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”?