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.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Annual Meeting of Brooklyn Heights Association- The BHA President Patrick Killackey Insists That BHA Will Continue To Betray Community By Supporting The Brooklyn Heights Library Sale & Shrinkage Notwithstanding Recent Scandals

Brooklyn Heights Association President Patrick Killackey tries to defend the library sale after the meeting.  When the the Brooklyn Heights Blog did a poll asking whom the public trusted, who the public backed, Citizens Defending Libraries trounced the BHA in terms of public support.
Thanks to all the Library Defenders who were at the Brooklyn Heights Association annual meeting the night of Wednesday, February 24, 2015.  This is now the fourth year running that the Brooklyn Heights Association has disgraced itself at its annual meeting by continuing to press for the sale and shrinkage of the Brooklyn Heights Library despite finding out, each year running, that the proposed library sale and drastic shrinkage is much worse then was know the previous year.

At the meeting Citizens Defending Libraries suppled information containing information and points such as the following:
It’s time for the Brooklyn Heights Association to start opposing the proposed sale and drastic shrinkage (down to 42%) of the Brooklyn Heights Library.  It should do so before the still-pending required approvals for that sale.–   SEE: (online) Citizens Defending Libraries:  Open Letter To The Brooklyn Heights Association: Stop Supporting The Sale and Drastic Shrinkage of the Brooklyn Heights Library And Start Opposing It. (September 12, 2015).

Additional recently available reasons for the BHA to oppose the sale and shrinkage:
    •    The recent complaint filed with the NYS Attorney General’s office showing that the BPL fudged its budgetary figures to claim poverty as a reason to sell and shrink the library when that wasn’t the case.

    •    Sunday’s New York Post article revealing that the de Blasio administration doing a favor for a friend gave the library site to a developer whose bid was lower than at least two other bidders and 20% lower than the going rate Brooklyn Heights.  Plus the bid, topped by another bid 12% more was inferior in other respects. [Even this needs to be put in context: David Kramer (of the Hudson Companies) was the low bidder for a library that should not even be sold.  Kramer and the other developers were only bidding for the value of the library site as a vacant lot.  They were being asked by the BPL and its trustees to bid only for the "tear-down" value of the library.  These bids were in no way related to the value of the library to the public from the public's perspective, because de Blasio and the BPL trustees were selling off the library with no appraisal of the value of the library from the public's perspective.  And it is important to remember that what we are speaking of is a recently enlarged and fully upgraded library that would cost more than $120 million to replace.- A library the BHA once fought to enlarge!!!]

    •    We now know the library sale proposal is also raiding our district’s Department of Education funds in a significant unrevealed amount to sweeten the backroom deal for the developer paying the following for an unwanted  “STEM Lab” or “STEAM Lab” facility (really just a black box): 1.)  Acquisition of space, 2.) outfitting space, and 3.) running the off-site space.
The BHA’s refusal to oppose the proposed library sale is undermining other important goals essential to the community and what should be the BHA’s mission of protecting it.

    •    It undermined the fight against the sale of LICH (another public asset attacked by the real estate industry), which has now turned into the unfortunate Fortas proposal situation.

    •    It undermines dealing effectively with the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation (the board of which has startling overlaps with the board of the Brooklyn Public Library), which means less effective opposition to:
        •        The Pierhouse overbuilding in Brooklyn Bridge Park
        •        The Pier 6 overbuilding in Brooklyn Bridge Park

    •    It undermined the opposition to the 75 Henry Street Pineapple Walk proposal, an almost nearly identical proposed luxury tower casting a long shadow on Cadman Plaza (this time on privately owned property, not selling a publicly-owned asset).

    •    The BHA, acting like an unpredictable wildcard, undermines our efforts to keep our elected officials accountable and honest with people at the office of Councilman Steve Levin, who betrayed the community on the library sale, sometimes fielding phone calls saying things like: `Yes, 95% of the community is opposed to the library sale, but the BHA favors it and they are very powerful.’
The BHA’s decision about the library should not have been subject to direction it received from those privately self-interested and involved with the Saint Ann’s private school benefitting from the library sale.  BHA president Patrick Killackey has said that it was proper for the Saint Ann’s contingent to be specially represented through the BHA in the way that it was. We have the opposite opinion about such a flagrant conflict of interest violating the community’s trust.  
Sign our petition on the web: Citizens Defending Libraries

Citizens Defending Libraries also came equipped with with this handout.


And another handout was a list of links plus an attachment of the letter Levin has failed for months to send demanding transparency from the BPL in connection wth its library sales:

The text of that flyer reads as follows:
Why isn’t Councilman Stephen Levin demanding transparency from the Brooklyn Public Library and sending the letter to do so (attached) that he long ago promised?
SEE: (From Citizens Defending Libraries) Open Letter To Councilman Steve Levin About His Letter To Brooklyn Public Library Demanding Transparency About Library Sales

See how Levin’s failure to demand transparency just doesn’t square with his ostensible reasons for his “approving” the sale and drastic shrinkage of the Brooklyn Heights Library:
Monday, December 28, 2015, "An Open Letter Regarding the Brooklyn Heights Library Project"- Obfuscation From Councilman Steve Levin Concerning His Betrayal of The Community By Approving The Sale and Shrinkage of Our Library

SEE also:

You can click on the first "Open Letter" link above to see the ext of the letter Levin has refused to send following through on his obligation and promise to demand transparency and which we distributed to the audience in the form below:
In other words, the library sale was very much present in the room in multiple ways.  Notwithstanding the the three new change of fact situations listed above, and notwithstanding all the ways that the supporting the library undermines the BHA's responsibility to protect the community BHA president Patrick Killackey said that the BHA was refusing to even consider a change in supporting the library.  Councilman Steve Levin was right there where he could have been told to change his vote.  When he arrived and was announced he was coldly received by those in the crowd who did not actually vociferously boo him.

The follow-up we suggest given that the Borough Board vote is pending (possibly Tues. March 1st):
1.) Call/email the Brooklyn Heights Association (718.858.9193 - pbray@thebha.org and tell them it is absolutely unacceptable for them not to oppose the library sale before the vote especially given all the new revelations (Steve Levin is hiding behind their 'powerful organization' skirts as one reason he might vote yet again to approve the library sale and shrinkage at the Borough Board).
2.)  Call/email Steve Levin (718-875-5200- 212-788-7348 - slevin@council.nyc.gov) and tell him that he should vote against the sale and shrinkage of the library given all the new revelations plus the fact that he has not followed through on his councilmatic obligations to insist on transparency from the BPL.
3.)  Comment - on this article about last night's BHA annual meeting- about the failures of Levin and the BHA in representing the community: DA Ken Thompson talks guns, gangs and the wrongfully convicted at Brooklyn Heights Association Annual Meeting- Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson by Mary Frost, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, February 25, 2016.
At the meeting the the BHA repeated over and over how they much they need to recruit new members-  We can tell them why membership has fallen off and the obvious thing the could do to get more members.

Startling news: The BHA cancelled the annual house tour this year!  For the last three years we have handed out flyers to everyone on the tour about the BHA and the library sales and had about 80% of the people on the tours wearing our "Don't Sell Our Libraries" buttons.  The BHA said that about 30% of its annual revenues come from the house tour (that's about $60K out of $200K).  We don't know how much of the rest is from dues paid by the declining membership and how much is paid by people hoping for special favors.

In conversation at the cocktail reception afterward members of the BHA board of governors were suspiciously oblique last night in providing non-explanations of why the BHA won't change its promotion of the library sale, saying things like "the dominoes have fallen" as a reason they are not, even now, "able" to oppose the sale.  The Post article documents this is a corrupt deal.  Does "the  dominoes have fallen" translate to mean the BHA has made its own corrupt deal that ties the BHA's hands in the face of any revelations or change of circumstance of any kind no matter what?

It is incredible that the BHA has being saying for four year now  that they somehow aren't able to oppose the sale.

In response to a question Citizens Defending Libraries co-founder Michael D. D. White asked, Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson spoke about corruption in the real estate industry and what he is doing to investigate, persecute and combat it.  We hope he take on some of the rigged deal corruption that is involved in the theft of our public libraries.

If you want to read more about past BHA annual meetings and the BHA's refusal to back away from its disregardful support for the sale and shrinkage of the library read (in reverse chronological order):
    •   Saturday, September 12, 2015, Open Letter To The Brooklyn Heights Association: Stop Supporting The Sale and Drastic Shrinkage of the Brooklyn Heights Library And Start Opposing It.

    •   Tuesday, February 24, 2015, Public Assets Under Attack- Prepared For Handout at February 24, 2015 Brooklyn Heights Association Annual Meeting

    •   Wednesday, March 5, 2014, Internet Guru Clay Shirky Speaking At Brooklyn Heights Association Annual Meeting Says We Need Libraries Because Of Holes In The Internet

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

    •   Wednesday, February 13, 2013, One-Stop Petition Shopping: Report On The Brooklyn Heights Association Annual Meeting, LICH and Libraries

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