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.

Tuesday, December 5, 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
NOTICE: WE ARE WORKING ON A NEW MAIN WEB PAGE WE HOPE TO HAVE UP SOON.  (This page will be archived at that time.)

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.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Michael Moore’s Anti-George Bush Book Was Saved From The Censorious 9/11 Tyranny by A Courageous Librarian Mobilizing Comrades

After we wrote here at Citizens Defending Libraries about our Citizens Defending Libraries encounter with Michael Moore (exciting!) after his one-man Broadway show “Terms of My Surrender,” and how in that show Mr. Moore surmised to the audience that defunding and closing libraries, part of the dumbing down this country, likely helped put us on the path of Trump being declared president of the United States.  See: How Did Trump Get Elected?: Michael Moore In “Terms of My Surrender” Envisions That It Was A Dumbing Down of the Country That Involved Closing Libraries.

Our writing about Mr. Moore and his expressed appreciation for the libraries when we met with him caused another of our library defenders, Judy Gorman, to head to Broadway and catch Mr. Moore’s show, which means that now we can tell you something more about Mr. Moore, book protection and librarians.  The story we can tell you adds to the reasons Mr. Moore has to view libraries and librarians as precious. It’s a story about a personal debt Mr. Moore has, in fact a personal debt we all have, to a group of librarians in the fight for democracy, freedom of speech and freedom of thought.

(Don’t go out to try to catch Mr. Moores’s show now.  It finally closed after a very respectable run.)

Michael Moore’s show each night was not exactly the same.  It varied from night to night as Mr. Moore reacted to the latest news, varied the stories he told with the constraints of available time, and welcomed different guests visit him on stage.  The night library defender Judy Gorman attended the show expecting him to speak to speak about libraries again, he included another story about librarians he hadn’t told when we were first there.

In 2001 a heroic librarian mobilized a network of librarians and saved Michael Moore’s “Stupid White Men ...And Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation!” from being suppressed from publication by Mr. Moore's own publisher, HarperCollins, who deemed the book too critical of George W. Bush in the wake of 9/11.  What might have happened?: Mr. Moore had nightmares of his pulped book being recycled to come back as “Rush Limbaugh or Bill O'Reilly books.”  The rescued book, spent weeks at the top of the best seller lists.

Moore completed the book shortly before 9/11 when it was set to be released.  December 1st Moore read chapters of his book to an audience in New Brunswick, New Jersey telling them with dismay that they would probably be the only ones who would ever hear the words because of his publisher’s intention to deep-six the book.  He said he did not ask for any help.  Without his knowing anything about it Ann Sparanese, a librarian in the audience sent word to fellow librarians on various email lists and there was an immediate and enormous response.  The response reportedly angered Moore’s publishers but put them in a position where they had no choice except to publish (but they were nevertheless vengeful about not having a book tour.)

We would have loved to have revisited the Belasco theater with Judy Gorman that night to hear Moore tell this story personally, but apparently the best night for library and librarian lovers to have gone to see “Terms of My Surrender” was August 17th when Mr. Moore’s guest of honor was Ann Sparanese in person.  “I never expected to be on Broadway,” Sparanese  said according to this first hand account that described her as having “twinkling eyes and long white hair.”

Ms. Sparanse was also in the audience opening night and receiveda standing ovation.”  She certainly deserved it.   Let us applaud her here.

You may recognize the name Judy Gorman, the library defender whose visit to see Mr. Moore at the Belasco occasioned our launching into this follow-up piece.  Ms. Gorman is another heroic activist, a singer song writer who performed with and received praise from Pete Seeger who said of her:
She came, she sang, she conquered. No two programs that she gives are the same. She is always thinking how to find the right phrase, the right song to hit the nail right on the head, to shoot the arrow straight to the heart of the matter.
Judy Gorman also wrote the Don’t Sell Our Libraries Song for us.  It’s always a beautiful song to sing at demonstrations or canvassing when we are out defending libraries, books and the librarians who defend books.  Thank you Judy Gorman and thank you Ann Sparanese.
Michael Moore far left.  Carolyn McIntyre of Citizens Defending Libraries far right.

Monday, November 6, 2017

November 7, 2017 (Tuesday) NYC Elections- Voting Options & What Library Defenders Should About Candidates Running For Office

Candidates Steve Levin Victoria Crambranes, both running to be council member representing the 33rd district
Please remember to vote on Tuesday and remind all the library defenders you know to vote too. . .

No matter what, your votes sends a message to our elected officials that you vote and it can send a message* about what you care about, including libraries.
(* NOTE: If you are unhappy with the choices you can send a message by NOT voting particular lines or by writing in alternatives.  And, on things like judges, if you know and like some, but don't know about the others, only vote for the judges you like so you don't dilute your vote.  Voting Green Party can send a message and help that party get their message out better and better over time.)
Here is a roundup of some important voting options this Tuesday when it comes to defending libraries and information about the candidates’ positions and their records on selling libraries.

The second biggest library in Brooklyn was just sold, the central destination Business, Career, and Education Library Brooklyn Heights Library in Downtown Brooklyn.  It was sold for a minuscule fraction of its value in a shrink-and-sink-deal mirroring the Donnell Library shrink-and-sink-deal debacle (a central destination library likewise replaced with a luxury tower).

That makes several races on Tuesday all the more important.

Race for 33rd City Council District

One of those important races is the City Council race for the 33rd district where incumbent City Councilman Steve Levin who pushed through that Brooklyn library sale (and let the top floor of the Williamsburg Library be given away) is running against challenger Victoria Cambranes.  The debate between the candidates was very telling.  More information here:
Debate Between Candidates For 33rd NYC Council District, Incumbent Councilman Steve Levin And Challenger Victoria Cabranes

On Eve of 10/29/'17 Debate With Victoria Cambranes, Challenger For His Office, Councilman Steve Levin Sends Transparency Request Letter to Brooklyn Public Library Promised in Spring 2015 (But it's deficient!)
The Race For New York City Mayor

City Councilman Steve Levin could not have pushed through the sale of the second biggest library in Brooklyn had it not been the plan of library-selling Mayor de Blasio who is now also pushing forward other ill-advised library sales like the Inwood Library.

Running against him is a candidate who opposes these sales and has signed out Citizens Defending Libraries Letter of Support.  More information here.
Democratic Primary (September 12, 2017)- Candidates For Mayor: Sal Albanese vs. Bill de Blasio
Race for Public Advocate

For years ago Tish James as Candidate for Public Advocate ran with full-throated statements about how if she was elected she would oppose and stop the sale of city libraries.  But what has she really done when had the chance.  David Eisenbach was running against her and supposedly remains on the Liberal line for the general election (but is apparently not actually on the ballot).  He has spoken out against the library sales and signed our Citizens Defending Libraries Letter of Support.  More information (important about Tish James) here.
Democratic Primary (September 12, 2017)- Candidates For Public Advocate: David Eisenbach vs. incumbent Tish James
Since it looks like you won't find Mr. Eisenbach on the ballot it is all the more important to direct your attention to another candidate running for Public Advocate (who you will not have any problem finding on the ballot), James Lane, whose strong position about not selling libraries was made very clear by him at our Public Advocates Forum.

Race for 35rd City Council DistrictAnother city council race to care about is the City Council race for the 35th district (Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights, Bed Stuy, and Crown Heights) where incumbent City Council Member Laurie Cumbo is running against challenger Jabari BrisportLaurie Cumbo wholeheartedly backed Councilman Levin’s sale of the second biggest library in Brooklyn and is enthusiastic about library sales generally.  (That’s notwithstanding that when she was running to first obtain office she signed our petition opposing the library sales.)  She is funded by a ton of real estate money and generally characterized as being blindly in that industry’s pocket.

In contrast, challenger Brisport has vigorously opposed the selling of the Bedford Union Armory in Crown Heights, currently one of the biggest issues in the district with respect to which Cumbo (whom we find untrustworthy when it comes to the sale of public assets) is no better than “ambiguous.” 

An Extra Thought About Why You Should Vote

And just in case you needed an extra push to think about why it is important to vote and why it is important to think about libraries when you vote, you may want to consider this:
How Did Trump Get Elected?: Michael Moore In "Terms of My Surrender" Envisions That It Was A Dumbing Down of the Country That Involved Closing Libraries
The United States is at the bottom of the list of countries in the world in terms of voter turn-out.  And of the fifty states New York is at the bottom of the list in terms of voter turn-out.  That unfortunate fact actually means that your vote counts all the more.  It's an unfortunate fact that can be explained by the way that our elected officials disappoint and fail to represent us when in office.  Still when the choices are wrong we can still send a message that the choices are wrong if we vote and, if necessary, don't vote certain lines or write in candidates.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

On Eve of 10/29/’17 Debate With Victoria Cambranes, Challenger For His Office, Councilman Steve Levin Sends Transparency Request Letter to Brooklyn Public Library Promised in Spring 2015 (But it’s deficient!)

Asking about the letter sent on the eve of the debate . . . And Levin's answer was?
On the afternoon of his October 29, 2017 debate with Victoria Cambranes, the challenger for the NYC 33rd Council District he holds Steve Levin forwarded to Citizens Defending Libraries a version of a letter he had promised in the spring of 2015 to demand transparency from the Brooklyn Public Library about the sale of Brooklyn Libraries and particularly the Brooklyn Heights Library.

It would, of course, be nice for Councilman Levin to have demanded transparency from the BPL about it sale of the library in 2015, before the library sale was approved and consummated.

Another problem, almost as significant, the letter that Councilman Levin so belatedly sent side-steps requesting a lot of the most important information that needs to be requested for the sake of achieving transparency, like what’s the actual cost and public loss associated with selling the library, information about the financial windfall from the transaction to the private Saint Ann's school, what was being spent on high-paid lobbyists to push the library sale transaction forward, and how many books were disappearing from Downtown Brooklyn with the sell-off of this central destination library, the second biggest in Brooklyn.

Citizens Defending Libraries has been pursuing Councilman Levin for some time now to have Councilman Levin fulfill his fundamental obligation to work with the community to obtain this transparency.  But Councilman Levin has been avoiding it.  See:
Councilman Stephen T. Levin Comes To Speak About His Approving The Sale of the Brooklyn Heights Library at Independent Neighborhood Democrats Meeting- Doesn't Answer Questions Asked, Including Whether & When He Will Insist on Transparency from the BPL (Thursday, February 18, 2016)
 Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats passed a resolution asking for such transparency that Councilman Levin did not respond to.  See:
Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats Resolution Calling Upon Councilman Steve Levin To Demand Transparency From Brooklyn Public Library Respecting Its Library Sales. ( Thursday, April 28, 2016)
Not surprisingly the question of the letter came up during Councilman Levin’s debate with Victoria Cambranes.  It was during the Q&A.  You can hear it specifically addressed in the video below starting at minute 1:20.

From Victoria Cambranes Facebook Page- Preserved Live Stream Part 2 (for best possible viewing also click through to Facebook posting also posted on the Citizens Defending Libraries page.)



In the exchange of communications below you will find the letter Councilman sent to BPL president Linda Johnson dated October 27, 2017, Councilman Levin’s debate afternoon transmittal of it to Citizens Defending Libraries and the reply that day of Citizens Defending Libraries noting its insufficiencies with an itemization of what was drafted and left out of the letter.
October 29, 2017
Dear Councilman Levin,

Thank you for letting us know you sent the October 27, 2017 letter below.

A quick review looks to me as if the letter that you have now sent out to BPL president Johnson as you were promising back in the spring of 2015 asks president Johnson to supply some information in exactly the same form the BPL has previously been stating it for PR purposes (and therefore, we believe, in a somewhat obfuscatory manner) and it sidesteps asking for the following information needed for real transparency (previously identified as drafted below):
    •    Information about the true and complete costs to the public of selling and shrinking this library as proposed.  That includes:
    •        The current value, from the public’s perspective, of the recently expanded and fully upgraded library being given up (i.e. not from the perspective of the acquiring developer who sees its value as less than that of a vacant lot).
    •        What it would cost to replace the asset that is being given up (including land and development rights), in total apparently well over $120+ million.
    •        All the costs, including construction and design, associated with moving the Business, Career and Education functions of the library from Downtown Brooklyn and reestablishing them at the Grand Army Plaza Library.  Also please supply the date and details about when those Education functions were moved from Grand Army Plaza to the Brooklyn Heights Library because of, as I understand it, the shortage of space at Grand Army Plaza.
    •        It should also include all the costs of disruptions and what the public must forgo and bear to undergo this transaction.  That should include, among other things, the cost of moving books back and forth as well as storing them off-site.
    •    The background communications between the BPL and the Department of Design and Construction based upon which representations about the acceptability and suitability of the air conditioning at the Brooklyn Heights Library were made to this council district’s office, back when David Yassky held my office, before any planned sale and shrinkage of the library.  Information has also been requested and not furnished to the public about the air conditioning repair firm, Performance Mechanical Corporation, that the BPL engaged in an extended multi–year contract for its entire system not all that long before problems with the Brooklyn Heights Library’s and a number of other air library’s air conditioning systems started receiving attention.  Early analysis in this regard about the Brooklyn Heights Library (2007/2008) by Karen Backus and communications regarding the air conditioning have also not been provided.

    •    Information about your communications with the city’s Landmarks Commission about which historic libraries might get designated as such, and which libraries the BPL has indicated it would, instead, prefer to push forward into real estate deals avoiding such likely appropriate designation.

    •    Further, it is my impression that in a time when the scarcity of available funds is cited as troubling, the BPL is spending a considerable amount of money on consultants and lobbyists in connection with its promotion of its real estate plans for libraries.  The requested information about this has not been furnished.  It is a matter about which the BPL needs to be forthcoming.  That includes monies paid to Booz & Co., BerlinRosen, WSP Flack & Kurtz, K&K Property Solutions, Ed Tettemer and Mo (Maureen) Craig for branding and PR advice.

    •    Information about book counts: what they have been, what they are now and what they are intended to be in the future.  For instance, the BPL and the architect representing it, and the developer in this regard have not been able to state what the book shelf capacity of the entire Brooklyn Heights Library (we are not talking about supposed branch sub-component) has historically been, or what it is intended to be in the future.  Information respecting the entire system would be relevant.

    •    All communications with Saint Ann's School respecting development rights and the Brooklyn Heights Library. As you know (to provide perspective on this), what Saint Ann's School will net in income, motivating it to push for this transaction is proportionately more in the scheme of things given that half the city’s development rights were already transferred to Forest City Ratner in 1986. Saint Ann’s, with all its extra development rights still intact, doesn’t have to tear down its own building or incur a loss to cash in. By contrast, the library’s potential sale of its air rights is not such a painless transaction or opportunity.
So for instance, besides not asking about the costs of selling the Brooklyn Heights Library, you chose to ask about book counts for the Downtown Brooklyn Heights Library not regarding it as Brooklyn's second biggest library, a central destination library, but only about books that the BPL might nominally assign as associated with its branch functions.

Nevertheless, obtaining the Strategic Real Estate plan and the Revson Study will be important (we may have actually obtained the latter now, but have yet to confirm this to be the case).

MICHAEL D. D. WHITE
Citizens Defending Libraries

* * * *

From: Levin, Stephen <SLevin@council.nyc.gov>
To:  [Michael D. D. White & Carolyn McIntyre]
Sent: Sun, Oct 29, 2017 3:12 pm
Subject: Letter to BPL President Johnson

Dear Michael and Carolyn,
Below please find the text of the letter that I sent to BPL President Johnson on Friday, October 27, 2017. Thank you.

Sincerely,
Steve

Stephen Levin
New York City Council Member, District 33

October 27, 2017


Linda Johnson
President, Brooklyn Public Library
10 Grand Army Plaza
Brooklyn, NY 11238


Dear President Johnson,

I hope this letter finds you well. I am writing at this time because, as it has been almost two years since the Council's approval of the disposition and sale of the Brooklyn Heights branch of the Brooklyn Public Library to Hudson Companies and its subsequent development, I think it is a good time to circle back on some of the issues that were debated during that process. As you know, many members of the public and constituents of the 33rd District, who were both for and against this action, were very passionate about preserving our libraries, both in terms of their physical spaces and in terms of the services that are provided to the public in our libraries. Many of those constituents continue to ask me for additional information pertaining to BPL.

As you know, one of the primary reasons why BPL pursued the disposition and sale at Brooklyn Heights to Hudson Companies was to help address the significant capital needs throughout the entire BPL system. In light of that consideration, I am requesting that BPL provide me information regarding the current financial picture at BPL.

I would appreciate any information that is available regarding the funds that were generated by the disposition and sale at Brooklyn Heights.. Specifically, I am asking:

-How much funding was generated by the sale?
-To which capital needs will the proceeds of the sale be directed?
-Are there additional real estate transactions throughout the system that BPL is continuing to consider along the lines of the Brooklyn Heights sale? I have heard for some years about a "strategic real estate" plan and "Revson study"-do these documents exist and can you provide them to me?
-Can you provide me with any current documents that present an overview of BPL's financial situation such as you provide to members of your board?

Also, with regard specifically to the Brooklyn Heights branch, can you provide me with the book count of Brooklyn Heights branch at his highest number prior to its disposition (both the local branch and the business branch) compared to the proposed replacement branch? Lastly, can you provide a similar comparison regarding the amount of shelf space at the Brooklyn Heights branch before and after the sale.

Thank you very much for your consideration and l look forward to continuing to work with you to further a love of learning for all Brooklyn residents.

Best regards,
Stephen Levin
Councilmember, 33rd District

Debate Between Candidates For 33rd NYC Council District, Incumbent Councilman Steve Levin And Challenger Victoria Cabranes

Councilman Levin vs. challenger Cambranes at debate in Brooklyn Commons
Sunday, October 29, 2017 at 7:00 PM a debate took place between the Candidates in the November 7, 2017 election for 33rd NYC Council District, incumbent Councilman Steve Levin and challenger Victoria Cabranes.

You can watch the video of the debate below and we will be adding to it with additional posts.

On the afternoon of his October 29, 2017 debate with Victoria Cambranes Steve Levin forwarded to Citizens Defending Libraries a version of a letter he had promised in the spring of 2015 to demand transparency from the Brooklyn Public Library about the sale of Brooklyn Libraries and particularly the Brooklyn Heights Library.

It would, of course, be nice for Councilman Levin to have demanded transparency from the BPL about it sale of the library in 2015, before the library sale was approved and consummated.

Another problem, almost as significant, the letter that Councilman Levin so belatedly sent side-steps requesting a lot of the most important information that needs to be requested for the sake of achieving transparency, like what’s the actual cost and public loss associated with selling the library, information about the financial windfall from the transaction to the private Saint Ann's school, what was being spent on high-paid lobbyists to push the library sale transaction forward, and how many books were disappearing from Downtown Brooklyn with the sell-off of this central destination library, the second biggest in Brooklyn.

More about that here:
On Eve of 10/29/'17 Debate With Victoria Cambranes, Challenger For His Office, Councilman Steve Levin Sends Transparency Request Letter to Brooklyn Public Library Promised in Spring 2015 (But it's deficient!)
From Victoria Cambranes Facebook Page- Preserved Live Stream Part 1 (for best possible viewing also click through to Facebook posting also posted on the Citizens Defending Libraries page.)



From Victoria Cambranes Facebook Page- Preserved Live Stream Part 2 (for best possible viewing also click through to Facebook posting also posted on the Citizens Defending Libraries page.)


xx

The Brooklyn Commons hosting the event also produced a viewable live stream that you can watch, but you may find the sound gets to low after about the first eight minutes.
Viewable live stream produced by the Brooklyn Commons
We are working on a Citizens Defending Libraries video of the event.

There is said to be more development going on in Brooklyn than anywhere else in the United States right now and the 33rd Councilmatic District is almost certainly topping the list of where in Brooklyn that development is occurring during the eight year period that Councilman Levin, now running for his third term, has been in office.

With three bulges that snake along the Brooklyn waterfront, The 33rd council district where Steve Levin currently holds the seat covers Brooklyn Heights, Downtown Brooklyn, Fulton Ferry and Dumbo, Boerum Hill, Vinegar Hill, the Brooklyn Navy Yard and neighboring public housing projects, Greenpoint, Williamsburg.

PRESS COVERAGE OF DEBATE

•    Brooklyn Eagle: Levin to debate challenger Cambranes Sunday in Brooklyn City Council race, by Mary Frost, October 26, 2017

•    Brooklyn Eagle: New York City Council District 33 candidates Levin, Cambranes debate in Boerum Hill, by Andy Katz, October 30, 2017

•    King County Politics: Levin-Cambranes Debate Gentrification and Rapid Development In Northern Brooklyn, By Kelly Mena, October 30, 2017

•    King County Politics: Cambranes Is Here For The People & Is Looking To Bring Integrity and Transparency Back To City Hall, by  By Kelly Mena,  October 30, 2017

 •    Greenpoint Star: Levin defends record in office at City Council debate, by Benjamin Fang, October 31, 2017



Friday, October 13, 2017

How Did Trump Get Elected?: Michael Moore In “Terms of My Surrender” Envisions That It Was A Dumbing Down of the Country That Involved Closing Libraries

Michael Moore, the Film maker and activist provocateur, is currently on Broadway in “Terms of My Surrender,” his one man show still playing through October 22nd.  If you can get out to catch it before it closes do.  If you are an activist you will be rewarded.  If you are worried about what’s happening to this country you are more likely to come out an energized activist with some clearer thoughts about what to do.

And Mr. Moore surmises in his show, at least the version of it that we (two of the co-founders of Citizens Defending Libraries) caught, that defunding and closing libraries, dumbing down this country, has likely helped set us on this path.

Near the beginning of the show Moor asks: How did Trump get elected? . . .

. . .  How did the dumbest person to ever run for president get elected?  (And, parenthetically, how did we lose control of the Supreme Court and both houses of the Congress?)

Providing an answer, Moore envisioned a meeting thirty years ago in Queens when there were discussions to figure out: “How do we get this bozo elected as president of the United States thirty years from now?”

“And somebody said, you know, I’ve got the plan: Let’s start defunding education; let’s start closing libraries; let us buy up newspapers and close those; let’s dumb down this country to such a place where stupid will vote for stupid. - And here we are!”
Michael Moore gets a look at some information about Jared Kushner was involved as a major financial beneficiary in the shrink-and-sink deal disposal of the Donnell Library to replace it with a luxury tower. . .

After the show, we met long enough to have a few words with Mr. Moore by the stage door and he wanted to know more about the closing of New York City libraries.  His bodyguard (Mr. Moore’s activism has engendered attempts on his life) was clearly up on the topic: “Like the library in Inwood,” he instantaneously said.

We gave Mr. Moore information about how Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner was involved as a major financial beneficiary in the first major shrink-and-sink deal disposing of the beloved central destination Donnell Library to replace it with a luxury tower. . .

. . . Wouldn’t it be great if that gets incorporated as an expansion of Mr. Moore’s observational reflections on the state of the union?
A nice fellow