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, May 2, 2016

As Feeding Frenzy Elevates NY1 Covers DeBlasio “Pay To Play” Violation: Taking Campaign Contributions From Kramer’s Hudson Companies While Handing Out Brooklyn Heights Library Deal- Marvel Architects Runs But Can’t Hide

January 8, 2014 letter Conflict of Interest Board letter: No "pay to play"!
You will find more added here to this page as the story develops. . . .

Monday, May 2, 2016 NY1 reported a heftily researched story about how Mayor de Blasio’s “pay to play” campaign contributions violate a January 8, 2014 letter (issued eight days into the de Blasio administration) from the city's Conflicts of Interest Board, the agency overseeing ethical conduct for local elected officials that specifically restricted pay to play contributions to de Blaios’s Campaign for One New York. . .  Prominently mentioned amongst a number of violations is a $5,000 donation from developer David Karmer’s Hudson Companies in February of 2014 while Kramer and Hudson were hoping that de Blasio would do what de Blasio eventually did: Sell Brooklyn’s second largest and most important library to Kramer for a fraction of its value so that Kramer could build a tower of luxury condominiums while shrinking the library down to just 42% and moving much of the publicly visited space underground.

Does this make clear why de Blasio and friends are being investigated right now?

You can view the NY1 story here or read the text of it.
See: NY1-  Mayor's Nonprofit May Have Violated Directive from City's Conflict of Interest Board, By Courtney Gross, Monday, May 2, 2016
But that’s not all!: Kramer and his development team with their library deal pending to be decided by de Blasio’s administration were previously bundling campaign funds and sending them de Blasio’s way with a fundraiser held October 24, 2013.  Kramer’s architect is Jonathan Marvel’s firm, Marvel Architects.  Their fundraiser was apparently a joint one.
See:  Noticing New York- WNYC Reports Mayor de Blasio's "Furiously Raising Funds"- Including From Developers "Lurking Behind The Curtain" of Library Real Estate Sales- And WNYC's Money? Saturday, June 6, 2015.
From the NY1 play to pay report
Forest City Ratner, neighbor to the library and involved as a gatekeeper in the Brooklyn Heights Library sale transaction is also mentioned in the NY1 report as a pay to play player.
The "pay to play" contributions must be evaluated in the context of it's being reported that David Kramer's Hudson Companies and his development team didn't deliver the best bid.  According to a recent New York Post article the Kramer bid was inferior to others in various respects and was lower than two other bids, twenty percent below the market and $6 million (12%) below one of the higher bids.  Given that the deal selling the library for a minuscule fraction of its value could net perhaps only $20 million (if even that) the obvious sacrifices of public value are huge.  Further, the Post reports Kramer "was not going to be the winning guy pre-de-Blasio.”
See:  New York Post- Developer with ties to de Blasio scores job, despite being outbid, By Aaron Short, February 21, 2016
It seems that word has gone out that the jig is up and a worried Marvel Architects has just recently gotten busy expunging evidence of their collection of funds for de Blasio while planning to snare the sweet deal plundering the public’s property.

Marvel Architects has simultaneously gone searching to delete pages from its website about the October 24th 2013 joint fundrasier with Kramer as well as its tweet-with-picture about the event.

Unfortunately for Marvel, Kramer et al, the internet is something of a time machine and its is not as if they weren’t already being watched.  We were waiting to pick our time to share this.  (The now you see it, now you don't nature of the internet can be treacherous, but it is not completely obliging when it comes to expunging things.)

Here are the web pages Marvel just hastily deleted from its website:

Web page evidence of pay to play campaign contributions deleted from Marvel Architects' website as de Blasio fundraising comes under scrutiny-  Jonathan Marvel and David Kramer were on the "host committee" according to the details you can read on this page.  Reading who was there it must have been a night!$$$$
A related page on Marvel Architects' website that was also deleted.
What Marvel wants you to see if you go looking for the fundraising page now:
Sorry, but your page can't e found!-  But on the internet you can't hide and it can be found.
For those of you who know Twitter, it is pretty weird, pretty far out there and pretty desperate to go search to delete your two-and-one-half year old Tweets.  But that is what Marvel Architects felt compelled to do at the same time it was deleting its web pages.  Here is the tweet of the de Blasio fundrasing it wanted to scrub from the internet.
Up until not many days ago the link to it used to be:


If you'd like a better look at the actual picture tweeted (same one that was on the webpages) you can see de Blasio standing right next to David Kramer below.
Maybe for good measure Marvel Architects also thought it would be a good idea to block Citizens Defending Libraries co-founder Michael D. D. White (also on Twitter) from seeing its tweets (see below).  But taking that measure, whatever it was supposed to accomplish, was rather too late- That's not the way the internet actually works.
"You are blocked from following @Marvelarch and viewing @Marvelarch's tweets."

The Googled up ghost of @Marvelarch's deleted tweet.

This, of course, is probably not actually the sort of destruction of evidence that's illegal when a criminal case is being pursued, but for the onlookers it has a delicious similarity of flavor, a sending up of smoke signals that perpetrators have realized that conduct crossing the line needs to be hidden.

There is more that we hope gets investigated.  The other day we asked NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer about how the BPL's trustees selling an extremely valuable library without bothering to appraise it value to the public as a library from the public's perspective (it would cost more than $120 million to replace and is being sold to net next to nothing) should be a red flag for auditors, an indication of fraud and bearch of fiduciary duty.  That's when Comptroller Stringer observed a connection (presumably in theme) of the library sale to Kramer and the nursing home deal being investigated where the de Blasio administration essentially gave away a nursing home by selling the restrictive covenant that created and ensured it while de Blasio reaped what looks like these same kind of pay to play contributions.

We hope that there is also an investigation into how, with the Library deal pending, de Blasio and his Deputy Mayor for Development Alicia Glen raided NYC Department of Education Funds (in still unspecified but sizeable amounts) to push Karmer's real estate deal along.  How far do pay to play contributions go?  With the question of mayoral control of schools again in the balance in Albany that is a good question.
(Footnote: Meanwhile, City Councilman Steve Levin, who at one point said he had to put through the library sale over his constituent's objections because of de Blasio, is sidestepping his responsibility to insist on transparency respecting the transaction.)

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