Friday, April 19, 2013

At City Hall yesterday, a rally to stop the planned sale of libraries in Brooklyn and Manhattan

Update: Here's lengthy coverage in Library Journal of this issue.

Remember the Pacific branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, next to the Atlantic Yards site and destined to close as part of the library's plan to reap revenues from its real estate to bolster the system?

I'll have a longer report elsewhere reasonably soon on that complicated controversy, but below, photos from yesterday's rally at City Hall. (Here's brief Times coverage.)

In the rally, Citizens Defending Libraries, the group that organized around the planned closings of the Pacific and Brooklyn Heights branches (the library's take), joined with activists in Manhattan (and beyond) opposing the separate New York Public Library's plan to move books from storage under its flagship research library to accommodate new public service spaces for the functions of the to-be-sold SIBL and Mid-Manhattan branches.

There are several activists involved also seen in the Atlantic Yards fight, but the most interesting parallel and contrast is the role of elected and would-be elected officials. City Comptroller John Liu, probably the most populist of the mayoral candidates, has joined the crusade, as has longshot candidate Sal Albanese. (Liu probably ought to get up to speed on the distinction between "the city"--which he said is trying to sell the buildings--and the three library systems, which are city-controlled nonprofit organizations.)

Several other electeds attended, as well, including state Senator Velmanette Montgomery and--at previous events this week--city Council Member Letitia James, as the plan is to shift the Pacific library into her 35th Council District at what's known as the BAM South site. Then again, 33rd District Council Member Steve Levin, who currently represents both Brooklyn branches and has expressed opposition and concern regarding the library's plan, seems to have kept some distance from the activists.

In public fights, having sympathetic "victims" is always a good strategic move, and one aspect of the Atlantic Yards fight--as some have suggested to me--is that project proponents managed to suggest that  Brooklyn's neediest would be the "victims" if the project didn't proceed. (That hasn't quite worked out as planned.) Yesterday, there was a very sympathetic set of "victims": a Girl Scout troop that uses the current Pacific Branch.


Comptroller John Liu

Assemblyman Micah Kellner

Sal Albanese at right.



Carolyn McIntyre of CDL

2 comments:

  1. It's possible to get into the weeds with respect to in the details of who exactly is selling the library real estate , but I think John Liu is thoroughly up to speed on the subject.

    In the case of Brooklyn, most libraries are owned by the city and the library system is a tenant. That includes the Brooklyn Heights Library in the Pacific branch. In the case of the Central Reference Library at 42nd Street, that library is on City Park land, both the main building and the 85 miles of new book stacks that were recently added under Bryant Park. The city is providing a massive amount of money specifically designated for the real estate deal that involves the decimation of the stacks there, and which will be done in order for there to be a sale of the Mid-Manhattan and SIBL.

    Those libraries like Donnell Library are technically owned by the library system although they were paid for with city state and federal money and financed by a state agency. The Donnell Library was owned by the library system on the public's behalf subject to the requirements intended to benefit the public that were imposed by Mr. Donell who donated the money and John D Rockefeller who donated the land. The lion's share of funding for all the libraries no matter which borough comes from the city and the funding level is intricately related to the real estate deals.

    I am not sure that it would have served to bypass the big picture to get into these specifics at the press conference.

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  2. Rita Ormsby4:33 PM

    Norman,
    Thanks for covering the events and also this article, and the Library Journal article, which I just read. Rita Ormsby

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