HVAC Miseries Point to BPL’s Fateful Decision Regarding Brooklyn Heights Library Branch

So What to Do?
Given the system’s infrastructure dilemma, fundraising obstacles and years of contesting operating cuts by Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration, BPL’s much-debated plans to sell the Pacific and Brooklyn Heights branches adhere to a certain economic logic. But public opposition has been tenacious, forcing Ms. Johnson to pull back on previously announced plans to sell the Pacific branch.

The Library’s proposed sale of the Brooklyn Heights branch for the development of a multi-story residential tower, however, is moving forward. Located on the edge of the Brooklyn Heights Historic District—the city’s first—the BPL’s prime triangular real estate parcel on Cadman Plaza West is a justifiably prized asset. And public reaction to the sale, the interim library that is promised, the construction process and the final result may well define Ms. Johnson’s BPL tenure.

The Brooklyn Heights Blog reported last December that seven unidentified bidders had submitted plans in response to the Library’s Request for Proposals. An announcement of the winning proposal, once expected this summer, has now been put off until October, oddly enough, about the time that the results of City Comptroller Scott Stringer’s audit of all city library systems, launched in February specifically to examine how millions in public funds are spent on capital projects, may be released.

Is the sale of the Heights branch really the only viable path? “Our public libraries are vital resources for New Yorkers of all ages and backgrounds,” said Michael Nitzky, Director of Communications, Office of NYC Comptroller in response to an email about the audit. “They deserve to know that their taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely and efficiently.”

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams has also raised questions about BPL’s financial situation. “[W]hen you have an urgent capital need, you have to come up with a plan as to how to address that capital need. And some of the ways of doing that, how do you sell off assets you have that have a larger dollar value?”

“I need the library to open their books,” continued Adams. “Show me what’s the real capital issue…. I am looking forward to a continued conversation and a full understanding of the capital needs of the Brooklyn Public Library system.”

And tellingly, Public Advocate Leticia James is also cautious. Says James, “While I understand the Brooklyn Public Library’s pressing capital needs, I remain concerned about the sale of public library sites. Infrastructure issues can be overcome when budgets allow refocus and redistribution. But once lost, these spaces will likely never serve the public need again.”

Publisher’s Note: This is part two in a three-part series on the Brooklyn Public Library, in particular the conditions that have led to the proposed sale of the Brooklyn Heights Library branch. These articles are made possible thanks to the generous support of BHB readers who contributed to our IndieGoGo campaign.

The post has been amended with an official statement from the Brooklyn Public Library

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  • Michael D. D. White

    Plans to sell the libraries with mayoral (i.e. Bloomberg) approval go back at least to the summer of 2007. Since those plans intertwine with an intentional defunding of the libraries and effort to drive these capital assets into the ground- because how else would anyone fathom explaining the selling and shrinking libraries to the public expecting the public to countenance such a proposition?- So it, of course, makes sense that the Bloomberg administration with its twelve years in office has manufactured this situation.

    But capital assets by their very nature last and are attended to long-term, with long-term plans, and long-term solutions. There should be no false urgencies that deny that we have time to address this problem no matter how long Bloomberg spent working to create it.

    In the bigger, long-term, scheme of things, it really isn’t that long ago that Guiliani was in office executing expansion plans for these same capital assets.

    We must also mull over Ms. Johnson’s noted abject failure as a fundraiser. As Bloomberg wanted the system drained of funds would she (a Lauder brother’s* girlfriend) really have been considered a loyal executioner of plans had she truly succeeded in raising funds?

    When it comes confronting those who arrogantly want to sell any of our public assets, be it LICH, other hospitals, parks, public housing, schools or whatever, we cannot let it be that all it takes for these few privileged individuals to win is the temporary denial of funds and plundering of resources.

    (* Lauder’s current net worth is $8.3 billion. And in the twelve years that Bloomberg was denying libraries of the small amount of funds they need to continue Bloomberg increased his own personal wealth by nearly $30 billion. Nearly the entirety of Bloomberg’s current wealth was acquired while in office as mayor.)

  • Michael D. D. White

    However much Bloomberg built up the current BPL capital deficit over his twelve years in office, the entirety of it (probably overstated as it is- per the evidence) at $308,000,000 it is just 01.140% of the amount by which Bloomberg increased his own net personal wealth (acquiring most of what he now has) during those same twelve years in office.

    Why is this important to mention here?: It’s important when we are selling libraries like Donnell for far less than it would coast to replace them and people are getting very rich in the process.

  • marshasrimler

    i say it is past time to replace Linda Johnson and a board that cannot accomplish results for the public. Lets have a town hall with the BPL trustees on a stage before the community.

  • Roberto

    Bravissimo al signor Randazzo! I recall the CBS report that showed Randazzo giving flowers to an opera singer. His reporting on our beseiged library deserves un sacco di fiori. Randazzo’s piece on the policy to allow the Brooklyn Heights library to rot and lose value is reminiscent of SUNY’s playbook for the dissolution of Long Island College Hospital. In the face of a crying need for LICH, SUNY cited the fact that it was losing money, even as SUNY turned away paying patients.

  • marshasrimler

    political implications are important. Brad Lander who described the destruction of our library as “creative” and is a Linda Johnson cheerleader is strongly behind Peter Sikora for assembly.. Is this progressive?

  • Michael D. D. White

    Talk about your “tin hats”: how about BPL spokesperson Josh Nachowitz espousing publicly, on the record, in the CAC meetings that insurmountable engineering impediments exist to fixing the air conditioners, posed by virtue of the fact that 2013 vintage computers and iPads are generating too much new additional heat to handle?

    No, we don’t “think” that the Bloomberg administration was obsessed by just “one little piece of property”- We actually know, as documented in the NYPL minutes (plus a story in The Nation) that in the summer of 2007 (right before sale of the Donnell Library) Bloomberg and his First Deputy Mayor Patti Harris (in charge of real estate, libraries, political strategy and dispensing “charitable” donations) was reviewing and blessing a number of library sales and shrinkages. And we know that in that same summer of 2007 the administration had a long list of Brooklyn libraries it was furnishing to the development community for similar propositions.