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.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Citizens Defending Libraries Resource And Main Page

Defend our libraries, don't defund them. . . . .  fund 'em, don't plunder 'em 
Citizens Defending Libraries Rally at City Hall 4/18/2013 with Comptroller John C. Liu
Citizens Defending Libraries was founded in February of 2013 in response to then breaking headlines about how, across the city, our public libraries were proposed to be sold and shrunk, with libraries being intentionally underfunded, their books and librarians eliminated.   During its its as yet short existence Citizens Defending Libraries has had a number of significant successes fending off and preventing library sale and shrinkages and there has been some progress towards restoration of the funding of libraries to a proper pre-library-sales plan level of proper funding, but the libraries are still besieged by the threat of such plans.

This page (which will be periodically updated) provides resources in connection with the petition and campaign to oppose the defunding of New York City's libraries, the shrinkage of the system and the sale of library real estate in deals that prioritize benefit for developers.

Chart from Center From an Urban Future report showing sharp decline in funding (coinciding with plans to sell off/"leverage" libraries) against escalating use.  
The first petition (gathered over 17,000 signature, most of them online- available at signon.org with a background statement and can still be signed).   On June 16, Citizens Defending libraries issued a new updated petition that you can sign now:
Mayor de Blasio: Rescue Our Libraries from Developer Destruction
You can also paste the following url into your browser.

http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/mayor-de-blasio-rescue-2?source=s.tw&r_by=5895137 

This José Marti quote which can be found in this plaque on 41st Street's Library Walk is included in the petition to save New York City's libraries

All libraries in the New York City system are currently under siege.  For more details about affected libraries click here:  What Libraries Are Affected By City Strategy Of Defunding, Shrinking, Selling Off Libraries?

Here are additional action steps you can take that go beyond promoting the petition in order to help this campaign succeed: Action Steps You Can Take Including Contacting Elected and Other Public Officials.

Note about Citizens Defending Libraries (and allied groups) on Facebook and Twitter:   This, or any other of the individual pages at this Citizens Defending Libraries web location can be "liked" on Facebook if you go to the bottom of this page.  In addition, there is a Citizens Defending Libraries Facebook page that can also be "liked" on Facebook at:  Facebook- Citizens Defending Libraries (which will help you get notice of articles and new information pertaining to the cause when there are updates).  You can also follow Citizens Defending @DefendLibraries on twitter.

Our Facebook and Twitter will keep you up to date with the latest news and articles as they come out and allow you to easily share Tweets and posts.

In addition, the Committee to Save the New York Public Library has a Facebook page, and can be followed on Twitter (@saveNYPL).  Library Lovers League also has a Facebook page, and can be followed on Twitter (@LibraryLoversNY).

 News ArticlesAvailable Reference Articles

 •    Wall Street Journal: Undertaking Its Destruction, by Ada Louise Huxtable, December 3, 2012.
“There is no more important landmark building in New York than the New York Public Library, known to New Yorkers simply as the 42nd Street Library, one of the world's greatest research institutions. Completed in 1911 . . . . it is an architectural masterpiece. Yet it is about to undertake its own destruction. The library is on a fast track to demolish the seven floors of stacks just below the magnificent, two-block-long Rose Reading Room for a $300 million restructuring referred to as the Central Library Plan.”
 •    New York Times: Critic’s Notebook- In Renderings for a Library Landmark, Stacks of Questions, by Michael Kimmelman, January 29, 2013.
“this potential Alamo of engineering, architecture and finance would be irresponsible. . . a not-uncommon phenomenon among cultural boards, a form of architectural Stockholm syndrome.”
•    Noticing New York: 
    •    New City-Wide Policy Makes Generation Of Real Estate Deals The Library System’s Primary Purpose, (January 31, 2013).
 “Do we want a shrinking library system for a growing, wealthier city? . .  
     . . .  It’s what we are going to get as the principal purpose of the library system becomes the generation of real estate opportunities for developers.  This new city-wide policy has, in a very harmful way, turned into a perverse incentive for the city to defund libraries and drive them into the ground.”
    •    City Strategy Of Withholding Basic City Services To Blackmail Public Into Accepting Bigger Development, (Friday, February 1, 2013)
    •    What Could We Expect Forest City Ratner Would Do With Two Library Sites On Sale For The Sake Of Creating Real Estate Deals? (Sunday, February 3, 2013)
Two of the sites identified for sale in the forefront of this march towards divestiture of assets with a concomitant shrinkage of the system are in Brooklyn.   . . .  Whether by coincidence or not, both of these sites . .  are immediately adjacent to property the government has previously put in the hands of Forest City Ratner pursuant to no-bid deals . . .
    •    Libraries That Are Now Supposedly “Dilapidated” Were Just Renovated: And Are Developers’ Real Estate Deals More Important Than Bryant Park? (Saturday, February 9, 2013)
    •    If Our Besieged Libraries Could Speak For Themselves: Maybe They Do! A Petition And Efforts To Save New York’s Libraries From Developer Deals, (Wednesday, February 20, 2013)
The greatest shame of such a plan is that it, even if it shakes loose a few real estate deals, maybe a few every year, it is a travesty to continually drives all libraries and the entire system into the ground financially.
•    Center For An Urban Future:  Report - Branches of Opportunity, by David Giles, January 2013
[Libraries] “have experienced a 40 percent spike in the number of people attending programs and a 59 percent increase in circulation over the past decade”
 •    New York City Independent Budget Office:  Funding Cuts Could Shelve Many Library Branches, by Kate Maher and Doug Turetsky, April 13, 2011 
“The funding fall-off is already taking a toll on the city’s three library systems, particularly the systems in Brooklyn and Queens.” . . .“more than three dozen branch libraries may be closed.”  [Bloomberg on a course to bring waning city funding for New York’s three library systems to its] “lowest level since the 1990s.”   [The city’s 59 community boards ranked library services their] “third highest budget concern” . . [and] “Brooklyn’s community boards ranked libraries their top priority.”
.•    The Albert Shanker Institute:  The High Cost Of Closing Public Libraries, by Matthew Di Carlo, April 18, 2011
In fiscal year 2008 (again, according to the U.S. Census Bureau), there were roughly 9,300 public libraries in the U.S., with a total cost of around 10.7 billion dollars. That figure represents roughly 0.4 percent – four tenths of one percent – of all state and local government expenditures. On a per capita basis, this is about 35 dollars per person.  [local-level analyses] “have found that for every dollar we spent on public libraries, the public realizes about 3-5 dollars in benefits.”
•    The Daily News:  Coming to Brooklyn Heights: the incredible shrinking library, patrons and residents charge -- Controversial plan to sell library building to private developer who will build apartment tower over it, by Lore Croghan, February 17, 2013.
. . . a controversial plan to sell the city-owned Brooklyn Heights Library building to a private developer who will erect an apartment tower with a new, 15,000 square foot branch - smaller than the book hall that’s there now.. . . many patrons use the business library like it’s part of their neighborhood branch — and are upset the space will be eliminated.
•     Library Journal: Donnell sale highlights need for transparency in decision-making, by Francine Fialkoff, Editor-in-Chief, February 1, 2008
. . . the building that housed Donnell has been sold to make way for a hotel and a much smaller public library. .  (w)ith the proposed library having less than half the space for public services as the old Donnell . . . questions remain about the location of some of the collections. . . More importantly, the breakup of the collections diminishes the role of Donnell as a central library . . .  The decisions . . .  [were] communicated to staff (and in the case of Donnell, to the public) largely after the big decisions have been made.

Should a public/private entity like NYPL. .  so blithely sidestep public and staff input?
[The] Libraries Subcommittee chair of the New York City Council . . . “. . didn't know about the Donnell sale ahead of time.”  “It's troubling . . . in terms of . .  the whole mission of the library.”

. . .  It's way past time for NYPL leaders to come out from behind their cloak of secrecy. .  get staff and public feedback before making any other sweeping changes.
•      Walkers In The City:  Patience and Fortitude, by Romy Ashby. February 22, 2013.
The meeting was crowded with mostly older people hearing the same kind of talk about their library and smelling a rat. “The 42nd Street library isn’t the only library in trouble,” a man said. “It’s the whole library system.” A lady in her seventies told of standing up to Robert Moses and winning. “We’re not gonna watch our libraries be demolished!” she said. “We want the library we have, nothing less! The minute you give in to their conditions you’re finished! You get bupkis!” I sat and listened, and some of what I heard was this:

The city is deliberately underfunding the libraries despite library use being way up. Perfectly good libraries are being labeled ‘Dilapidated’ to justify their destruction. Librarians have been warned to sound enthusiastic if asked about any such plans. The money from the sale of libraries will not go back into the library system, despite what library brass may say. . .
•        The Leonard Lopate Show: Controversy at the New York Public Library, Scott Sherman, a contributing writer for The Nation and Caleb Crain, a former Fellow at the NYPL and author of American Sympathy, talk about the proposed changes, staffing cuts and construction plans, March 12, 2012.



•       The Nation: Upheaval at the New York Public Library, by Scott Sherman, November 30, 2011.

•       The Nation: The Hidden History of New York City’s Central Library Plan: Why did one of the world’s greatest libraries adopt a $300 million transformation without any real public debate?, by Scott Sherman, August 28, 2013.
 For two years, the NYPL has refused to discuss the CLP in detail, and many questions remain unanswered. How and why did one of the world’s greatest libraries get into the real estate business? How did the CLP, which was formulated between 2005 and early 2007, advance into late 2011 without any significant public debate or discussion? Who first conceived the idea of demolishing book stacks that were constructed by Carrère and Hastings in the first decade of the twentieth century? What role did the Bloomberg administration play in the creation of the CLP? Finally, what was the role of Booz Allen Hamilton—the gargantuan consulting firm whose tentacles reach into the defense, energy, transportation and financial service sectors—which was hired by the NYPL in 2007 to formulate what became known inside the trustee meetings as “the strategy”?
•       The Wall Street Journal: Clueless at the Corcoran- What the museum's latest bad decision says about nonprofit governance, by Eric Gibson, February, 24, 2014.
. . .  the untold story of our time is the emerging crisis in nonprofit governance, where boards embark on policies that go against-and even imperil-the mission of the institution they are charged to oversee and protect.

. . . The New York Public Library wants to gut its magnificent Beaux Arts building on Fifth Avenue and change it from a research institution to, as Ada Louise Huxtable wrote in this newspaper, "a state-of-the-art, socially interactive, computer-centered" circulating library, with fewer books, a good number of them moved off-site.
•       The Brooklyn Eagle (Exclusive): Brooklyn Public Library in line for audit, says Comptroller Stringer, by Mary Frost, February, 28, 2014.
Groups opposing the controversial sales of Brooklyn and Manhattan library branches to developers have long been pushing for an audit of the BPL and NPL systems. . .

“Some of the things raised with respect to the Queens library system are interesting and worth investigating but the Queens expenditures ($140K for a conference deck) are penny ante compared to the library sales at the NPL and the BPL,” commented Michael D. D. White, a founding member of Citizens Defending Library, following a Brian Lehrer interview with Comptroller Stringer. “The Queens Library system has not been selling off libraries like the other two,” White added.
•       City Limits: New Scrutiny of City's Library Trustees- The trustees of the city's library systems oversee more than 200 branches and the spending of hundreds of millions of city dollars. How representative of the city are they?, by Suzanne Travers, June 18, 2014.
Over the last year, library trustees have seen more of the spotlight than usual because of moves that put boards at odds with public opinion. . .

* * *
As repositories of information available to anyone who walks through the door, libraries have always helped foster transparency, accountability and democracy. Their boards, however, struggle on all three counts.
 
 •      The Brian Lehrer Show: Giving Libraries Their Due, David Giles, research director at the Center for an Urban Future and the author of the report, "Branches of Opportunity", argues that New York City's public libraries deserve even more support in the digital age. (Click below to listen) January 15, 2013.
More people visited public libraries in New York than every major sports team and every major cultural institution combined.


Chart from the Independent Budget Office- Adjustments for inflation (per the Urban Future report) shows downturn in starkest relief.
Meville House article on Citizens Defending Libraries event used picture from July rally where Bill de Blasio joined CDL to call for a halt to these library sales.  Video of event on CDL's Youtube channel.
  •      Melville House: Citizens Defending Libraries calls the Central Library Plan “a real estate grab” and “contrary to the public interest”, by Claire Kelley, February 19, 2014.
Citizens Defending Libraries, which was co-founded by Michael D. D. White and Carolyn McIntyre, has been organizing protests and actions against the Central Library Plan. They have told us that they are continuing to solicit "petition signatures to ensure the de Blasio administration scraps all of the Bloomberg library sell-off plans.". .

. . . Citizens Defending Libraries is just now arriving at our first anniversary, just blowing out the single candle on our birthday cake.  We formed in response to breaking headlines at the very beginning of last year about how libraries were being sold off at the end of the Bloomberg administration in deals that would benefit real estate developers, not the public.
 
  •      New York Times: Denying New York Libraries the Fuel They Need, by Jim Dwyer, April 23, 2015.
The city's libraries - the fusty old buildings, and a few spiffier modern ones, . .  have more users than major professional sports, performing arts, museums, gardens and zoos - combined.

* * * *

Over the last decade, they have not gotten anywhere near the kind of capital funding enjoyed by sports teams.

From the 2006 fiscal year through 2014, the city budgeted at least $464 million to build new baseball stadiums for the Yankees and the Mets, and $156 million for the Barclays Center. That's $620 million for just those three sports arenas - a sum more than one-third greater than the $453 million that the city committed for capital improvements to the its 206 branch libraries and four research centers, which serve roughly seven times as many people a year as attend baseball games. (The budget figures were provided by the city's Independent Budget Office; the teams are getting an additional $680 million in subsidies spread over 40 years.)
For decades, the libraries have served a single function in the city budget process: hostages. Mayors say they have to cut library hours to make the financial books balance.. .
 Additional Links. For more in a running series of Noticing New York articles about the libraries click here: Libraries Series.  Also, here are pages with articles that reference respectively 1.)  The Central Library Plan affecting the Tilden Astor Central Reference Library at 42nd Street, the Mid-Manhattan, Library, SIBL and the Donnell, 2.) The Brooklyn Heights libraries, and The Pacific Branch library, and 3.) Libraries in general.  



Foreground: The lion Patience , of Patience and Fortitude fame, in front of 42nd Street Research Library, whose research stacks will be sacrificed.  Background:  Mid-Manhattan Library that will be sold in system shrinkage plans
Flyers and Handouts Images, Cartoons, Flyers, Handouts Posters 

For images and cartoons for posters, rallies and handouts CLICK HERE.  For flyers and handouts for canvassing and getting the word out about the petition CLICK HERE.

Videos

Citizens Defending Libraries is making videos available on the Citizens Defending Libraries YouTube Channel.  Selected videos from that channel can also be found here in the Video Page.

Related Petitions

(It is expected more will be added to this list with accompanying explanations)

**** Citizens Defending Libraries is right now is working with the Committee to Save the New York Public Library and Library Lovers League to make sure every signs and (electronically) sends this email to the mayor (CCs are going to other elected officials): Email the Mayor!  ****


There is another separate petition (currently over 1300 signatures) by the Committee to Save the New York Public Library that has been up for some time and specifically opposes the Central Library Plan in Manhattan:

    Anthony W. Marx: Reconsider the $350 million plan to remake NYC's landmark central library

The following petition to save Long Island College Hospital (LICH) is relevant to the save the libraries petition, particularly for the residents of Brooklyn Heights and Northwest Brooklyn, because of commonality of related issues that were explained at the annual Brooklyn Heights Association meeting and in the following article:  Wednesday, February 13, 2013, One-Stop Petition Shopping: Report On The Brooklyn Heights Association Annual Meeting, LICH and Libraries.
Governor Andrew Cuomo and NYS Health Department Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah : Keep University Hospital Brooklyn at Long Island College Hospital open, by  Assemblywoman Joan Millman

The morning crowd waiting for the Brooklyn Heights downtown library to open
The Petition Being Put Forth By Citizens Defending Libraries


The first petition (gathered over 17,000 signature, most of them online- available at signon.org with a background statement and can still be signed).   On June 16, Citizens Defending libraries issued a new updated petition that you can sign now:
Mayor de Blasio: Rescue Our Libraries from Developer Destruction
You can also paste the following url into your browser.

http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/mayor-de-blasio-rescue-2?source=s.tw&r_by=5895137 

CONTACT: To contact Citizens Defending Libraries email Backpack362 (at) aol.com.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

NYC Library Officials Partner To Promote Digital Books With Prizes From Amazon

Go digital with your library, submit a selfie and win a prize from Amazon
New Yorkers love their physical library books. . . circulation is way up at the city’s libraries and the bulk of that circulation increase is physical books. . . And NYC library officials are doing their utmost to promote digital books instead of what they derisively refer to in their board meetings as old-fashioned, archaic “analogue books.”

The library officials' effort to steer patron into digital books includes an expensive new campaign you’ll surely be seeing if you ride the subways in the next few weeks.  Library officials have been proclaiming how they want to follow a new business model of looking for partnerships with the private sector and to garner attention the new campaign offers the public prizes from Amazon.
Amazon “controls 74 percent of e-book sales” and in multiple other ways is one of the world’s hugest monopolies astoundingly unfettered by anti-trust regulation, its proposed acquisition of Whole Foods and its more than 400 stores just another accretion of its formidable market dominance.  See New York Times Op-Ed- Amazon Bites Off Even More Monopoly Power, by Lina M. Khan, June 21, 2017.

We are no down to just five men owning as much wealth as half the world’s population, and since money is power, that’s five men having as much power as half the world’s population.  One of those men is Jeff Bezos, founder, chairman, and chief executive officer of Amazon.

Among other things, Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post which reports on the elected representatives in Washington who decide whether Amazon should be reined in and regulated, the antitrust laws applied to it.

All three of the city’s three library systems, The New York Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library, and Queens Public Library have joined together in this promotion, which offers free e-book downloads in subway stations, although reportedly the Subway Library site was developed by the NYPL. The MTA, another public entity, is also engaging in the promotion along with Transit Wireless, the entity that has a 27 year contract to provide wireless in the subways (itself partnering with AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon).

The much beleaguered MTA was the entity that got to issue the press release with Governor Cuomo getting the first quote: Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Transit Wireless, the New York Public Library, the Brooklyn Public Library and the Queens Library Announce "Subway Library" Promotion that will Offer Free E-books in Underground Subway Stations.

It took a long time to get cell phone and wireless service in the subways.  The delay (about five years after technology could have been implemented) was once justified by the explanation of terrorism fears: It was though that the possibility that terrorists would use communications effectively for their purposes if those communications they because available underground, ought to outweigh the advantages and safety enhancements for the public (including a public under attack).  As for being safe, the addition of security cameras were planned at the same time with who knows what else.
Subway placard advertising and ubiquitous posters on subway station walls
The campaign is being promoted by posters throughout subway system stations, advertising placards on the trains, and postings on the digital subway kiosks that now give subway information if you interrupt their other advertising.  The campaign also involves decorating a subway train to look like the "Rose Reading Room," in the NYPL's central reference library.  What makes the decoration an identifiable attempt to to look like the Rose Reading Room is the inclusion of the ceiling painted to resemble the the Rose Reading Room ceiling that keeps getting problematically injured.
There is a video available of the Rose Reading Room train.  Then there is the sweepstakes contest a competition that encourages riders to take selfie photos next to a literary-themed subway car and share it via social media. Those who use the hashtag #SubwayLibrary and tag @TWWiFi have the chance to win an Amazon Kindle Voyage or prizes from the NYPL.  Perhaps not so coincidentally the same subway kiosks advertising the selfie photos contest also advertise Pokemon Go. . .

. . . NYPL President Tony Marx said the program for straphangers was "encouraging reading, learning, and curiosity."

Earlier this week when a Tuesday night presentation by Marvel Architects about their designs for a vastly shrunken Brooklyn Heights Library was poorly received with the public attendees complaining and asking for details about the loss of books, one of the apparent shills for the plan (sitting with library-sale-and-shrinkage promoter Deborah Hallen and hobnobbing with the development types) tried to defend the loss of physical books that resulted from the shrinking of the library by brightly asking: “How many more digital books will be available” in the shrunken library? 

Each of the library heads got one quote in the press program release.  Queens Library President and CEO Dennis M. Walcott said "Subway Reads aligns perfectly with this objective, and will lead even more people to Queens Library's extensive collection of e-books, audio books, music and digital magazines."

Here is other coverage of the Subway Library promotion.  Although some of the pictures are nice, you'll save time if you read the press release that actually tells you more.

•   Publishers Weekly: In New York, a Library for Your Subway Ride, By John Maher, June 13, 2017

•   AM New York: MTA's Subway Library offers up free e-books to NYC commuters, By Adeja Crearer, June 8, 2017

•    The Digital Reader: New York Libraries Are Promoting Reading on the Subway, by Nate Hoffelde, June 8, 2017.

•   Curbed: NYPL's new `Subway Library' may make your commute a bit less horrible- Get excerpts of popular books, experience a less rage-filled commute, by Amy Plitt@CurbedNY June 8, 2017.

•    TimeOut: The NYPL just turned a subway train into an adorable library, By Clayton Guse, June 8 2017

•    Library Journal: NYC Libraries Open "Subway Library" in Underground Stations, Six-Week Promotion Now Underway, by Gary Price on June 8, 2017

•    New York Times: New York City's Transit Agency Models Train After Library, By The Associated Press, June 9, 2017

•    New York Post: `Subway Library' offers riders a read on their commute, By Danielle Furfaro,  June 8, 2017

Friday, June 16, 2017

Reynold Levy- Head of Two Wolf In Sheepskin Library-Selling Foundations, President of the Robin Hood Foundation and Chair of the Board of the Revson Foundation

Mr. Reynold Levy on Charlie Rose, and left, his board member bio on the Revson Foundation website
Back in 2015, Noticing New York, in an article that tracked Sharon Greenberger and some of the other people involved in selling off libraries and public assets, took a look at the library-selling activities of the Revson Foundation and the consequently interesting composition of the Revson Foundation’s board.  See: Where Are They Now?: Sharon Greenberger, Evercore and the Revson Foundation- Selling And Shrinking NYC Libraries (Saturday, June 6, 2015).
Currently "chair" of the Revson Foundation?
Missed at the time, and who without precognition could know its relevance then, was Reynold Levy.  Reynold Levy, another board member of the library-selling Revson Foundation.  What makes this particularly interesting is that (appointed September 2015*) Mr. Levy stepped in to the role of president of the Robin Hood Foundation, which in January emerged as a prominent entity trying to bring about the sale for development of the Inwood Library.  Although the assertion does not match what is currently on the Revson Foundation website, Mr. Levy's bio on his own website says he is currently the "chair" of the Revson Foundation.  (On the other hand, the Revson Foundation's bio for Mr. Levy appears to be out of date in other key respects.)
(* Quite recently, belying its original press release appointing him and associated publicity, the New York Times reported that the appointment was “on a transitional basis.”  See: Robin Hood, Favorite Charity on Wall Street, Gets New Leader, by Elizabeth A. Harris, April 25, 2017.  Perhaps he was not the right image for a foundation promoting privatizing charter schools.- The Executive Director now newly heading Robin Hood is black.)
The Inwood community is not pleased that Robin Hood, the "favorite charity on Wall Street," wants to sell its library. In fact, there aren't any communities that are pleased about the way these real estate plans backed by the Revson Foundation and Robin Hood Foundation please developers and not communities. . .

. . . Is it maddening or just ironic to an ugly fault that one of Mr. Levy's claims to fame is that he authored a book whose short title is: “They Told Me Not To Take That Job”?

Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Destruction of Climate Change Information We need to Know and Libraries: This April’s Climate and Science Marches

Placard we carried at the April 29th Climate March

This post will be updated.

Saturday, April 29, Citizens Defending Libraries had representatives in Washington D.C. to spread the word, handing out thousands of flyers, that the shrinking and elimination of our libraries also threatens us with the loss of the information we need to know about climate change and how to deal with it.  For instance, the biggest science library in New York City, SIBL, the Science, Industry and Business Library, definitely one place you would hope to go to study climate change, is now being closed down, totally eliminated, the collection of science books it is supposed to house is biting the dust.

NYPL officials provided the New York City Council December 14th with an extremely dubious excuse for elimination of the Science library and its books: that it had abandoned collection of science books, expecting that people can resort to "the internet" to learn about science instead

Really? . . .

. . . The headlines in days before the Climate March were helping us make the case how specious this reasoning was.
•         Two days before the Climate March FCC Chair Ajit Pai unveiled a plan to end net neutrality, essentially privatize the internet meaning that private financial interests will will control the rights deciding the availability of information on the internet and how accessible it is:  
In Washington, D.C., the chair of the Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday outlined a sweeping plan to dismantle net neutrality rules, which seek to keep the internet open and prevent corporate service providers from blocking access to websites, slowing down content or providing paid fast lanes for internet service.
Not unsurprisingly, it's a plan that's backed by the Koch brothers who want hare fighting for and manipulating our government and country into perpetuating the heavy and continued use of the climate-changing fossil fuels in which they are so heavily invested.  See also this follow-up in the week afterward:  Trump's FCC Chair Declares New War on Net Neutrality After 10-Year Battle for Free & Open Internet, May 09, 2017.

•         The day before the Climate March the Trump administration removed the Evironmental Protections Agency's pages relating to climate change, climate science, the impacts of climate change and what readers can do about climate change, all gone from the site replaced with a banner headline saying "this page is being updated."  See: EPA removes climate change page from website,by Devin Henry, April 28, 2017.
Citizens Defending Libraries co-founder Carolyn McIntyre at the Climate March
Citizens Defending Libraries co-founders Carolyn McIntyre and Michael D. D. White at the Climate March
Here are the flyers we distributed thousands of at the March-

Small Flyer distributed at Washington D.C. April 29 Climate March.

Small Flyer distributed at Washington D.C. April 29 Climate March.
Selling and Shrinking Our Libraries,Eliminating Books and Librarians
   
(VIA THE TRUMP TEAM’S KUSHNER & SCHWARZMAN) 
Shutting Down The Internet
    (ELIMINATING NET NEUTRALITY)
And Purging Climate Information from Government Websites Destroys the Information We Need To Survive
It Also Attacks Democracy. .
. . .  Reduces equal access and opportunity. . .

(For more see- Noticing New York- Libraries And Climate Change: The Dangerous Destruction of Information We May Need To Know To Survive)



Sign our petition on the web: Citizens Defending Libraries
Take action and inform yourself via
our web pages, Facebook, Twitter & Youtube

Flyer distributed at Washington D.C. April 29 Climate March.

Flyer distributed at Washington D.C. April 29 Climate March.

Eliminating Books, Selling and Shrinking Libraries- is an attack on Democracy, equal access and opportunity. . .. . and our chance for all of us to know about climate change and participate in its solutions?

DID YOU KNOW?:
•    Canada's government has destroyed irreplaceable climate change data in Canadian libraries, collected at taxpayer expense and gathered over more than a hundred years. Canada has the world's longest coastline, traveling up into the Arctic where some of the fastest, most critical climate change is taking place.

•    Records once available respecting New York climate history are no longer to be found at the NYPL's 42nd Street Central Reference Library. Banishing books, the NYPL is also totally eliminating the 34th Street Science Library because science can be fund “on the internet,” but the Trump administration is purging internet climate change information and wants to dispense with “net neutrality” access to information.

•    The reckless bulk destruction of rare and valuable books and information at the San Francisco Public Library meant that books with information about global warming were trashed and sent to landfills as the library bankrupted itself, shrinking into a technologically focused `library of the future'.

•    In the empty shelves of Brooklyn Public Libraries you can’t find Jane Jacobs’ writings suggesting that the answers for humanity’s survival will be developed ground up and that our relationships with nature need to be symbiotic.

(For more see- Noticing New York- Libraries And Climate Change: The Dangerous Destruction
of Information We May Need To Know To Survive)

Are libraries being purged of information with the Orwellian objective of preventing the public from knowing what it needs to know and creating more manageable, easier to control, top-down narratives in sync with the latest Koch brothers press releases?

Will our future news and information have to come from the likes of fracking endorser former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, appointed as United Nations `Climate Change Envoy'? 
Sign our petition on the web: Citizens Defending Libraries
Take action and inform yourself via
our web pages, Facebook, Twitter & Youtube
(You can also sign petitions against the elimination of net neutrality like the one from Mozilla.)

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Fourth Forum on Selling Off Public Assets, Presented by First Unitarian Congregational Society of Brooklyn's Weaving the Fabric of Diversity & Citizens Defending Libraries, April 8, 2017

First Unitarian Congregational Society of Brooklyn's Weaving the Fabric of Diversity & Citizens Defending Libraries present the fourth Forum on Selling Off Public Assets
Saturday April 8, 2017, 2:30 - 5:00 PM,
116 Pierrepont St, Brooklyn, NY 11201
Panel Discussion Speakers:

Lynn Ellsworth founded the Tribeca Trust, a civic organization, and is a co-founder of the Alliance for a Human-scale City, a network of over 100 community and civic groups from all five boroughs.  Lynn founded the Friends of Duane Park and created the Inside Tribeca Loft tour in 1994.  Lynn is most proud of orchestrating the restoration of a public park that had been paved over by Robert Moses. She is working on a book about the political economy of historic districts and humanscale urbanism, with a working title:  In the Shadow of the Skyscraper.  Lynn Ellsworth is a Mom and dog-owner who lives in Tribeca.

Alicia Boyd is a community activist in the Crown Heights/Flatbush and Prospect Lefferts Garden community. Alicia has been very effective in challenging local politicians and focusing on the empowerment of the community through the Community Board. She is the co-founder of MTOPP - The Movement To Protect People, Empire Study Group and FLAC - Flower Lovers Against Corruption.   Alicia is most proud of stopping a major up zoning planned in her community.  Alicia Conducted one of the largest Brooklyn Anti-gentrification and Displacement forums at the Brooklyn Museum. Alicia's organization has filed 6 lawsuits against the Community Board, Borough President Eric Adams and the Office of Budget and Management. She can be reached at www.mtopp.org or (718) 703-3086.

Tom Angotti is Professor of Urban Policy & Planning at Hunter College and the Graduate Center/CUNY. He recently coedited Zoned Out! Race, Displacement and City Planning in New York City and previously authored New York For Sale: Community Planning Confronts Global Real Estate.

Michael D. D. White is a co-founder Citizens Defending Libraries, a lawyer and an urban planner who worked for NYC and the NYS public finance agencies for over a quarter century.  He writes Noticing New York about development in NYC and associated politics and National Notice about national economic and policy issues.

Carolyn McIntyre is another of the co-founders of Citizens Defending Libraries, a social worker and therapist practicing in New York. She is married to Mr. White.

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Forum on Public Assets- Outline

The discussion is intended to build on the results of the prior forums (See on the web: Our Public Assets Under Attack- A Calamity of the Commons Unfolding That We Must Act Collectively Against- How best To Express It?) and help build to more such discussion, with future forums, discussion and publication.

    1.    The “spectacles” through which public assets are viewed for potential privatizing- Monetizable, Quantifiable, Potential operation of exclusion principle
        a.    Private owner decision making vs. decision in the commons
        b.    Corporate mentality (what this means for absence of ethics)
        c.    Conglomerate thinking (i.e. top–down and ever increasing consolidation of wealth thinking, invisibility of people as people)
        d.    Wealth inequality (and the vicious cycles in play)
        e.    Realms in addition to public commons under attack (family, private, and spiritual life)
        f.    Flip side argument- The “tragedy of the commons”, Wikipedia, Twitter, Overfishing of the ocean, Safari parks and wildlife preserves in Africa, Oscar Newman’s “Defensible Space” vs. Jane Jacobs’ “Eyes on the Street.”
    2.    Examples of public assets under attack: Libraries, parks, playgrounds and memorials, schools & colleges, hospitals, public housing and buildings built on city-owned land, fire houses, police stations and post offices, prisons, light and air (zoning) and public ownership of the streets, the environment, the public airwaves, the internet, knowledge and information, culture.
    3.    Methods of takeover: The shock and awe tactics of defunding etc.
    4.    “Private Public Partnerships” - Jane Jacobs’ “monestrous hybrids” and "if you ride with the devil, sooner or later he’s gonna drive." Withheld public benefits used as lures to permit private profit. (20 minutes)
    5.    One way to take over public assets?: Usurpation of ownership/control of those who own and protect the public assets:
        a.    Taking over elected officials, political parties, elections and government
        b.    Community Boards and property-owner-controlled “Business Improvement Districts.”
        c.    501(c)(3)s and charitable organizations, library boards, museums, public broadcasting, etc.
        d.    AstroTruf Groups:
            i.    Those groups formed for the purpose of being AstroTurf, capturing and co-opting expected and logical opposition.
            ii.    Takeover of sometimes venerable legacy groups with proven past records of protecting and representing the public.
    6.    Who’s to thank?  Some recurring characters and political operatives
    7.    Ways to protect the public. Who are our allies? Raising awareness.  Peoples Puppet Theater.

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An audio recording of the forum is available via this link:  Recording April 8, 2017 Forum on Selling Off Public Assets.

We have not yet prepared video.

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Handout:
Our Public Assets Under Attack- A Calamity of the Commons Unfolding That We Must Act Collectively Against- How best To Express It?
But how to express it?  With multiple forums we have been working on that.
A Sign-On Letter of Support: We Stand Collectively Against The Sale of Public Assets- For Your Consideration
We sign this letter urging the protection of our public assets hoping that you as our elected officials will take our message to heart recognizing us as the public constituency to which you are properly accountable.

Our public assets, our public properties are under attack.  We believe the situation is increasingly dire.  That which endows the public realm and the public commons with its value and essential meaning is in jeopardy.  In deals that skew toward private profit at public expense, greed is exceeding itself as never before to push the envelope of what is conceivable everywhere we look.

Public parks and public buildings built on city-owned land. .  schools, colleges, libraries, fire houses, playgrounds, police stations, hospitals, housing, memorials . . these public assets are part of our New York  heritage, civic architecture and crucial infrastructure and resources that belong to everyone.  If city services are relocated, cut back or curtailed when city buildings are privatized, everyone loses, except the privileged few who arrive on the scene purporting to be our new "private partners."

To acquaint yourself more fully with the spectrum of assets under attack look at the names of the groups signing this letter and consider the assets those groups were formed to protect.  Their statements about why they are signing this letter elucidate this crisis further.

Built by our forefathers with public funds and resources, assembled over decades, some more than a century ago, the basic amenities of the public realm that are at stake are increasingly irreplaceable.  The same rapidly escalating land values underlying these properties and the prime locations that put them squarely in the sights of the real estate industry virtually assures the impossibility of the public's reacquiring such treasures ever again.  Similarly, the master craftsmanship and natural materials of the traditional architecture these assets feature will be increasingly costly and hard to obtain, or in anyway replicate.

Part of the problem is that we are in an era of increasing income and wealth inequality with the most affluent in our society lowering the taxes they pay.  Some may assert that a significant diminishment and elimination of the public realm must therefore be accepted as inevitable even as the city and its wealth continue to grow.  We, however, choose to view this new imbalance as temporary and subject to correction.

More insidious is how the growing political inequality and the power that flows from mounting economic disparities is being abused.  We witness the interests of money repeatedly prioritized over the rights of the voting electorate as potent influence is exercised to lay siege to our public properties.

We cannot let a privileged few with special access show up on the steps of government with plans to sell and privatize our assets, plundering their value.  Because these losses are so tragically permanent and long-term we must think in terms of the future, banding together to face the current assault and draw the line, doing everything we can to ensure our public assets are protected immediately.

Although the reasons for alarm should be obvious, we are concerned that the public servants we must  look to as guardians too frequently are not alert or responsive.  Outcry is essential when reorganizations under the rubric of "partnerships" convey responsibility for the provision of basic government functions, like public schools, parks and public libraries to those focused on private profit.  In these situations we find the public baited into accepting Faustian bargains premised on notions that the unacceptable be accepted.

Brutally inverted propositions perplex the public:
    •    Your city can't keep pace with the rampant development in your vicinity to provide the public school expansion now needed?  A developer will provide the public school if it can do whatever it wants with a historic district, turned over to it as ransom.

    •    The city refuses libraries their traditional and appropriate level of funding?  You may be told that you can have a better library if the community consents to upzoning because libraries are openly discussed as nice "placating" gestures, tactics, to push through developers' schemes.
In all these situations the private offerors' incentive is to minimize public benefit while maximizing private profit.  Our new private gatekeepers benefit from withholding public benefit, particularly since dribbling benefits out in the smallest possible increments will allow them to return more often with new proposed "bargains."  Even worse, the private sector is given an incentive to foment public crisis for private exploitation.

When the job of managing our public properties is captured by private interests with altered agendas, we see a dismaying shift of balance in the way these so-called "partners" manage things and the outcomes that result.  We get, for instance, the spectacle of hospitals expertly administered by top-talent professionals who skillfully deliver premium real estate deals while entrusted community health care facilities are steered into bankruptcy.

Over and over again we see a lack of transparency with the adoption of unnecessarily complicated governance structures and funding mechanisms, set-ups that seem best contrived to deflect accountability.

Reflect and you will probably recognize these aspects of commonly recurring modus operandi by those raiding public treasures:
    •    Withhold funds claiming there's no money for public assets or that what we publicly own can only be funded with self-cannibalizing sell-offs.

    •    Manufacture crisis conditions and present false choices, seeking to promote "TINA" narratives ("There Is No Alternative").  This can include overestimating and inflating repair and maintenance costs while so-called "solutions" are rushed forward.

    •    Underestimate the value of what the public owns.  This way assets (e.g. Donnell Library) can be disposed of at far less than true value benefitting developers and escaping accountability to the public.

    •    Do top-down designed deals that the public will be the last to know about, part of a general effort to eliminate the public from discussions to the maximum extent possible.

    •    Stack decision-making boards with people who are unsympathetic to those served by the targeted assets.

    •    Do deals calibrated to be benefit .01% while frequently, opportunistically, taking advantage of income inequality to target assets that have more value to the less politically powerful and less advantaged.

    •    Dismiss alternatives to protect and preserve the assets.  (Includes obfuscating and ignoring facts).
The way in which we see our public assets attacked are obvious symptoms of another major necessary conversation that looms in the background.  When assets the public clearly cherishes and would chose to pay for are targeted for transfers catering to private objectives we know that we must recognize the root causes for this neglect of the public will. Money in politics, election and campaign finance reform must be addressed.  Still, it is essential that our public assets be protected now without these more encompassing, albeit related, battles having to be won first.  In fact, we cannot let these conversions of public capital into even more private gain additionally fuel the imbalance and inequity being fought.

We believe that it is important to view all these many attacks on our public assets as being all of a whole.  All of these lop-sided deals should receive collective scrutiny.  The often common and repeated stratagems employed against the public should be looked at on an integrated basis, which includes noting that there is a high frequency of overlap among the players and political operatives that present them to us.

We request your support and your statements of allegiance.  Most of all we request that you take action that is observable as effective.  Not only are we reaching out, we will also be watching.

All who represent us and are charged with protecting our interests need to roundly and soundly agree that this era of putting the public's property on the auction block is an era who's time has passed.  It was never sustainable in the first place. Whenever deals like these present themselves we must recognize them for the cheats and swindles that they are, greet them as dead on arrival and pack them off with the quick funerals they deserve.

NOTE:  After Citizens Defending Libraries held our first three forums on public assets, the Municipal Art Society held what they called a “summit” on the sale of public assets.  The difference between our “forums” and their “summit” is that we sought the public perspective and didn’t feature people from Goldman Sachs and library-selling developers and politicians invited to lecture the captive audience about why it was good to let their profit-making enterprises privatize public assets.  (See: Saturday, November 5, 2016, Municipal Art Society's Summit on "Public Assets": Who Gets to Decide What They Are & Whether They Matter, Featuring Goldman Sachs and A Library-Shrinking Developer (It Follows Suit After Us But Goes OPPOSITE To Our Lead!)

OTHER USEFUL RELATED LINKS (on videos click through to YouTube for best viewing)

From Noticing New York

•    Noticing New York: Stephen A. Schwarzman The Man Making Deals To Privatize The American Public's Infrastructure?: It's Unforgivable (And Coming From Trump), Saturday, June 10, 2017



•    Workplace Democracy (VIDEO): Noam Chomsky on Privatization, May 6, 2014
"That's the standard technique of privatization: defund, make sure things don't work, people get angry, you hand it over to private capital."

"Privatization does not mean you take a public institution and give it to some nice person, it means you take a public institution and give it to an unaccountable tyranny."


•    Canada’s National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) VIDEO: The Privatization Zombie, September 19, 2013



•    The privatization of public services' in one minute, January 31, 2014



•    The Privatization Beast: Libraries, February 14, 2011





Monday, February 27, 2017

Brooklyn Heights Association 2017 Annual Meeting- "What To Do In The Age of Trump"

BHA 2017 Annual Meeting- Well attended, but public participation "in the age of Trump" was not invited
This post will be updated.

The Brooklyn Heights Association 2017 Annual Meeting was held Monday, February 27, 20017 at the Saint Francis College auditorium on Remsen Street.

The BHA gave its neighborhood report.  That report contained no mention of the destruction of the Brooklyn Heights Library, the BHA's continuing support of its shrink-and-sink sale or the ongoing abuses such as the felling just days before of five neighborhood trees, at the library's Truth Park excused by the false representation that the developer had already acquired the property from the city.

Things were tightly controlled this year with no invitation for public questioning or input, except that, as part of panel discussion of de Blasio's proposed (and at this meeting largely ridiculed) BQX riverfront trolley proposal, the public could hand in suggestions questions written on index cards.  Virtually no time was devoted to those questions and essentially none of them asked.
An example of one of the many questions from attendees that were submitted, but never asked.
Not surprisingly, the BHA proclaimed with great solemnity how important it was to consider what its role should be "in the age of Trump."   Its answer was that locals should get more involved supporting the BHA and working for better schools. . . . We had a flyer prepared and distributed it to nearly everyone at the very well attended meeting that we think addresses in much more telling and pertinent terms what the BHA's responsibilities should be "in the age of Trump."   

Below, in both text and as a jpg is the flyer we distributed.
ALLOWING SALES THAT LOOT OUR LIBRARIES, (pushing our libraries out the door to plundering plutocrats, handing them over to developers) HAS CONSEQUENCES

It has been noted that if Steve Mnuchin had been vigorously prosecuted at the local level for his business’s mortgage fraud, misrepresentations, backdating and falsification of documents to rev up the pace of his OneWest foreclosure mill, he wouldn’t be Treasury Secretary, appointed by Donald Trump today- Similarly, had NYS Attorney General Eric Schneiderman investigated the shrink-and-sink Donnell Library plunder with Blackstone’s Stephen A. Schwarzman involved on the selling side and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner as principal financial beneficiary, those two Trump henchmen might not be in significant positions of power today.  The whole political landscape at the national level could be different, not to mention having healthier local politics.

When our local officials and organizations allow the corrupt plundering of valuable public assets, like the shrink-and-sink Brooklyn Heights Library deal modeled on the sale of Donnell with some of the same people in the background, it feeds the beasts who go on to prey on us in so many other ways.

It doesn’t serve us that Stephen A. Schwarzman, spearheading Trump’s economic policy, is also one of Senator Schumer’s biggest donors, just as Schumer’s wife’s connections with selling libraries and privatizing public assets also do not.  City Councilman Steve Levin misleadingly assured that he would do his job and insist on transparency respecting the library sales but, betraying his constituents, never has. Thus the lack of transparency in Brooklyn Heights helps Donnell sink unchallenged into the sunset (even as Preet Bhrara investigates the mayor’s play-to-play).

Meanwhile, five trees were felled at the Heights library by a developer who doesn’t not yet own it, while the Brooklyn Heights Association lets such library-trashing abuses multiply despite having sworn to protect the public. (The library was promised to stay open until it was acquired, and should be open even now.)

We can commend Irene Janner, receiving an award today, for her first CB2 vote against selling the library, but can’t let go unobserved the awkwardness, as the library stills hangs in the balance, of those two subsequent votes involving flip-flops where the BHA forced the library sale through,  overriding the original hearing.  WE DESERVE BETTER!
    
Sign our petition on the web: Citizens Defending Libraries