Two Brooklyn Heights residents have challenged powerful opponents. Michael White of Citizens Defending Libraries (CDL) and Lori Schomp of the People for Green Space Foundation have recently earned significant victories in their respective battles with the Brooklyn Public Library and Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Mr. White has wielded social and print media like a cudgel to push back against BPL’s efforts to privatize public space, while Ms. Schomp has employed the New York State court system to suspend further development at BBP’s Pier 6.
Mr. White’s multiple advocacy efforts have been both celebrated and scorned by his Brooklyn Heights neighbors (and copiously recorded in his blog, Citizens Defending Libraries). Not content to follow the lead of Save the NYPL, a coalition opposed to the New York Public Library’s ill-fated Central Library Plan, White and his co-advocate (and spouse) Carolyn McIntyre have identified a new seam in their opposition to BPL’s capital funding plans: the proposed Spaceworks space grab at the Red Hook library branch.
RELATED: Ambush! Watch Citizens Defending Libraries Confront Daniel Squadron
It was Mr. White who sounded the alarm about what appears to be a questionable arrangement between Spaceworks, a non-profit created by the Bloomberg administration in 2011, and BPL leadership to make available almost half of the Red Hook library’s space in perpetuity for whatever use Spaceworks required.
In return for a paltry $650,000 capital investment—not even matching the $1.2 million that BPL will contribute to complete restoration of the library building that was severely damaged in Superstorm Sandy—and an undisclosed annual rent, Spaceworks would be granted exclusive control over valuable public real estate.
Thanks to extensive research, a dogged campaign of emails and regular appearances at public hearings, Mr. White not only shed light on the Spaceworks proposal that suggested it was a public land giveaway whose long-term implications were clearly not in the best interest of local BPL patrons, but CDL’s advocacy helped force BPL to pull back from the proposal.
While Mr. White has been a persistent gadfly on library related and other land use issues (for example Atlantic Yards) for a number of years, Ms. Schomp has appeared recently to play a prominent role in a debate that has been going on for many years. Under the umbrellas of People for Green Space and Save Pier 6, in a few short months, Ms. Schomp and her allies Joe Mertz and Marty Hale have accomplished [albeit temporarily] what years of protest could not: halting the construction of the final housing project proposed at Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Their efforts—limited to the two large residential towers proposed for BBP’s Pier 6—have paid dividends in the form of a Temporary Restraining Order in locals’ battle to determine the future of the wildly successful park. But her advocacy appears to have come at some personal cost to Ms. Schomp, as continuous exposure in the public spotlight has a tendency to scorch the object of the media’s attention.
RELATED: Battle Royale at Borough Hall: BBPC Board Shoots Down Pier 6 Opponents
Regardless of what one might believe about the actions of BPL and BBP, and the underlying motivations of Mr. White and Ms. Schomp, it’s edifying—and a little remarkable—to note that White, Schomp and their supporters have managed to bring into question the definition of what constitutes the public good—no matter what the ultimate results of those actions may be.