St. Ann’s School Dumps Hundreds of Books On Clinton Street

One person’s trash is another person’s treasure, or so the adage goes. It started with a late-afternoon post to Buy Nothing Brooklyn Heights/Dumbo/Vinegar Hill. St. Ann’s School had just dumped hundreds of books in the trash. “Curb Alert: Close to 40 Clinton by the parking garage at 3:50pm Tuesday…Hundreds of books. So many good ones.” The post fomented outrage and garnered 66 comments at last count.

As Brooklyn Heights residents began to return from work several stopped to forage through upwards of eight or more clear plastic bags filled to the brim with classic literature and textbooks. Titles included Dickins’ “A Tale of Two Cities,” Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” Walter M. Miller Jr’s “A Canticle for Leibowitz,” Merrill’s “The Pushcart War” and many, many other authors including Camus, Dahl, Cather among others.


A stamp from the St. Ann School’s library.

And Buy Nothing was abuzz as members brainstormed how to save as many books as possible before the evening’s forecasted thunderstorms. “So many books dumped, lots of us trying to put them under covering or somewhere to bring tomorrow to BBB.” BBB would be Brooklyn Book Bodega a non-profit that promotes education equity and access to reading by collecting unwanted books and distributing them to underserved schools and neighborhoods. They have drop-off locations across Brooklyn including the latest addition (or “edition” as it were) to the neighborhood, Books are Magic.


A Buy Nothing member worked diligently to collect as many books as possible as before forecasted thunderstorms arrived.

The blog asked a member of the St. Ann’s maintenance staff if they were aware of any donation attempts. He replied he thought the school had tried but didn’t know the extent of their efforts. Brooklyn Heights resident, Alexandra shared her disgust, “I had to do a double take…I saw piles, and piles, and piles of books, books that children need, that adults need…This could have been donated..they could have held a sale for charity…there are so many other things that could have been done instead of just throwing the books on the street.”


Members of the local Buy Nothing Facebook group collect the hundreds of books put on the curb by St. Ann’s School.

Long-standing research proves poverty is the single-largest contributing factor to the “achievement gap.” The blog would argue it should be called an “equity gap.” Case in point. The draconian cuts to the NYC DOE budget garnered huge public outcry and were recently reversed by an injunction. In contrast, St. Ann’s tuition starts at $51,000 a year for Kindergarten. A Tale of Two Cities indeed.


One of the many titles tossed to the curb by St. Ann’s School.

This is a developing story. The Blog will attempt to follow up with St. Ann’s Administration for their side and will also visit Buy Nothing for the fate of the literature. In the meantime, tell us your thoughts!

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in the post are that of the reporter and do not reflect the opinions of the blog as a whole. The author is the parent of a special needs child and a vocal advocate for education equity.

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  • aeshtron

    “The public itself stopped reading of its own accord.”

    Lots of quality books beside Saint Ann’s as of 11:15pm on Tuesday. I’m the happy new owner of many nice used books including Fahrenheit 451.

    It appears that Saint Ann’s school is renovating their library and that more books may be jettisoned soon. Saint Ann’s is cluelessly tone deaf to dispose of several copies of A Tale of Two Cities. In defense of Saint Ann’s, it’s difficult to give books away nowadays as most of us are entranced by screens.

  • SongBirdNYC

    No it’s not. Brooklyn Book Bodega will accept them and give them to underserved children, families, schools and communities.

  • JaneonOrange

    I am confused as there is always a drive to donate to Project Cicero…

  • Mary Kim

    Lots of ways to donate books for prisons too.

  • Mike Suko

    I, too, would like to emit a loud “B.S.” to the assertion that “it’s difficult to give books away nowadays.”

    Housing Works operates a MAJOR used book operation – online, not on Montague and the other shops. For a SIMPLE transaction from an obviously vetted (if insensitive) possible donor, the BPL might very well have said, “Yes.” Certainly, a call or visit to the institution across the street from St. Ann’s would not have been burdensome. Sounds like something that a low level staffer didn’t want to bother his/her supervisors “at their summer places.”

  • Jorale-man

    This also calls attention to NYC’s antiquated method of disposing rubbish: simply dumping it on the sidewalks where people walk. Not the main point of this post, I know, but it highlights what a broken trash collection system we have.

  • Andrew Porter

    I’ve shared the link with other locals, plus other news sources.

    Really outrageous action, IMHO.

  • Andrew Porter

    If they were in clear plastic bags, they were destined for paper recycling, not the landfill. But the mindset that says “unwanted books = unwanted trash” is alien to me.

  • A neighbor

    Ditto – on both counts.

  • Banet

    As a parent with children at Saint Ann’s, this was very surprising and shocking to see. The school has always made strong efforts to donate books in the past.

    I went by and spoke to one of the Facilities staff and he told me these books were a mix of extremely dated texts, falling-apart-from-use books, and water damaged books. That as always, they tried to donate what they could and indeed donated a lot, but this is what was left over.

    I took a look, and indeed, a lot of them were falling apart. And about half of them were in French.

    I asked them to provide a stack of boxes and I sorted the books into “clearly trash” and “maybe someone would want this” and displayed all the decent books. I’m also trying to get Brooklyn Book Bodega to take them. Stay tuned.

  • gc

    Tone deaf only begins to describe this act.
    “it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness …
    it was the epoch of incredulity” (A Tale of Two Cities)

  • Banet

    I traded emails with the head of the Brooklyn Book Bodega.

    1. They’re not accepting donations right now — they’re taking a short break.

    2. They don’t want these books as 1) they don’t want well-used books, 2) they don’t want big set of multiple copies of a book, and 3) they don’t want foreign language books (most of these books are in French).

  • Banet

    To update everyone and quell some possibly outrage, I’ve traded emails with the Brooklyn Book Bodega and these books don’t qualify for 3 reasons:

    1. They don’t want “worn out” books. And a lot of these are quite “worn out” from traveling in student backpacks for decades I imagine.

    2. They don’t want large sets of books. In other words, they don’t want 30 copies of the same book. Apparently much of their donations go to classrooms where a teacher is looking to round out their offerings — not offer 30 copies of the same book.

    3. They don’t want high-school level books in French — which is what over half of these are.

    If anyone knows of any other places to donate these books, have at it. They’re not moved from bags to boxes. I’ll talk to the school about storing them overnight and putting the boxes back out in the morning (so they don’t get wet in the overnight rain).

    I also have emails out to Project Cicero (doesn’t look likely) and I checked the link in the other comment about donating to prisons. To donate to prisons someone has to pay the shipping costs, and shipping boxes of books is EXPENSIVE and I don’t think 50 copies of poetry in french by the 19th century Romantics is the kind of books they’re looking for.

  • Mike Suko

    a repeat suggestion from me to contact Housing Works (“used books Dept)

    TRUE, they have exclusions that probably would limit what they’d take, but it might be that FRENCH is not one of them. (Doesn’t say.)


    provides several leads.

    MAJOR KUDOS for your stepping in. Yes, it’s easier to say “Bad” – by far – than to do what you did. It may be a case of “bad optics,” and that’s obviously at most a misdemeanor.

  • Banet

    I am happy to report that a huge numbered of the books were picked up yesterday by passersby. I arranged the remaining books into 13 boxes this morning. As of 4 PM today it is down to 5 1/2 boxes. Four of the remaining boxes are all slim, well-worn volumes in French so I do not have high hopes they will be taken.

    But I’ve arranged for the school to bring them indoors overnight to keep them dry and then put them back out tomorrow. Further, they’ve made arrangements to donate what’s left and apparently quite a few books were already shipped off to the developing world.

    So they got off to a bad start but are doing the right thing now. Mistakes happen. :-/

  • Banet

    Thank you. And yes, I know many come here to complain. But if every time we complained about something we did something to solve the problem, I think we’d all have a nicer neighborhood. :-)

    Stay tuned for my crusade against garbage in the fall! ;-)

  • SongBirdNYC

    Thanks. Yes, I’m aware. I corresponded with them too and so have several people from the Buy Nothing group.

  • d lee

    Isn’t that new school opening on montague a French language school?

  • Banet

    It is, but pre-school and the very first years of elementary. So ages 2 or 3 through 5 or 6. These were books more appropriate for an advanced 5th year french student in high school. And to be frank, while a good number of the books were in excellent condition, a lot of the french books were slim volumes that clearly spent many years being carried in backpacks. They were… worn out. But good idea!

  • Arch Stanton

    Many years ago, upstate NY, I attended a book burning. Nothing politically or religiously motivated, just a friend who had closed her secondhand store and had a couple of thousand books to dispose of. She invited all her friends to join about 50-60 people mostly NYC expats, artists, crafters and such.

    A bonfire was lit and the festivities commenced; a participant would pick a book from one of the boxes and read the title aloud, if anyone vetoed the book would be set aside to be saved, If not it would be tossed into the fire! Many were textbooks, dated, obsolete stuff and most were water damaged. Books that didn’t sell even for a dime. Much alcohol flowed that evening along with other substances…
    Yours truly only burns two books that evening, one titled “Welfare In The Regan Era” and a Bible…
    The morning revealed the entire property littered with thousands of partially burned pages, all the books were gone including the saved pile…