A group calling itself Citizens Defending Libraries will host a public rally to defend New York’s public libraries on Friday, March 8 @ 250 Broadway (the base of NYC’s City Council), 10:30 a.m. The event will begin outside, before mounting public testimony inside at 1 p.m. in the New York City Council Committee Room, 14th floor.
According to a release issued by the organization—commandeered by Michael D. D. White, a longtime Heights resident and author of the Noticing New York blog with his wife Carolyn McIntyre—”We believe preserving the historic integrity of superior and irreplaceable architecture and fully functioning library system is a public responsibility. We must urgently move to protect these irreplaceable assets on behalf of posterity.”
Further, Citizens Defending Libraries notes, “We are coordinating with Moveon.org and our numbers are more than 8000 strong and growing with more than 8,000 signatures in a few weeks, with people signing both online and physical copies of our petition. Real estate deals designed for handpicked political favorites impoverish the city. Defunding and shrinkage of the New York City library system at a time of increasing public use, population growth and increased city wealth is an unjust and shortsighted plan that will ultimately hurt New York City’s economy and competitiveness.
“We aim to stop the intentional ‘demolition by neglect’ and sell-off of these public resources that are part of a top-down plan being imposed without accountability or transparency by city officials working with library officials who do not represent the community and often have conflicts of interest such as heavy involvement in the real estate industry.”
The remainder of the release:
New York’s public libraries—a precious public resource, endowment and wellspring of opportunity and economic dynamism—are being underfunded in a city-wide plan to shrink the libraries and the library system, selling libraries with the goal of benefitting private developers, not the public. Citizens Defending Libraries is composed of concerned citizens mobilizing to save all the city’s libraries, including the world-renowned 42nd Street New
York City Public Central Reference Library, from defunding, shrinkage and sell-off.
City and Library officials are rushing to complete this fire sale of the city’s libraries before the end of Mayor Bloomberg’s term. Join us for a rally as City Hall meets on these city library budget issues.
Usage of our libraries are way up (40% programmatically and 60% in circulation) even while
they are starved for funding and open far fewer hours than the libraries of bankrupt Detroit. More people visited public libraries in New York City than every major sports team and every major cultural institution combined. $350 million is to be spent to incentivize the destructive “redesign” of the 42nd Street New York Public Library by Norman Foster. Ultimately, that estimated $350 million is almost certain to be a much more bottomless amount.
Since this involves very significant city funding it is something the City Council cannot fail to examine immediately. These enormous wrongly-prioritized expenditures make clear that, instead of selling off the irreplaceable and crown jewel assets of the system, the city certainly has the money to fund the rest of the libraries in the system if it genuinely wants to. Throughout the Bloomberg administration the funding of libraries, requiring a relative pittance as a percentage of other city spending, has been increasingly turned into as a circus, political theater designed as a distraction with last-minute partial funding restorations delivered by political “heroes” from the City Council fighting the mayor but only diminishing the ongoing subtraction of funds to the system by very slight amounts.
In the most recent chapter in the story of the subtraction of funding during the Bloomberg years, the funding for libraries has dropped precipitously after a brief bump at the time Bloomberg sought reinstatement to a third term via amendment of the City Charter. That precipitous drop in funding coincides with the emergence of the plan to sell-off libraries, shrinking the system in order to hand real estate deals to developers.
Many of the facts about the city libraries systems’ secretive plans are emerging only just now. The Brooklyn Public Library just identified the first two properties it wants to sell, one in Brooklyn Heights, the other next to the Barclays Center (the name subsidizing a bank currently under investigation). The long list of libraries to be affected has yet to be released although the Brooklyn Public Library strategic plan envisions that all of its real estate is in play for deals to conform to the prototypes we now witness being rushed forward which propose partnerships with developers (such as Forest City Ratner) picked out prior to required public reviews.
We support, are coordinating with and seek to unite in action with those around the city
organizing and fighting to save the city’s libraries, those seeking to restore the disastrously withheld funding, and those seeking to protect individual libraries such as the Tilden Astor Central Reference Library at 42nd Street, the Mid-Manhattan Library, The 34th Street Science library (SIBL), the Brooklyn Heights branch with its Business and Career library, the Pacific branch library, the city’s historic Carnegie Libraries, those who are attempting to identify when their libraries will be slated as the next to be sold and the Donnell library (closed for shrinkage in 2008, and not reopened, after an expensive city-paid-for renovation).
For more information, contact Carolyn E. McIntyre & Michael D. D. White at Backpack362@aol.com, @DefendLibraries on Twitter.