To: Stephen Levin, City Council Member, Mayor Michael R Bloomberg, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, NYC Comptroller John C. Liu, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Trustees of New York Public Library, Trustees of Brooklyn Public Library, a...
Save New York City Libraries From Bloomberg Developer Destruction
We demand that Mayor Bloomberg stop defunding 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 the wealthy at a time of cutbacks in education and escalating disparities in opportunity is not only unjust, it is a shortsighted plan that will ultimately hurt New York City’s economy and competitiveness.
Why is this important?
Mayor Bloomberg refuses to adequately fund our public libraries unless they sell off assets including crown jewels of the system, a plan that is wrong-headed and counterproductive.
We are in a period of steadily increasing use of libraries by all sectors of New York’s population, attendance is up 40% and circulations are up 59%, while the amount required to properly fund libraries is a pittance compared to other city expenditures.
Public libraries enrich their communities and are an important part of the tax base and a stable economy, providing jobs, community space and serving as a buffer against economic downturn. They provide a safe haven for seniors during the day, teens after school, for parents with young children, for job seekers needing computers, for the growing number of freelance professionals, and for those needing literacy and technical skills.
Bloomberg’s plan would eliminate irreplaceable and historic crown jewels, such as the research stacks underneath the main 42nd Street library, and demolish Brooklyn Heights Art Deco style building, housing 62,000 square feet of library space replacing it with only 15,000 square feet of space in a developer’s high rise. The removal of the Brooklyn Business Library from Brooklyn’s central business district in downtown Brooklyn, the hub of commerce, transportation, and next to universities is a travesty. These are just two examples of a scheme to shrink New York’s public library system, eliminating resources that communities depend on.
We need to immediately halt real estate deals that involve selling any more branches to private developers until the libraries have been properly funded and until the needs of the public’s library system are the first priority.
Libraries should not be hostages for development. The city should cease the practices of bribing the public into approving bigger and denser development and pressuring communities into accepting libraries housed in smaller spaces with fewer services.
Developer-driven partnerships that put developers in the driver’s seat and render competitive bids meaningless are bad public policy that must be avoided. The practice of using developers who specialize in insider deals, who treat the communities poorly and have a record of failing to deliver promised benefit violates the public trust.
There should be no elimination or sale of irreplaceable assets such as the crown jewel research stacks under the 42nd Street main library or elimination of the Business and Career Center Library on the border of Brooklyn Heights and downtown Brooklyn.
There should be no premature library closings such as Donnell library, closed in 2008 and still awaiting a replacement. Any library closing should have a binding contract for its prompt replacement with solid assurances, including full up-front payments and financing in place.
There should be no mass sell-offs of libraries. Sales of library properties, if any, should be sequenced so that multiple libraries are not closed at the same time and only when it is in the best interest of the public's library system.
“The knowledge of different literature frees one from the tyranny of a few”
-Jose Marti Plaque on 41St Library Walk
New York’s libraries, the lifeblood of a democracy, have contributed to making our city economically vital and a cultural powerhouse. We must not sacrifice it to shortsighted planning and the interests of powerful developers. We demand protection for public libraries, the city’s trusted place to learn, grow, be inspired, and connect with great minds.
• New York Times: Critic’s Notebook- In Renderings for a Library Landmark, Stacks of Questions, by Michael Kimmelman, January 29, 2013.
• Wall Street Journal: Undertaking Its Destruction, by Ada Louise Huxtable, December 3, 2012.
• Noticing New York: New City-Wide Policy Makes Generation Of Real Estate Deals The Library System’s Primary Purpose, by Michael D. D. White, January 31, 2013.
• Center For An Urban Future: Report - Branches of Opportunity, by David Giles, January 2013