Why Is New York City Planning to Sell and Shrink Its Libraries?

Defend our libraries, don't defund them. . . . . fund 'em, don't plunder 'em

Mayor Bloomberg defunded New York libraries at a time of increasing public use, population growth and increased city wealth, shrinking our library system to create real estate deals for wealthy real estate developers at a time of cutbacks in education and escalating disparities in opportunity. It’s an unjust and shortsighted plan that will ultimately hurt New York City’s economy and competitiveness.

It should NOT be adopted by those we have now elected to pursue better policies.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

NAACP of Brooklyn Resolution Reagrding Brooklyn Heights Central Library Opposing Shrinkage and Sales To Dveopers For Profit and Non-lIbrary Use

Above in mage form and below in full text form the resolution of the NAACP of Brooklyn opposing sale, shrinkage and privatization and non-library use of the Brooklyn Heights Library


 The Brooklyn Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People resolves to support Friends of the Brooklyn Heights Branch Library and other libraries in the Borough of Brooklyn from shrinkage and sales to developers for profit and non-library use
WHEREAS, libraries are essential to the growth and stability of a society; and

WHEREAS, public libraries serve as the only place that inner city youth, senior citizens, and young adults have access to computers for school study, research, college applications, job searches, and for the elderly, often the only way they can communicate with their relatives; and

WHEREAS, the Business Branch of the Brooklyn Library System attracts people from all over the world because of its unique resources; and

WHEREAS, public libraries also serve as safe havens for children to complete their assignments on a daily basis without fear and with a certainty that their assignments will be completed, which will help them in their educational pursuits;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Brooklyn Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People unanimously support the Friends of the Brooklyn Heights Branch Library and other libraries within the Brooklyn Public Library System in their efforts to prevent the sale and shrinkage of public library space for non-library use.

This measure was voted on during the General Membership Meeting held on April 24, 2013 and unanimously passed in the affirmative.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

PHOTO GALLERY- CDL's Library Protection Week

[Back To Main Page]  Click any picture to enlarge.

Above, video of the culminating City Hall event of Library Protection Week produced by the Comptroller’s Office: Comptroller Liu criticizes sell-off of libraries to real-estate developers (Apr. 18, 2013) - best viewing available by going to Comptroller's YouTube video.  Additional video of that City Hall event and other events that week is going up at Citizens Defending Libraries Youtube Channel where some segments are already available, see: , see: Sen. Montgomery Requests Comptroller Liu Audit Library Sell-Offs, Assemblyman Kellner Pledges Library Oversight Hearings Absent Full Disclosure, John Liu Speaks in Brooklyn Heights About Library Sell-Offs — Part 1, Brooklyn Heights Library Rally — Letitia James, Brooklyn Heights Library Rally — Sal Albanese, Sen. Velmanette Montgomery Defends Brooklyn Libraries — Part 1.   The Committee to Save The New York Public Library participated in presenting this event.

Monday, April 15, 2013: Citizens Defending Libraries outside the Central Reference Library at 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue, the site of the NYPL's planned expensive consolidating Central Library Plan shrinkage were the NYPL, effectively decommissioning the Central Reference Library, plans to soon rip out the famed research stacks.

Saturday, April 13, 2013: Citizens Defending Libraries outside the Brooklyn Heights where in a deal closely replicating the reviled 2008 closing of Manhattan's beloved Donnell Library in a sale-for-shrinkage plan, library officials are rushing to push forward a sale for shrinkage before December 31, 2013, the last day of the Bloomberg administration.  More pictures from that day available here from photographer Jonathan Barkey.  Video is available at Citizens Defending Libraries Youtube channel.
Mayoral candidate Sal Albanese and City Council Member Tish James
Saturday, April 13, 2013: Citizens Defending Libraries outside the Pacific Branch library the very heavily used library that was the first Carnegie library to open in Brooklyn. Yards away from the deeply subsidized "Barclays" arena it is one of the two libraries in Brooklyn next Forest City Ratner property that the BPL wants to sell first (the other is the Brooklyn Heights library).  The BPL has admitted that it wants to sell its most valuable libraries first.  More pictures from that day available here from photographer Jonathan Barkey.
Wednesday, April 17, 2013: Citizens Defending Libraries at the site of the former Donnell Library, closed suddenly in 2008 for sale and shrinkage after secretive planning by the top management of the NYPL.  The new library will be one third the size.  There will be some ground floor space (the ground floor that was formerly library space with library floors above it will now be shared with a hotel and luxury condominium) the rest of what replaces the old Donnell will be underground.   The NYPL sold the library for less than the luxury penthouse in the new 50-stry building replacing it is being marketed for.  To build this small replacement library, the NYPL is spending only one third of what that apartment is being marketed for.  The Donnell Library that was demolished, reminiscent in design of Rockefeller Center (the land came from John D. Rockefeller) had been expensively renovated with a new auditorium, a new media center and a new teen center.
On right: Ed Hartzog, candidate for City Council in the 5th District
Thursday, April 18, 2013: Culminating event of the week, a Press Conference at City Hall where Comptroller John C. Liu criticized the sale and underfunding of libraries.  The Press Release for the event and a list of those who spoke is here: April 18, 2013 Press Release: City Comptroller John C. Liu Criticizes Underfunding and Sell-off of NYC Public Libraries to Private Real Estate Developers.
Comptroller John C. Liu amidst Citizens Defending Libraries
Comptroller John C. Liu, State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, Assemblyman Micah Kellner

The City Hall event was covered in the New York Times on line: City Hall Protestors Rally Against Sale of Libraries, by Robin Pogrebin, April 18, 2013.  (It may still be possible to comment.)  Atlantic Yards Report also covered it in which the pictures below appeared: Friday, April 19, 2013, At City Hall yesterday, a rally to stop the planned sale of libraries in Brooklyn and Manhattan.
Comptroller John Liu
Assemblyman Micah Kellner
Carolyn McIntyre of CDL
Sal Albanese at right
CONTACT: To contact Citizens Defending Libraries email Backpack362 (at) aol.com.

You may also leave a comment with information in the comments section at the bottom of this page.

 The link below takes you to where you may sign the petition:
Save New York City Libraries From Bloomberg Developer Destruction 

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 Visually oriented?  You might also be interested in the following:
•    PHOTO GALLERY: May 8, 2013 Rally on Day of NYPL Trustee's Meeting

•    PHOTO GALLERY: June 3, 2013 Vigil At Central Reference Library Protesting Loss of Our Cultural Patrimony- Evening of NYPL Fund-Raiser

•    VIDEOS: Available videos pertaining to the Citizens Defending Libraries (Including Videos of •    Elected Officials and Candidates Expressing Their Views On Saving Libraries From Sell-offs)

•    Cartoons and Images

•    More Cartoons and Images

April 18, 2013 Press Release: City Comptroller John C. Liu Criticizes Underfunding and Sell-off of NYC Public Libraries to Private Real Estate Developers

April 18, 2013

Carolyn E. McIntyre, Michael D. D. White
Citizens Defending Libraries
(718) 797-5207
@DefendLibraries on twitter   


On April 18 at 12:30 on the steps of City Hall, New York City Comptroller John C. Liu spoke about Mayor Bloomberg's plans to sell off numerous public libraries in transactions structured to benefit real estate developers, not the public.  Library usage is way up in New York City but real estate industry companies are looking to have these public assets transferred to them, seeking to replace them with luxury condominiums and hotels, shrinking the library system in the process.  Especially considering the benefit libraries provide, libraries cost little to fund but the Bloomberg administration in its last term has been starving them of funds and this underfunding is now being cited as an excuse to deprive the public still further by selling its property.

City Comptroller John Liu has reacted to the Bloomberg administration policies saying, “Our City libraries are civic treasures, and they should be treated as such. Selling our libraries to private corporations trades a small, short-term gain for a big, permanent loss. To be worthy of our reputation as one of the world’s great cities, we must properly support the institutions like libraries that make our communities strong. Privatizing important public assets will not achieve that goal, but investing in their future will. That is why in my People’s Budget I propose investing $350 million over four years to extend library hours.”

Citizens Defending Libraries believes that it is unjust and unwise for the mayor to be deliberately underfunding libraries when usage is way up, the city is bigger and funding libraries is a priority of our community boards.  It is doubly unfair that this underfunding is now being used as an excuse to sell off libraries and shrink the library system to create real estate deals where the focus is on benefitting developers, not the public.

All the publicly owned library system real estate is being looked at for such deals that will transfer these public irreplaceable, often one of a kind, resources into private hands, but the first targets are the most valuable public properties in the hottest real estate markets.  In a proposed transaction that closely replicates the disastrous and secretive closing of the Donnell Library in 2008, the Brooklyn Heights Library, a main system library on the edge of Brooklyn’s downtown, a centrally located transit hub, is slated for sale and shrinkage.

City and library administration officials say they want to enter into a contract with a developer before Mayor Bloomberg leaves office and before there would be an open process of public review and input.  Those library and city administration officials are justifying the sale with claims that the library's air conditioning system needs extensive, prohibitively expensive repairs, problems that manifested themselves after the decision was made to sell the library.  A similar claim was made when the selling of Donnell was announced.

Citizens Defending Libraries, calling for scrutiny, maintains that this repair expense is being offered only as a convenient excuse for a sale that was previously decided upon: “The sell-off of the Brooklyn Heights Public Library is just one in a number of proposed real estate deals where libraries are being sold, the library system shrunk and the whole public library system intentionally underfunded to promote the sell-off of these public assets,” says Citizens Defending Libraries founding member Michael D. D. White, adding, “very time they want to sell a library they claim the air conditioning isn’t working and can’t be fixed no matter how recently the library was renovated.”  In addition, he noted that the decision to sell the library came before any analysis to conclude whether there would be public benefit.  “In fact,” he said, “it is impossible to assure that the libraries would get funds or any real benefit from these proposals.”

Air conditioning problems are also being cited with a similar conjuring up of extraordinary costs as an excuse to sell the historic Pacific Branch in Brooklyn, the first Carnegie library to open in Brooklyn, and to demolish the famed research stacks at the Central Reference Library at 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue, decommissioning it as the world class reference library it was intended to be.

The Committee to Save the New York Public Library, which joined in the Citizens Defending Libraries event, says, “We call for a halt to the $350 million Central Library Plan – which would irreparably damage the historic 42nd Street Research Library and sell off both the Mid-Manhattan and Science, Industry, and Business Libraries – until an independent agency can conduct a thorough analysis of its costs, the costs of feasible alternatives, and the impacts which the plan would have on patrons of the branch libraries and the 42nd Street Library.”

In her very last column for the Wall Street Journal before she died, Ada Louise Huxtable said of that library, it’s “the most democratic of institutions, free and open to all.” The essential democratic character of libraries has been noted by many others.  From the Albert Shanker Institute: “Libraries are a symbol of functional democracy and informed citizens - and, indeed, of an enlightened people.”  Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones says the public library, belonging to the public, is “a great equalizer,” but the private benefit driving the plans to dispose of city library assets is the exact opposite of that democratic value.

“It is deeply troubling that we as a City are willing to sell our library spaces rather than renovate and rehabilitate them," said City Council Member Letitia James.  “Every year, the administration practically strips all funding from the public library system-- depending on the City Council to set aside millions for the system's basic necessities. I fully support new, centralized libraries like the one being developed at BAM South. But I don't think that those libraries should come at the cost of small, local libraries which are social and cultural community hubs.”

“I am very concerned about what is being proposed, and what is seemingly not even being considered,” said State Senator Velmanette Montgomery. “One-shot deals have a way of funding everything except what they're supposed to fund. We must think long term.  We shouldn’t be selling our libraries; we should be celebrating our libraries.  We should be creating a dedicated funding stream independent of the whims of any mayor.  It is up to our communities to save our libraries.”

“Libraries are often the most important anchors of New York City’s neighborhoods, but our wonderful library system has been ravaged by underfunding and disinvestment, leaving the systems prey to speculative real estate pressure. We urge the City to take a strong stand for public education and infrastructure by requiring the various library systems to submit actual plans for their maintenance and future growth and committing to substantial funding of the necessary systematic improvements,” says Simeon Bankoff, Executive Director of the Historic Districts Council.

The underfunding of libraries has led to the cutback of hours, leaving this important resource  sitting idle.  When libraries close too early children cannot get to them in time to use them to do their homework.  At the same time skilled librarians are being laid off in droves.  Many of those being laid off are being asked to sign “nondisparagement agreements” agreeing not to criticize these plans in order to get severance.  Said Ada Louise Huxtable about the Central Library Plan for consolidating shrinkage, “The library has been less than forthcoming, and sensitivity to criticism has obviously reached a fever pitch.”

“It's hard to believe that anyone would consider selling off the public library system,” said Citizens Defending Libraries member Martha Rowan.  “The city is growing, not shrinking, and public library use is up 40% programmatically, almost 60% in circulation,” she observed.  “What sense does it make to have a larger population and fewer services?”

This underfunding of public resources coincides with a boosting of subsidies for private developers. Sale, shrinkage and underfunding of the libraries, like the selling of schools, hospitals and public housing properties for development, contributes to an increasingly stratified, unstable and unequal city.  The privatizations now being proposed are ultimately for the benefit of only a few, impoverishing the public in general.  One reason Citizens Defending Libraries brought this issue to Comptroller Liu is that, in the past, he has worked hard to recapture misspent taxpayer dollars and it is the job of the comptroller to protect the public finances.

The press conference with Comptroller Liu is the culmination of Citizens Defending Libraries “Library Protection Week,” a week’s worth of events held at the location of various libraries in jeopardy, each event protesting the Bloomberg administration policies that are serving to undermine and dismantle the library system.
Carolyn McIntyre, the proponent of Citizens Defending Libraries petition to halt the sale of libraries and restore adequate funding to the system, said, “Libraries are emblematically a foundation of our democracy.  Treating them with such disregard is an attack on the public’s trust.”  That petition, started in mid-February, which can be found and signed online, now has nearly 10,000 signatures.

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Addendum: Those who spoke in person at the event the above press release was for, were the following speaking in this order:
    •    Carolyn E. McIntyre, organizer and spokesperseon for Citizens Defending Libraries

    •    Girl Scouts From Prospect Heights uniting to save the Pacific Branch library.

    •    Zack Winestine speaking for the Committee to Save the Public Library

    •    Simeon Bankoff, Executive Director of the Historic Districts Council

    •    Comptroller John C. Liu

    •    State Senator Velmanette Montgomery

    •    Assemblyman Micah Kellner, head of the NYS Assembly Library Committee who spoke about the possibility of having an oversight hearing.

    •    City Councilman Robert Jackson

    •    Sal Albanese, candidate for mayor

    •    Yetta Kurland, candidate for City Council in the 3rd District, the district most affected by the Central Library Plan.

    •    Ed Hartzog, candidate for City Council in the 5th District.

    •    Historian and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner David Levering Lewis
 Michael D. D. White served as moderator.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

April 16, 2013 Open Letter from CDL To Brooklyn Public Library Trustees Delivered At Trustees Meeting

April 16, 2013

Brooklyn Public Library Board of Trustees

Re:    Selling Libraries, Shrinking The Library System, Participating In An Excuse That Involves Deliberately Underfunding New York City’s Libraries

To The Trustees:

This letter is written to you with the hope and based on the premise that there are those among you who, when you assumed you position as trustee, looked forward to abiding by your conscience and intending to do good in your position and that you further feel free to do so irrespective of any marching orders or suggestions that you may receive to the contrary.

The issue I address is perhaps the biggest that has been faced by the trustees in many decades.  It is likely to be a subject of much historical discussion for decades hence.  It will, I am sure, receive the scrutiny it deserves.   The tales of who did what will, I am sure, be told to your grandchildren.  We may all hope that when that is done the hearers of those tales will relish the fact that individuals among you were heroes.

The question: Should the Brooklyn Public Library trustees, following in the path of the disreputable trail blazed by the secretively planned and executed sale for shrinkage of the Donnell Library in Manhattan, be voting to sell libraries, shrink the library system of Brooklyn, and participate in endorsing the kabuki theater dance that involves the deliberate underfunding of the libraries as an excuse to do so?  Should you preside, without question, over the very questionable deals intended to convert public assets into private benefit?

These are not grey moral areas.  Don’t participate in the pretense that they are.


Michael D. D. White
Citizens Defending Libraries

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

April 2, 2013 Press Release And Open Letter To Mayoral Candidates From Citizens Defending Libraries


Carolyn E. McIntyre, Michael D. D. White
Citizens Defending Libraries
(718) 797-5207                           
@DefendLibraries on twitter          


New York, April 2, 2013– In an open letter to all the New York City Mayoral candidates (attached) Citizens Defending Libraries, a group of concerned citizens mobilizing to save New York City’s libraries, has asked all those running for the office of mayor to declare that they join with Citizens Defending Libraries in its campaign (supported by a petition that now has more than 8,500 signatures) to oppose the sale of libraries, shrinkage of the system and deliberate underfunding of the library system by the mayor, the goal of which is to benefit private developers, not the public.

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April 2, 2013

To: All Candidates For Mayor of The City of New York

Re:    Open Letter To Mayoral Candidates From Citizens Defending Libraries

Dear Candidates for New York City Mayor:

This is an open letter from Citizens Defending Libraries to all candidates running for the office of New York City Mayor asking that they in every mayoral forum and in their issued position statements call for an immediate end to the plunder of our New York City libraries.

Our libraries represent, in a most quintessential way, our publicly-owned resources, our democracy and the opportunities we extend to one and all for equality, self-improvement and education.  Library usage is way up (40% programmatically and 59% in circulation), yet at a time when the city is growing with its wealth and density increasing, the current mayor is financially starving the libraries, a deliberate underfunding that is artificial and unnecessary.  Libraries, despite their extraordinary benefit, cost the city a pittance, a teeny faction of the city’s overall budget.  The mayor’s deliberate underfunding is unjust and unwise, but it is nevertheless suggested that this unjust and unfair policy of underfunding be responded to with another policy that is even more unjust and unwise: the selling off of libraries and the shrinkage of the library system.  Focus your attention on these sell-offs and you will see that they are being engineered with an eye to benefitting real estate developers, not the public.

We ask that the every candidate join in recognizing that these sell-offs are emblematic of the very worst that is happening in this city in terms of selling off of public assets for private benefit in a city where everything is increasingly being privatized.  In the case of libraries, these sales and consolidating shrinkages began in 2008 with the secretive, then suddenly announced, and subsequently reviled closing and sale for shrinkage of the Donnell Library, once one of Manhattan’s main libraries.  It continues with the shrinkage and closing of more libraries as part of the Central Library Plan that also involves decommissioning 42nd Street’s Central Reference Library as the effective and preeminent research library it was meant to be.   (The squandering involves ripping out that reference library’s irreplaceable research stacks.)  It now continues with the export of those practices to Brooklyn where, with nearly exact replication of Donnell’s demise, the central library in Brooklyn Heights will be sold off and shrunk.  Meanwhile, 1.3 miles away there are plans to sell the historic Pacific Branch library, the first Carnegie Library opened in Brooklyn; like the Brooklyn Heights library, it is next to Forest City Ratner property.

“Strategic plans” of library officials working with the Bloomberg administartion call for the “leveraging” and alteration of the library system’s “real estate footprint” (i.e. a description of similar real estate deals) throughout the system.  Librarians and essential professionals normally associated with running libraries have been laid off wholesale.  They have been replaced by expensively paid “strategic staff,” the euphemism for those now running the libraries like real estate companies.                   

Citizens Defending Libraries asks all the mayoral candidates to join in calling for an immediate halt to these real estate deals intended to benefit the few at the expense of the many.  These deals should be shelved and not considered until proper and adequate funding for New York’s libraries has been restored with the establishment of baseline funding to protect them into the future.  No deals should be allowed to go forward until there has been the change in personnel necessary to ensure that those involved in these evaluations and decision-making functions will not continue to hew to developer-driven, developer-first thinking.  We also ask that all the candidates call for the scrutiny, investigation and audits that should be brought to bear concerning the suspect excuses (such as improbably high repair costs) that have been given by the library officials who eagerly want to sell off irreplaceable crown jewels of the library system.

At a time when these candidates are asking others to support their campaigns, we offer a test of what each of them really believes in: We ask the candidates to support the Citizens Defending Libraries campaign and petition to save the libraries from sell-off, shrinkage of the system and deliberate underfunding by the mayor.

Citizens Defending Libraries will be one of the groups that will keep the public informed of each  candidate’s position in this regard.


                            Carolyn E. McIntyre
                            Citizens Defending Libraries

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