Citizens Defending Libraries’ Open Letter to the BHA

After a BHB published a poll asking readers whose position they supported in the dust up regarding the Brooklyn Heights library branch, Citizens Defending Libraries’ Carolyn McIntyre added the screenshot of the results (the poll is still open btw) to her open letter to the Brooklyn Heights Association.

As reported here, CDL’s members were very vocal (hissing included) at the BHA annual meeting on February 27.

Here’s the letter:

February 27, 2014

Dear Fellow BHA members and neighbors,

My husband and I have been members of the Brooklyn Heights Association for over 25 years and attended almost every house tour fund raiser. (One year I was a recipient of BHA recognition for community service). I write to you now to let you know about the position the BHA has taken on the sale of the Brooklyn Heights Library.

The Brooklyn Heights Association a year ago rushed to be one of the first to supportively condone the sale and shrinkage of the Brooklyn Heights Library. The BHA reports that (without telling people truthfully how tall the replacement building might actually be) they found 83 Brooklyn Heights Association members who support the redevelopment. From a petition we started a year ago, we have more than a thousand people from the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood (zip code 11201) who oppose the sale. In addition, we have many, many more users of the library from neighboring areas of Brooklyn who have signed the petition opposing the sale. Even the BHA’s own results say that the majority of the people who are from the neighborhood, from 11201, OPPOSE the sale of the library.

The local community and New Yorkers were outraged by the sudden secretive sale of the Donnell Library in Manhattan for a pittance (netting less than $39 million). The 50-story luxury high rise replacing the 5-story (97,000) square foot public library will have a tiny library in the basement. (Google Donnell library and see the plans for a mostly bookless library). The penthouse of the luxury high rise is on the market for $60 million.

Had the sale of Donnell been stopped, it is unlikely that library sales would have continued. The sale of the Brooklyn Heights Library is replicating the sale of Donnell library. Stopping the sale of the Brooklyn Heights Library could save not only this library but should prevent them from moving on to sell other libraries which we know now include libraries in Mid-Manhattan, Harlem and other developing areas of Brooklyn.

We started our petition a year ago to stop the sale of the Brooklyn Heights Library and the many other libraries slated for sale are in expensive real estate areas. We have over 16,000 petition signers a year later and have joined with two other groups, The Committee To Save The New York Public Library and Library Lovers League, to stop the sales and the removal of books from libraries in Manhattan and Brooklyn. In just the past couple of weeks we generated more than 3,000 emails to Mayor de Basio (CCs to other elected officials) opposing these sales.

What has happened since the BHA got involved with the library through a “Community Advisory Committee”? The Brooklyn Heights Library has been stripped of much of its books. The staff has been reduced. The hours and staff were drastically reduced over the summer. Patrons, staff and seniors had to endure a hot library over the summer because the BPL refused to fix the air conditioner. This is a disgrace!

The BPL issued a report on the costs of repairs over the summer after raising the repair costs for the air conditioner multiple times starting with $350 thousand and going up to $4.5 million and adding all kinds of additional repairs and costs. After having an architectural expert look at the report, he said it was “laughable” and wondered how anyone could do such a report with obviously inflated numbers and unnecessary repairs.

Most of us who are following the library issues do not trust the BPL leadership and don’t understand why the BHA does not represent the community and is providing cover for a leadership that was put in place to sell libraries. There are people looking to push the sale by saying it’s a “done deal.” It is absolutely not! Our group, Citizens Defending Libraries, stood on the steps of the 42 Street Central Reference Library with candidate Bill de Blasio and other defenders of the libraries when he called for a halt to the Bloomberg pushed Central Library Plan involving spending $150 million of taxpayer money (perhaps almost a half billion dollars in redirected library funds in all) to sell and destroy the two most well used libraries in Manhattan and move research books to a warehouse in New Jersey. De Blasio also denounced Bloomberg’s proposed sale of Brooklyn’s libraries. It would be unfortunate if the BHA’s failure to represent the community resulted in this Bloomberg plan moving forward by even the tiniest increment.

The aggressive selling off of our shared public assets such as our libraries, our hospitals, and our schools shows a heartlessness that should be disturbing to anyone who wants to live in a healthy and caring community. The more we sell off our public treasures, the more we fuel income inequality, a major issue in the last mayoral campaign. The BPL leadership and the BHA have been pushing away library users and the voices of people concerned about this greed-driven exploitation.

We envision a day when the BHA and CDL will come together to work for what is best for our community and the neighboring communities. We understand the growing disconnection needs to be bridged and it is increasingly clear that no matter what neighborhood we live in we are all connected.

Carolyn McIntyre
Citizens Defending Libraries
718 [Area Code]-797-5207
BHA member over 25 years

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  • bethmann14

    Wow after who knows how many hours of unproductive screaming and shouting by these CDL crazy people they announce that they have barely 1000 petition signatures in Brooklyn Heights? Out of a population in the neighborhood of what, 40 or 50,000?
    I’m not a fan of big new buildings being built in Brooklyn Heights, or more luxury condos being built, and I hope the new Mayor is serious about beating up these filthy developers and making them finally give back to their communities. I was initially stunned that our Library officials would want to sell our precious local branch to big developers.
    That said after following this issue, I can’t help but conclude that the library is making the best of an impossible situation and is doing the right thing….they should have had adequate funding all along and shoulnd’t be in this position, but here we are. Good for the BHA being reasonable and trying to negotiate a good deal for the community. These CDL crazy people have TOTALLY turned me off. Most of what they rant about simply isn’t true….they lie and use silly consipiracy theories to get their way. Seems taht the BPL people have been transparant about repair costs, etc.
    CDL says BPL is lying about the cost of the AC unit…..where is the CDL report? What is the name of the “architectural expert” CDL consulted? Where is his written report? Where are his estimates? BPL’s are all on their website. Seems CDL are the guys not being totally honest with folks…..
    its really sad actually….the library can really get away with whatever they want to do because the CDL guys are so obviously nuts.

  • Carlotta

    I would like to state to bethmann14 that the CDL members are not ‘crazy people’. Granted, there have been some very passionate and vociferous members who have at times disrupted some meetings. Notwithstanding those actions, we are a group of citizens who feel strongly about the lack of funds for libraries and the deals made to buy public property for private gain. Disparaging the CDL is not a good reason to okay the the BPL’s plans to destroy our library in order to put money in the real estate developer’s pockets. Brooklyn Heights has two new condos almost ready for occupancy at the north end and a giant building going up on Montague St. The schools are overcrowded and the fight to save our local hospital goes on with the possibility of losing it altogether. So, I ask all citizens of Brooklyn Heights – do we really want another high – very high – glass and steel condo in-or on the edges-of our community just so the pockets of the builders can overflow? OR can we put our ‘thinking caps’ on and figure out how to renovate our own, very busy, very much utilized library for the 21st century? Where are those people who saved the Heights from Robert Moses’ highway?? Where are those people who want to maintain the integrity of the neighborhood and its surrounding areas and protect it from looking like Manhattan?? I offer that the BHA has gotten lazy and is giving up the fight out of inertia. Sad, sad.

  • marshasrimler

    BPL is a dysfunctional non-profit that has been a cozy of bloomberg friends and developers. BHA has supported this for no good reason accept for David Offensend a former President who destroyed the beloved Donnell branch and wants to replicate that fiasco here. This plan will be stopped through a public or judicial process.
    The BHA is against walling in the Heights and against more traffic when they want to be and for the sell-off ov public assists when it wants.
    We shall see where this goes… hold on to your seats

  • bethmann14

    Weird conspiracy theories, crazy rants, paranoid personal attacks….you make my point. The library should be condemned for having a “cozy” relationship with the City government that provides it with 90% of its funding? Just because you happen to not like the mayor? I honestly don’t understand your argument. Do you have any points to make on the merits or just strange Tea Party-ish conspiracy theories?
    Also I believe you meant “except,” not “accept.” Also “…has been a cozy of bloomberg friends and developers” makes no sense, either as cogent English or a logical argument. Did you mean to say the Library has a cozy relationship with the former Bloomberg administration? If trying to defent libraries you should make an effort to write clearly.

  • PasicOnClinton

    you’re seriously equating building a brand new library with a tower above it on a street that is FILLED with large towers to the buldozing half the neighborhood for a superhighway? seriously??

  • Dlg63

    Agreed that bethmann14 is no better than the nasty people who hiss and yell and scream and disrupt meetings by calling the CDLers crazy people.
    That said, it seems like they did put their thinking caps on and come up wiht a smart way of paying for a new library without spending even more of our hard earned taxpayer money. why not force the rich developers to pay for it, which is what BPL and BHA are doing? seems fair and progressive to me. You want to dump more money into the current library, renovating it? where will that money come from? from other library projects in other, poorer nabes than ours? from schools? from parks? from sewers? from roads? from bridges? money dosent grow on trees.

  • marshasrimler

    Thanks for your corrections. Bloomberg poodles planned the give away of public assets. Elections have consequences so that may be over. New folks at City Hall. It will be dropped or stopped