Taking a Stand: Two Brooklyn Heights Residents Fight the Power

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.

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  • Reggie

    If the PILOTs went into the general fund, they wouldn’t need to be PILOTs; they could just be real estate taxes.

  • Mike from Brooklyn

    Although I typically prefer to let my writing speak for itself, I do feel compelled to chime in from time to time. This post was primarily meant to acknowledge Mr. White’s / Ms. Schomp’s recent efforts in making their opinions felt, efforts that I—and many others in the media—believe to be noteworthy.

    As to the “hard questions” you request, I’m hoping to follow up with Ms. Schomp when convenient; if you’ve missed the many BHB articles about the BPL/BH Library, a search on the site will bring them up.

    Your reporter

  • Quinn Raymond

    I have followed the coverage in BHB religiously and appreciate its role in our community, so thank you Mike.

    I guess my issue here is that the phrase “Fight the Power” misconstrues the power dynamic of the conflict, and plays effectively into the messaging of the NIMBYs as progressive.

    In fact if successful, their campaigns will yield outcomes that are quite regressive and further consolidate the exclusivity of our community:

    No affordable housing, no funding for a cash-strapped library system, reduced funding to operate the public park enjoyed by people of all classes? How is that “fighting the power?”

  • Doug Biviano


    Here’s our latest Press Release explaining more of the election deceit with the library, LICH and condos in the park, particularly that county boss Frank Seddio has managed to work his way into Lori Schomp’s TRO case, whether to truly help or to shake down all parties, like Berlin Rosen does, is to be determined. The bottom line is that we need a debate to expose all the candidates relationships with these lobbyists and party bosses so voters know who they are voting for:


  • gatornyc

    That “simple, open green space” still would have required literally hundreds of millions of dollars to build and support, most particularly because it would have been built on piers supported by decaying piles. The complexity or “fanciness” of the park is not the issue, it is the availability of a sustainable income stream. And since when did it become okay to deprive ourselves of great things? We used to build great parks, buildings, etc. A great park finally gets built and people complain about how it came to be.

  • Quinn Raymond
  • ujh

    I strongly suggest you and your adherents familiarize themselves with the decades-long plight of Hudson River Park. That park, too, has to find its own support mechanism and its corporate officers would lick their fingers if their park had the financial resources, which BBP is trying to build up. You should also study the financial structure being put into place for Governors Island. Furthermore, you should finally understand the mandate promulgated by the Bloomberg administration that no new built park will receive city support for M&O. Of course, the de Blasio administration can overturn this mandate as soon as it finds the tens of millions it takes to run these three parks each and every year.

  • ujh

    Incorrect. The development sites may be owned by NYS and/or NYC, but they are leased to the respective developers, who are obligated to pay ground leases in the form of PILOTS. The condo owners pay real estate taxes, again in the form of PILOTS. These payments don’t go into the General Fund but are set aside in dedicated accounts to be drawn upon by BBP.