Citizens Defending Libraries Has One Hiss-terical Week

Citizens Defending Libraries, the group headed by long time Brooklyn Heights resident Michael D.D. White was quite vocal at Thursday’s annual Brooklyn Heights Association meeting. When BHA president Alexandra Bowie talked about the group’s stance on the Brooklyn Heights library, White and company hissed their disagreement (no, White didn’t go to Harvard). Oh, and they waved handmade signs in anger after feeling slighted when each and every (?) of their written queries were not addressed during question time.

Brooklyn Paper: “If the BHA stood up against this plan it would be dead,” said Michael White, a 25-year Heights Association member and co-founder of Citizens Defending Libraries.

The outburst came during a question-and-answer session with audience members near the end of the meeting. Attendees had been asked to write their questions on note cards prior to the meeting, and when the bookworms realized their questions were being skipped over, things got heated.

“I would like my question addressed,” shouted Justine Swartz, another member of the group.

Last week was a busy time for Citizens Defending Libraries, on Wednesday the group posted this missive (with video) after reportedly being kicked off the Brooklyn Public Library’s bus to Albany:

Today the Brooklyn Public Library chartered a 54-seat bus to bring library advocates to Albany to convince legislators to fully fund the public library system. But BPL specifically *excluded* individuals who oppose its plans to sell off and/or shrink valuable library properties in developer-driven real-estate boondoggles — a policy that NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio has lambasted.

Citizens Defending Libraries co-founders Carolyn McIntyre and Michael D.D. White met the bus across the street from the historic Pacific Library — after discovering at the last minute that the original pickup location in front of the Brooklyn Heights Library had been changed “due to security” reasons.

Fittingly, *both* of these libraries are threatened by the very BPL development plans that library advocates are forbidden to question in Albany today.

In fact, BPL had originally put out a public invitation to *anyone* who wanted to join the lobbying bus, but apparently backtracked when it realized it could not control its message.

Naturally, BPL’s government relations and advocacy manager — who was running the trip today — called NYPD as soon McIntyre and White appeared on the scene — to make sure they stayed off the bus.

It appeared that most (if not all) of the passengers on the charter — filling less than half its taxpayer-funded seats — were actually BPL employees.

McIntyre and White gave them a clear message to bring to legislators: support full funding so that the BPL administration has no excuse to sell off library buildings.

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  • Michael D. D. White

    It is pretty crazy that Brooklyn Heights Association President Alexandra Bowie said the reason we need to sell and shrink the library is to get rid of books on “Phrenology”!


    Is that why the art section is now empty of books on art history?

    Why the children’s section has vast expanses of empty shelves?

    Michael D. D. White
    Citizens Defending Libraries

  • Michael D. D. White

    The BHA brought in a speaker for this meeting (Clay Shirky) to speak about how the internet is changing culture and he said that because of the vast holes of what is available on the internet, particularly with respect to relatively recent history, we need LIBRARIES!

    Save our libraries!!

    Michael D. D. White
    Citizens Defending Libraries.

  • marshasrimler

    The BHA with less than 1000 members has outsized influence because of its elite membership. It is certainly not diverse. It should not be permitted to be the decision maker on the library issue. The public voice must be heard. People from all over brooklyn use the branches on cadman plaza. Why downsize the library and move into into the basement when we have development all around us. The people moving in, the companies moving in , the thinktanks moving in and the children
    who will grow up here all need a sizable library.

  • Michael D. D. White

    It is absurd that BHA president Alexandra Bowie said that the BHA had no basis (?) to endorse Mayor de Blasio in standing with Citizens Defending Libraries to call a halt to these Bloomberg library sales and shrinkages! Really? As I said, if the Brooklyn Heights Association opposed these Bloomberg library sales they’d be dead, probably throughout the city.

    Michael D. D. White
    Citizens Defending Libraries

  • Michael D. D. White

    The BHA says it is “negotiating” with the BPL as it supports the sale and shrinkage of the library. I submit that anyone who has gone to the so-called “Community Advisory Committee” meetings thinks quite the opposite, that the BHA is just provided eyewash to help the sale and shrinkage go through!!

  • Carlotta

    Why is the BHA so afraid to speak to the people from CDL? Why does the BHA support the destruction of the BROOKLYN HEIGHTS LIBRARY instead of stopping its destruction and working toward a solution to renovate it to bring it into the 21st century for all the citizens of BROOKLYN HEIGHTS and the surrounding communities??? The BHA defends everything else that impacts the community and its surrounding areas – why not our library??? Why??? Why does it agree to collaboration on it’s destruction and the building of ANOTHER high rise?? We must not only ask the leadership of BHA but ask ourselves if this organization really represents the community – or other interests?

  • Michael D. D. White

    Interesting fact: The NYC library sales began with the secretive, sudden Donnell debacle, sale of a beloved library for a pittance. David Offensend (COO of the NYPL) from Brooklyn Heights handled that sale and is now pushing other sales like the CLP. David Offensend is a former president of the BHA and a former board member. The proposed sale of the Brooklyn Heights library closely replicates the Donnell debacle. The BHA has also NOT spoke out against the Donnell sale or the CLP. Coincidence?

  • marshasrimler

    gee it may really represent David Offensend who destroyed the beloved Donnell Library and other elitists who have been heard to say they do not want outsiders in the Heights.. who are they talking about?? who are the outsiders??

  • Roberto

    The Brooklyn Heights Blog survey seems to say it all. The survey calls for transparency and a recognition that the BHA and the BPL are not on the same page as residents of Brooklyn Heights: Citizens Defending Libraries. 91.26%

    The Brooklyn Heights Association 6.8%

    None of the Above 1.94%

  • Karl Junkersfeld

    You’re not seriously suggesting that this is a scientifically acceptable poll? We all know how a poll of this nature can be manipulated through ballot stuffing given the small population sample.

  • BrooklynBugle

    Karl is correct. This is a finger in the wind that’s currently being pulled by one side. Check back later in the week!

  • BrooklynBugle

    CDL’s behavior is very Jerry Rubin meets Johnny Knoxville while acting as a member of British Parliament. That *might* be part of BHA’s issue. Aside from perceived false equivalencies. That said CDL is spot on in its effort to keep this issue in the public eye.

  • David on Middagh

    I think it’s the wind being blown, and not the finger being pulled. Unless you are being slyer than I thought…

  • Ruth Eiss

    Alexandra Bowie (gently, subtly yet repeatedly referred to the Brooklyn Heights branch library as outside Brooklyn Heights or it’s landmarked zone. Does the Brooklyn Heights Association therefore exempt itself from responsibility for the Brooklyn Heights branch library, and deny it’s social, economic and environmental impact on Brooklyn Heights and the surrounding communities?

  • BrooklynBugle

    The branch sits outside the historic district. That in itself shouldn’t conjure up conspiracy theories. It does however limit options to halt or modify development. CDL’s strongest argument has to be centered on what it wants the library to be and holding government and other stakeholders accountable. Given Mr. White’s tenure in government, we should all take into account his position that what is promised may not be what is delivered. Oddly, that lines up to some degree with what the BHA is advocating… with the exception of wanting to keep the old building (!).

  • Raulistic

    I’m a fan of both BHA and CDL. We need all these sorts of activists, and I hope my friends at BHA support the CDL policy issues. Thanks for the opportunity of posting this poll.

  • Michael D. D. White

    The city owns the land. It’s options to limit development there are 100%. (Also this was urban renewal done for the purposes of reducing density pretty recently.) No options to oppose, halt or modify development? What kind of pish tosh are you peddling?

  • Michael D. D. White

    OK the BHA board has thrown its weight around against the interest of the community.- What’s the point in reiterating that- It’s pretty much known and understood that they are doing that.

  • BrooklynBugle

    The kind that refers to what you can or can’t do within a landmarked district. The city can sell the land if it wants. How the BHA or anyone can fight them is limited to the options available. If the city is determined to sell the land what are the options?

    Apologies for trying to have a sane discussion here.

  • marshasrimler

    if you are a bah member please lobby them to change their position on the library issue
    thank you

  • marshasrimler

    the BHA has influence to influence this and thus far has quietly supported the library destruction plan.. why?
    It talks about being walled in
    ..then supports being walled in..
    in talks about limiting excess traffic then supports a huge development that will bring more traffic.. why doesn’t it just support refurbishing our library and improving it??

  • gatornyc

    Maybe because it realizes that it is more likely that the library will be lost if funding and operations remains status quo. Government and the provision of public resources is changing. The library either changes with it or continues to wither and potentially perish. If the BHA’s caveats are met there is little reason to oppose the sale of the land.

  • Saneonhenry

    Uhm, and “Citizens Defending Libraries” which seems to have, what, 3 members?
    From what I have seen the proposed new library is NOT in a basement, its on the first floor of the new building…..guess the only way you and your two other buddies can make your case is by lying and name calling. Really pretty sad.

  • marshasrimler

    You are not truthful

  • marshasrimler

    Caveats or not this will not happen. The bha is wrong and selfish on this

  • gatornyc

    CDL’s protests notwithstanding, it is more likely to happen than not happen. There are many in Brooklyn Heights who support the plan and want a new, modern, sustainable library.

  • marshasrimler

    Oh really. There are lots of ways to sustain and grow our libraries without giving away public assets.. This is much bigger than brookyn heights I know for a fact it will not happen. Elections have consequences and we have a new city government. You and your BHA need to get on board

  • Eddyde

    “trying to have a sane discussion here”

    Good Luck.

  • mykelde

    BHA – rich white people telling others what will be done regardless.

  • sparkiy

    Where will the money come from? CDL has never said where the money will come from to create a new library if the deal doesn’t happen. Here’s your chance.