more than $120 million it would cost to replace.

We hope that City Council members, the NYC Comptroller, NYC Public Advocate and members of the press will be asking the questions that need to be asked.

While those questions get mulled over we offer you a soundtrack: A new song written and performed by Judy Gorman specifically for the fight to save out libraries from real estate sales (an especially good addition to a radio or podcast news story).

Judy Gorman's Don't Sell Our Libraries Song

Carolyn E. McIntyre, Michael D. D. White
Michael White, 718-834-6184, mddwhite [at] aol.com
Carolyn McIntyre, 917-757-6542 cemac62 [at] aol.com

Follow us on Twitter: @defendinglibraries

For photos and videos of prior Citizens Defending Libraries rallies opposing the sale, shrinkage, underfunding of New York City libraries, and elimination of books and librarians in the two and a half+ years since its founding, see:


                                                                  #   #   #

Citizens Defending Libraries
(718) 797-5207
@DefendLibraries on twitter
backpack362 [at] aol.com

No comments:

Post a Comment