Citizens Defending Libraries protested outside the Central Library

Book lovers to new libary honcho: Hands off the Brooklyn Heights branch

The Brooklyn Paper
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The city is selling off its precious literary legacy to the highest bidder, said bookworms who rallied at the Central Library on Tuesday night to demand that the revenue-raising scheme be stopped.

About 40 prose-loving protestors convened at Grand Army Plaza to call on the Brooklyn Public Library system’s new chairman Nicholas Gravante, Jr. to halt the sale of the Brooklyn Heights branch to a developer who would tear down and build a tower in its place, reserving space for a replacement branch.

“Libraries are at the core of the democratic process,” said Ruth Diss, a resident of Brooklyn Heights for 40 years. “I’m incensed. I’m furious. It gets my blood boiling.”

The group Citizens Defending Libraries organized the demonstration. Michael White, a founder of the group, hand-delivered a letter to the library system’s board of trustees, which was meeting in the library, stating that the Heights redevelopment threatens the foundations of civic society.

“Selling, shrinking libraries, putting their resources out of reach, leads to a vicious cycle of decreased democracy and opportunity,” the letter reads.

The group organized after the Library’s announcement last year that it would seek to sell development rights for the Brooklyn Heights Branch because it cannot afford to the $9 million it says it needs to make repairs, including about $4 million for a faulty air conditioning system.

The claim that the repairs are insurmountable does not make any sense, activists said.

“Who ever heard of someone selling a house because the air conditioning doesn’t work?” said Carolyn McIntyre, another group founder. “What is happening to our libraries? The public owns the libraries.”

System-wide, the library’s 80 branches are behind on $300 million worth of needed repairs, the library maintains. A deal in Brooklyn Heights could help bring it out of the red, according to the system.

“Nearly every one of [Brooklyn Public Library’s] branches has maintenance issues,” says a page on the Library’s website explaining the future of the Brooklyn Heights Branch. “This project will allow BPL to deliver a 21st-century library facility the Brooklyn Heights community and our staff deserve, at little cost to BPL.”

The Library administration has received seven redevelopment proposals so far and has said it expects to choose one early this year. The plans call for between 99 and 167 mostly market-rate housing units along with a library space that is partly underground.

The original plan to sell off public library buildings, which was conceived under former mayor Michael Bloomberg, also included the Pacific branch on Fourth Avenue at Pacific Street — the first so called Carnegie library building, constructed using funds provided by the 19th-century steel magnate. That proposal was put on hold after residents rallied against it. But the Brooklyn Heights branch has remained on the table.

“The Bloomberg policy of selling off public property seems to be continuing,” said McIntyre. “And we don’t trust the trustees. Not at all.”

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260-8310. E-mail him at Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Marsha Rimler from Heights says:
Kudos to CDL for this.. Michael and Carolyn need to lead a more democratic organization. They need to consider and listen to all views and stop putting down folks who do not drink their kool-aid but still want to stop the sell-offs. Rumors abound that Michael wants to run for public office. He needs to be more transparent about this.
April 9, 2014, 5:25 am
BK Joe from PPS says:
I thought all of the proposals (that stood a chance of winning) included a new Library on the ground floor. With a brand new modern library and much needed new housing units, this should be a win-win for everyone (except the NIMBYs I suppose).
April 9, 2014, 7:17 am
Sammy from DUMBO says:
The author fails to make clear that the Brooklyn Public Library is 100% committed to keeping a library at this site. How is a new renovated branch for the Brooklyn Heights community a travesty - especially when this plan would generate income for much needed repairs to other branches around the borough?
April 9, 2014, 8:56 am
Joey from Clinton Hills says:
the Brooklyn Heights branch is a municipal jewel. Hands off!
April 9, 2014, 9:36 am
Marsha Rimler from Heights says:
All the excuses BPL has come up with to destroy our branch are nothing more than false justifications for a
land grab
April 9, 2014, 10:32 am
Book Lover from BK says:
I thought a new library was being built here in addition to the residential? Is that not the case?
April 9, 2014, 10:44 am
freddy from slope says:
smaller branch tucked out of the way, not central to the spot
April 9, 2014, 10:48 am
Marsha Rimler from Heights says:
It appears that the Brooklyn Bridge Development Corp. Board has outsized numbers on the Brooklyn Public Library Board. Brooklyn Heights will have 5 maybe 6 member of the BPL Board . Brooklyn Heights is wealthy but hardly in step with the rest of Brooklyn which deserves equal representation on a Board that runs an non-profit that get most of its money from public funds. Hank Guttman a pro-devlopment lawyer is the latest addition. Does this takeover smell funny?
April 10, 2014, 10 am
Gwen Fischman from Brooklyn Heights says:
Please know the facts: the replacement library is destined to be one third the size of the current library. We are a destination library for all of swiftly developing downtown Brooklyn, both residential and commercial, the court system as well as local residents. 16,000 people have petitioned to keep the current space. So the people have spoken. It is time for the developers, who control the BPL, to listen.
April 11, 2014, 11:11 am
Mary Buchwald from Park Slope says:
Who would sell a really fine neighborhood branch library with 2 floor - always well used - with a spacious set up for computers, tables to study and read at, delightful children's room, business area and helpful staff !
Then move the library to a basement apt.
A building that is now a public asset, art deco design, a walking tour destination.
In any proposed new high rise, one condo alone would reap the price the building would be sold for (in a rough estimation).
What kind of deal is that - I'll tell you , it's a real estate deal and a BPL Admin/Trustee sell out.
April 12, 2014, 10:21 pm
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn Heights says:
BK Joe from PPS doesn't seem to know or appreciate that:

* The "new" library would be a fraction the size of the existing library.

* That the Business and Career portion of the library would be evicted in the process and are likely to largely disappear entirely from the system as a result.

* That the significantly downsized library would be less hospitable to visitors from the surrounding neighborhoods and other areas of Brooklyn that easily access this one.

* That a generation of our kids would be growing up without a library as they awaited a shrunken replacement.

* That the "new" library would be largely bookless compared to the existing one.

* That currently we are all already suffering because they have removed the books from the shelves anticipating a real estate deal and have not fixed air conditioning that should have been fixed love ago, sent away staff and kept weird unpredictable hours and left elevators unrepaired.

* That most of the benefit from the sale will go to private parties in part because more than half the development rights were transferred to Ratner in 1986 with his no-bid deal obtaining One Pierrepont Plaza next door.

* That this deal is modeled on the disreputable sale for a pittance of the beloved Donnell Library in Manhattan.
April 13, 2014, 7:18 pm
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn Heights says:
Sammy from DUMBO doesn't understand a few things:

* That the library would not be "renovated." At great expense and with a tremendous amount of disruption it would be demolished and then at still more expense a new largely bookless library, only a fraction the size, would one day "replace" it. See comments above about what "BK Joe from PPS" similarly doesn't seem to know.

* There absolutely is no way to guarantee that the funds from selling the library would go the libraries. In fact, for those wanting to see more sales of libraries (as called for in the BPL strategic plan) there is an incentive to make sure such funds don't wind up really going to the libraries in the end so they can argue more libraries have to be sold off and shrunk because of disrepair and lack of funds.
April 13, 2014, 7:29 pm
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn Heights says:
Re the QUESTION posed by "Book Lover from BK": Is is not the case that a "new" library is being built in addition to the proposed luxury tower? ANSWER: No, that statement does not accurately describe the essence of what is happening here, which is that the library is being shrunk and converted and downgraded so that in now way can it be conceived of as a comparable library. See the response to "BK Joe from PPS" above. It won't have the Business and Career functions. Public space will be shifted underground. And being largely bookless you might even call into question whether it should be called a "library" at all. All this is proposed for PRIVATE benefit, not PUBLIC benefit even though it is being done by the Brooklyn PUBLIC Library.

See how the BPL board is being stacked.
April 14, 2014, 11:48 am
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn Heights says:
Here are pictures, video and links to other other press coverage of this Citizens Defending Libraries rally.

PHOTO & VIDEO GALLERY: April 8, 2014 Rally Outside BPL Trustees Meeting.
April 14, 2014, 11:51 am
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn Heights says:
Here is the full text of the letter delivered to the trustees plus a report of the startling real estate oriented things that went on in the trustees meeting-

April 8, 2014 Open Letter from CDL To Brooklyn Public Library Trustees Delivered At Trustees Meeting- Plus Information About the Meeting
April 14, 2014, 11:56 am
Carolyn McIntyre from Brooklyn Heights says:
It is unfortunate how the comments of “BK Joe from PPS,” “Sammy from DUMBO,” and “Book Lover from BK” offer such inaccurate perceptions of what is being proposed with respect to the sell off and shrinkage of the Brooklyn Heights Library. It is certainly unfortunate to the extent that this reflects insufficient and inaccurate knowledge on the part of members of the Brooklyn community. It is also very unfortunate if any of these comments reflect a conscious and deliberate attempt to mislead the community by pushing a developer sales pitch. In either case, it is clear that our Citizens Defending Libraries group has work to do, getting accurate information out for everybody to know. More information available at our web pages:
April 14, 2014, 12:46 pm
Marilyn Berkon from BrooklynHeights says:
If Mayor de Blasio is to achieve his goal of closing the wide gap between our two cities, he cannot allow greedy real-estate developers to take over our public space with high-rise luxury condos. Unless there are full-service, full-size libraries with real books on well-supplied shelves for browsing, we deny people access to an education that is rightfully theirs. With education we achieve the equality that closes the gap between rich and poor. Our Brooklyn Heights library serves not only this area, but the surrounding areas. The library has heavy use from people all over, those living or working in downtown Brooklyn and in the Heights itself. They even come from Manhattan. Read the facts stated above in comments from Michael D, D. White and others. Then you will know the truth and feel outrage over the threat of this library's destruction and shrinkage. Let's prevent that. The only benefit is for the greedy real-estate developers. We are deprived of what we need and love.
April 14, 2014, 2:13 pm
Lucy Koteen from Fort Greene says:
The selling of the BH Library is a continuation of the Bloomberg strategy to sell public assets for the advantage of the real estate industry. Here, they want to replace a well used library that serves a diverse population and place it at the bottom of a luxury condo tower. As stated above, it would be a fraction of its original size, largely book-less and would no longer hold the Career and Business Library.

Part of the BPL's propaganda machine is to claim that by selling this library in the land of the rich, the money will be used to maintain other libraries in poorer areas. There is not one shred of truth to this story. Remember, the BPL and the NYPL pay thousands of dollars to high powered PR firms and lobbyists. (Whose money are they using to pay them) They are never lobbying for more money for the libraries. They are lobbying and creating PR soundbites for the advantage of powerful real estate interests who want to take the public assets and turn them into money making high-end condos.

Don't buy into their lies!
April 14, 2014, 3:37 pm
Brianna from Marine Park says:
The very idea of selling off a perfectly-fine, freestanding public library to real estate developers and winding up with a much smaller library condo in the bottom and basement of a privately-owned tower should be anathema to everyone! Public libraries derive the majority of their financing from revenues and the idea that individual branches should be sold and shrunk to raise money for other branches is absurd! Sounds like cannibalism. Last year Assemblywoman Millman said she didn't think that approach made sense. Ok--where is she now? Hel-lo! If the libraries and other worthwhile things need money, obviously we can't afford any more tax abatements for developers! Similarly, BPL's using the same phony pretext at Brooklyn Heights as was used by Pres. Paul LeClerc to sell and destroy the entire 97,000 sq. ft. Donnell Library Center in midtown Manhattan, that the air conditioning is outdated, reveals their parroting of the line adopted by the NYPL's real-estate dominated Board of Trustees. Take a look at the unit on the B.H. branch roof--it says in big letters: BAC. This is a well-known air conditioning company and its website has lots of parts listed. How do we know it can't be fixed? Where is the correspondence between BPL and BAC regarding the air conditioning at the branch? Release it immediately! If they prove it can't be fixed with documentation from BAC, then replace the system but don't tear the whole building down! Councilperson Tony Avella is calling for legislation mandating more transparency at the libraries, including making them subject to FOIA. It's long overdue, pardon the pun. Hands off our libraries!
April 14, 2014, 8:02 pm
Alex Kustow from Brooklyn Heights says:
The selling of thE Brooklyn heights library is a (not even thinly disguised) land grab by the powerful wealthy board members for the benefit I'd their own ilk. Go develop in Detroit. They could use you. Andrew Carnegie must be turning in his grave over this.
Turn on the will, request proposals for the cost and scheduling of the repair of the air conditioning and get it done.with genuine will it CAN be done. It's time for publicly transparent proposals.

Stop spending public money on stadia - claimed to serve the public - whose owners can afford to build them without my tax dollars. How come these stadia - barely accessible to the public throughout the year and stand empty - get huge amounts of public taxes
May 9, 2014, 3:06 am

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