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.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Follow-up Letter to Bernie Sanders About Selling Off NYC Librraies and Public Assets

April 4, 2016

Mr. Bernie Sanders
Bernie 2016
Campaign Office
P.O. Box 905
Burlington, Vermont 05402

                Re: Follow-up on Proposed New York City campaign event

Dear Bernie Sanders,

Citizens Defending Libraries has expressed its interest in holding an event with you.  Your campaign office responded with interest asking us to furnish more information which is the purpose of this letter.

Everyone understands, particularly those heeding how you have so very clearly made it a central focus in the national debates, that we face a crisis of growing income inequality.  We invite you to join with us to decry the way that escalating income and wealth inequality are leading to attacks on our public assets, presenting a viscous cycle where deals to sell these assets off are stacked to favor those at the top.

We believe that a broad swath of our public resources are in similar jeopardy, libraries being just one example.

As described below, the two leading candidates running against you in this election, the Democrat Hillary Clinton and the Republican Donald Trump, both with anchors in New York, also both have interesting connections to the proposed sale, shrinkage and underfunding of New York City libraries, accompanied by an unfortunate elimination of books.

Where To Hold a Rally

We suggest holding a rally outside the Brooklyn Heights Library, Brooklyn's central destination downtown library on Cadman Plaza West at the corner of Tillary and Clinton.  It is the next New York library proposed to be sold and rather drastically shrunk citing underfunding of these public assets as an excuse for taking a huge public loss in selling this recently enlarged and fully upgraded library.   The library is immediately adjacent to Hillary Clinton's national campaign headquarters.  We can also readily expand into and utilize the very large open area of Cadman Plaza Park directly across the street.

We similarly reached out to Hillary Clinton’s campaign when we approached yours.  Your campaign expressed interest in taking action to preserve our public assets.  Ms. Clinton’s campaign expressed no such interest even though this threatened library is actually, for real estate development purposes, part of the same real estate parcel, owned by her politically active landlord, that her campaign headquarters is in.

Not Just this Library: Other Libraries and Public Assets in Jeopardy

As you are no doubt aware, in New York City much of the money that rides rough shod over the public interest escalating inequality in wealth and power is money from the real estate industry.  Is it just by coincidence that the sale and hand off of this library to a developer who wants to build a tower of luxury condominiums to take its place is an almost exact replication of the much decried sale of the beloved Donnell library in central Manhattan?  Behind the scenes, some of the same people were involved.

One of the people involved behind the scenes who benefitted from the Donnell Library’s sale and shrinkage (for a pittance) was Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.  There was no proper bid to sell Donnell, nor public notice or involvement.  Even if you take this as no more than a symbol. it is something to think about: As the rest of us lose out with ever increasing inequality, the world of the elite who benefit has become far too cozy.  Similarly, the New York Post recently reported that the Brooklyn Heights Library is being sold to an inferior bidder, sold for 20% less than its value as a vacant lot and 12% less than one of the two bidders who bid more.  And, remember, a recently enlarged, fully ungraded library is very far from what should be valued as if it was only a vacant lot.
See:  PRESS RELEASE: Donald Trump Connected To Sell-Off of NYC Libraries? This Explains Exactly How.
We have held forums with other New Yorkers to discuss and recognize that other public assets, not just our libraries, are at stake in these attacks: Public parks and public buildings built on city-owned land. .  schools, colleges, libraries, fire houses, playgrounds, police stations, hospitals, housing, memorials.

Our Public Assets Under Attack- A Calamity of the Commons Unfolding That We Must Act Collectively Against- How best To Express It?

About Citizens Defending Libraries

Citizens Defending Libraries (you can find us on our webpages, Facebook page, Twitter) was formed just over three years ago at the beginning of 2013 in response to then breaking headlines about the sell off of New York Public Libraries.  We launched two petitions with tens of thousands of petition signers.  Last fall, in just over two weeks, we collected more than 2,000 multi-point testimonies opposing the sale of the Brooklyn Heights Library.  We were instrumental (and one of the plaintiffs in two lawsuits) in the 2014 derailing of a $500+ million planned sale and shrinkage of major Manhattan libraries (Mid-Manhhattan, SIBL and the Central Reference Library) and exile of books from the 42nd Street Central Reference library (the “Central Library Plan”).

We greatly look forward to hearing from you and holding this event soon.  We can also coordinate with you on disseminating press statements and publicity to help the public understand these issues better as well as the position candidate Sanders is willing to take on them.


                                Carolyn E. McIntyre

CC: Campaign Staff

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