Sunday, February 10, 2013

Petition to Save New York City Libraries

Brooklynology, the Brooklyn Public Library Brooklyn Collection blog, had a lovely post last week about the recent archive discovery of 70s and 80s videocassettes containing childrens' library raps, animations & book commercials, all of which are now available on youtube.

"Both the Library Raps from Crown Heights, and the Cortelyou Book Commericals were produced by Brooklyn Public Library's very own A/V Department. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s this department, now a thing of the past, did valuable work capturing life in Brooklyn and at the library. Sometimes it's easy to forget that the library is not just a place for preserving culture, but also for contributing to and fostering it. Free, open, and dynamic... the library, as one of our young rappers puts it, is "where all the young ladies scream and shout/ and everybody knows what the library is about."

But this freedom, for all New Yorkers, regardless of income & geographical location, is under threat.  The library systems have become caught up in the tangled web of real estate development, and as victims of city government underfunding, are being coerced into selling off and downsizing facilities.

As part of a systemwide shakeup, BPL has said it may move, downsize or consolidate an undetermined number of branches that it considers underutilized, with the system shifting from books to digital media and services.  (Daily Eagle)

To get a thorough analysis of the extent to which "demolition by neglect" (Michael Kimmelman, NY Times) and rampant development threaten our city libraries, take the time to read the excellent series of posts written by Michael D D White at Noticing New York.

January 31st

February 1st

February 3rd

February 9th

It's sordid stuff. Take, for example the fate of the Pacific Branch, pawn in the plans of both Forest City Ratner (to use the site as an extension of the Yards empire) and Walentas Two Trees, who, as a means to get zoning approval for an expansion to their development site near BAM, throw in a relocated library as part of the deal. From Noticing New York (February 1):

"The city wants to close the Pacific branch library . . And what is envisioned as the plan whereby the public can get that library back? The public will have to approve greater density for a new Walentas Two Trees development building that will include such a library. Here is the developer’s public spiel as to why they should get greater density for their proposed project (nearly double the number of apartments currently permissible) with a zoning change in order to give the library back to the public (emphasis supplied):
"The development company claims putting about 300,000 square feet of apartments above 50,000 square feet of commercial space and cultural offerings — including three Brooklyn Academy of Music theaters, a new home for the Pacific Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, and a rehearsal space managed by 651 Arts — is a far better proposal than the tallest possible structure it could build without a zoning change, which would set aside about 152,000 square feet for arts and commercial tenants and 171,000 square feet for housing. (Brooklyn Paper) "  "

The Brooklyn Heights Association holds its annual meeting at St. Francis College tomorrow night (7:30 p.m., at 180 Remsen Street, in the Founders Hall auditorium. With their input into Community Board 2 decision making, they could affect the board's decision on the Walentas expansion.  This decision will secure or damn the future of the Brooklyn's first Carnegie library over at Fourth & Pacific.  If you can, go to the meeting.

Even if you can't attend meetings, you can contribute to the library debate with your signature. If you care about the future of our city's libraries, and if you are appalled to see them as "hostages for development", please join the Petition to Save New York City Libraries from Bloomberg Developer Destruction, and encourage your friends to do likewise.  Sign it for freedom of opportunity for ALL New Yorkers.


Laura Goggin Photography said...

It saddens me to think our society no longer values libraries above development.


One Cheer said...

Signed as well.

onemorefoldedsunset said...


JM said...

This city has its values upside down. But that's obvious and has been for years now...