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, January 31, 2016

Love Brooklyn Libraries Files Complaint With Attorney General Eric Schneiderman That Brooklyn Public Library Understates Capital Funds In Order to Sell Heights Library

There is significant breaking news as January turns into February: A newly formed group, Love Brooklyn Libraries has filed a complaint with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman that the Brooklyn Public Library has understated its capital funds in order to promote and rationalize the sale of the central destination Downtown Brooklyn Heights Library.  Approval of the proposed library sale was planned to go before Brooklyn's Borough Board February 2nd, but the board's consideration was postponed after the information concerning the complaint was outlined for the Brooklyn Borough President’s office.

Claiming poverty while the city is flush with surplus cash, the BPL is proposing to sell the valuable library, Brooklyn second largest, for a fraction of its value, less than they would get for a vacant lot.  At a time of escalating library use, the recently expanded and fully ungraded library would cost over $120 million to replace, but the BPL would sell it to net probably less than $25 million at best and would replace it with a shrunken library of less than 42% with much of the public space moved underground.

The complaint filed by Love Brooklyn Libraries breaks important new ground and builds upon what has previously been pointed out to public officials about how the secretive BPL is playing games to to promote and find excuses for the sale of the library that amounts to a profound public loss while greatly benefitting a developer making political contributions to Mayor di Blasio and others.

The complaint filed with the Attorney General should also be viewed against the background of the letter from NYC comptroller Scott Stringer noting that, “of particular concern” with respect to the BPL’s proposal is the “lack of a comprehensive public plan to address the capital needs of the library system” and that the Brooklyn Public Library:
“BPL has not provided the public with a comprehensive capital plan that explains how the one-time revenue from the sale of BHL will fix those needs. Indeed, the projected revenue from the BHL plan will cover less than one-fifth of the stated need and will not increase revenue to the library over the long-term.”
The comptroller has recently observed that the city is in a time of plenty with no out-year budget gaps in the future.  Selling off libraries, the de Blasio is acting like these are lean years and the Comptroller noted that: “It is simply unsustainable for the City to rely solely on the disposition of property to cover capital needs without fixing the systematic causes for the capital gap.”

Here is the reporting about the compliant and the postponement of the Brooklyn Borough Board vote.

    •    Brooklyn Daily Eagle:  Brooklyn Daily Eagle: Community group claims Brooklyn Public Library understates capital funds, by Rob Abruzzese, January 26, 2016.
The Brooklyn Public Library has more money than it’s letting on, according to a new organization called Love Brooklyn Libraries (LBL).

LBL was created in an effort to keep the Brooklyn Heights Library from being sold and developed. Aiming to prove its allegations, the group has filed a complaint with state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, accusing the library of misrepresenting its capital funds for a real estate grab.

“The Brooklyn Public Library is hiding the money so that they can do the real estate deal," said LBL President Marsha Rimler. [USE THE LINK TO READ MORE]
    •    Brooklyn Daily Eagle: Brooklyn Borough Board to delay Heights Library vote, Borough Hall `needs additional time to review', By Mary Frost
Brooklyn's Borough Board will not be voting as planned on Tuesday on the contentious issue of the sale of the Brooklyn Heights Library site to a developer.

According to the group Love Brooklyn Libraries (LBL), Borough Hall removed the item from the Board's agenda after a meeting between Andrew Gournardes, counsel to Borough President Eric Adams, and LBL officers last Thursday.

A spokesperson for the borough president told the Brooklyn Eagle on Friday that "Borough Hall needed additional time to review the proposal."

LBL filed a complaint letter with state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Jan. 15 which contends that Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) has been misrepresenting its capital funds in order to facilitate a real estate grab.

The library has claimed to have received a total of $84 million from Fiscal Year 2008 through Fiscal Year 2013, but LBL says that its own research shows a budget of $145 million over the same time span.

LBL's vice president Laurie Frey told the Eagle last Thursday, "Brooklyn Public Library is Pinocchio sitting on a pile of money. Their nose keeps getting longer and longer every time they say 'We don't have enough. We need more.' Love Brooklyn Libraries is calling for the truth."

* * * *

Love Brooklyn Libraries claims that BPL is "gaming" the system by spreading its capital funds among 145 - 150 line-item projects in 48 branch libraries.

"In other words, it appears that BPL is gaming the system to manufacture a work slowdown or "deferred maintenance crisis," LBL says.

"When the false premise of capital `underfunding' is dispelled, there is no longer a reason for going forward and irreversibly harming Brooklyn's public trust for public land," LBL adds.  [USE THE LINK TO READ MORE]
Here is a comment from Citizens Defending Libraries to the first article that for an unsolved technical reason has been repeatedly deleted from the Brooklyn Eagle site, but is available on Facebook:
This is a welcome addition to the critical fight we are waging against the plundering sale of our libraries. The filing of a complaint with the Attorney General should help force Eric Schneiderman's office to cross reference the information LBL supplied with the information we at Citizens Defending Libraries previously supplied to that office about irregularities concerning the proposed library sale and motivate him to get moving seriously on a long overdue investigation. (Also look at the BPL board of trustees: Brooklyn Public Library Trustees- Identified + Biographical and Other Information Supplied)

With the work that has been done there is much more than an obvious trail of bread crumbs to be followed by those who should be investigating what is going on at the BPL with this sale, a precursor to others (itself a recreation of what the NYPL did with Donnell). Those investigating should include, among others, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer's office whose new "Research and Investigation Unit" Comptroller Stringer says he formed because it "will enable us to dig even deeper into the agencies we audit as we fulfill our mandate to root out fraud and save City taxpayers' hard-earned money."

The BPL is proposing to sell the library to net a minuscule fraction of its value (maybe less than $25 million) without ever having considered the value of this asset to the public from the public's perspective, an asset that would cost $120+ million to replace. That is certainly something that those with investigative power such as Stringer and his "Research and Investigation Unit" should be looking into especial since Stringer indicated he formed the unit "not content to merely audit" . . Frankly, this should not even pass a basic standard audit.

We don't know exactly what LBL is presenting about what it has found, but, from consulting with Latinos For Libraries (another group opposing this sale), it sounds consistent with what we know to be significant matters with respect to the BPL's budget that need to be looked at and that were brought to the attention of Councilman Levin who seemed mostly interested in burying the issue and getting Councilman Landers' assistance to bury it. (Lander was a major and key promoter of this and other library sales.)

Big picture, there is absolutely no question there is a shell game going on with library financial matters. Library use is way up, de Blasio has a $4.5 billion budget surplus, libraries cost a relative pittance to fund, and this library sale is blamed on lack of funds?

As for the library spokesperson (Madeline Kaye of BerlinRosen?) saying that the sale "was approved after a transparent and rigorous public review process," that's utter hogwash. The library sale was planned in 2007, not disclosed until 2013, and the public was never given a chance to weigh in on whether this plan benefitting developers, not the pubic, made any sense at all or what alternative should have been pursued. And then there was Steve Levin's last minute unveiling of a backroom deal with City Hall and Development Mayor Alicia Glen raiding department of Education Funds to push this through- Something else to be investigated.
Also relevant to the Brooklyn Borough Board vote is the following with respect to a long overdue letter demanding transparency that City Councilman has promised he will send to the Brooklyn Public Library.

    •     Citizens Defending Libraries: Open Letter To Councilman Steve Levin About His Letter To Brooklyn Public Library Demanding Transparency About Library Sale, Sunday, January 31, 2016.

Below are two tables documenting some of the figures that Love Brooklyn Libraries has brought to light.
Table A- Click to enlarge, printable if you wish
Table B
Addendum to the above: Marsha Rimler referenced as Love Brooklyn Libraries President in the press coverage above did not continue in that position per the letter dated February 6, 2016 below issued by LBL's officers and distributed to elected officials, press and others. 
Love Brooklyn Libraries letter to elected officials and distributed to press and others about status of officers- Click to enlarge or print



  1. I do not know what Ms Gallo and Ms. Fry are up to
    but I remain president of love brooklyn libraries
    Our board has not taken any action and I have not resigned.