Sunday, November 3, 2013

Candidate Lhota's Flub!: He thinks library lovers don't read the Wall Street Journal!!- Checking In On Mayoral Candidates’ Library Positions, de Blasio vs Lhota

"Libraries Not Luxury Condos"? Or "Hospitals Not Luxury Condos"- Same thing, really, although a little Photoshop magic helped this de Balsio campaign ad bridge the very small difference. 
Here is some bad news for New Yorkers who love their libraries (somewhat ameliorated) coupled with some good news, all courtesy of the Wall Street Journal.

The bad news is that Joe Lhota the Conservative Republican candidate for NYC Mayor and former NYC budget director, who ought to be a model of fiscal probity, loves the inanity of spending what could easily be around a half billion dollars on the NYPL's Central Library Plan (now redubbed “42nd Street Library Renovation.”) to sell and shrink NYC Libraries.  Lhota gave a quote to this effect for publication, apparently believing that library lovers don't read the Wall Street Journal.  Wrong!  Maybe Mr. Lhota believes that only real estate developers and Stephen A. Schwarzman's friends read the Journal.  This singular ineptitude handily illustrates why Lhota has virtually no chance of being elected mayor this year.  Library lovers can consider those odds the ameliorating factor.

The good news is that candidate de Blasio, through his spokesperson quoted in the Journal, sounds as firmly on the side of library lovers as ever.

Here is what's in the Journal about each of the candidate’s positions on that sell-off of libraries and consolidating shrinkage whereby the NYPL's Central Library Plan would cram the 300,000 square feet of space from the Mid-Manhattan and Science, Industry and Business Library (SIBL) into a very small amount of space in the Central Reference Library whilst ripping out its venerated and historic research stacks.   
Mr. de Blasio has called for a financial audit and review of the project and, according to his spokesman, "believes that it was made without enough forethought to the building's historical and cultural integrity."

As for Mr. Lhota?

"I love it," he said of the renovation. "We've got to make sure that our facilities change and evolve with the world around us."
(See: NY Culture- On Arts, Mayor 'a Hard Act to Follow'- New York's Cultural Institutions Are Wondering: What's Next? By Jennifer Maloney, Oct. 31, 2013.)

We should heartily thank the Wall Street Journal for this report.  What’s tragic is that no other local news organs have yet covered the split between the candidates on this issue, including, very importantly, the New York Times and WNYC.  The issue not being reported upon is actually much bigger. . .  The Central Library Plan is essentially an even larger scale version of the Donnell Library sell-off debacle.  .  Together, they are emblematic of citywide plans to sell and underfund libraries as the system is shrunk at a time of significantly increasing use.

Since the beginning of his campaign Mr. Lhota has been unwilling to supply Citizens Defending Libraries (a group I helped found) with a statement of his position about the sale and shrinkage of city libraries.   When Citizens Defending Libraries held its Mayoral Forum on Libraries August 30th Mr. Lhota’s campaign feinted  (declining to attend the forum), saying that Mr. Lhota soon wished to meet with Citizens Defending Libraries to supply his campaign postion on the sell-offs.  He never did.

Meanwhile, Mr. Lhota’s campaign posted the following on its website.  It is the only mention of libraries and it is a reference to selling public property, selling their air rights (emphasis supplied):
As mayor, Joe will:

    * * * *
Undertake a complete inventory of vacant and underutilized land in New York City to create more opportunities to develop affordable housing. For example, if a post office shuts down, we should use that land for affordable housing.

Undertake a complete inventory of available air rights from city-owned properties like schools, libraries and firehouses to create revenue for the city, while incentivizing developers to utilize the air rights to create low and middle income housing—housing that can be affordable for our teachers, firefighters, police officers and other civil servants.

]Utilize land-use planning studies of various neighborhoods to plan and target areas to upzone.  The goal is to permit large scale development where we can mandate low and middle income units as part of the rezoning.
It is a campaign stance (campaign stances are invariably tailored to sound good) and doesn’t actually say that the city’s libraries would be closed and shrunk when the development rights that go with them are sold off as is presently exactly what’s happening.  Instead of allowing that the sell-offs might result in top-of-the-market luxury condominiums, hotels or office towers which is what is, in fact, what’s actually happening now, it holds out the campaign-promise carrot of affordable housing.  Really?  What it describes sounds too uncomfortably close to what is presently happening.  Indeed, why does it fail to say that we won’t continue to sell libraries for shrinkage?  That’s suspicious, and if there is any doubt about where Mr. Lhota’s judgements might take him on these things he has cleared it up by giving his enthusiastic endorsement of the Central Library Plan to the Journal.

There is also the issue of how Mr. Lhota judgement when it comes to public-private partnerships brought into play for the selling of libraries and how this get confused and perceptions manipulated when it comes to who is actually benefitting from them, the public or the private "partner"?  (See: Wednesday, September 26, 2012, Promoting Obfuscation of What Government Does and Doesn’t Do To Give The Private Sector (Including Ratner) More Credit, but compare Monday, October 28, 2013, Across from arena, Lhota slams de Blasio (again) on Atlantic Yards, claims Ratner close to default on MTA railyard last year (video) .

Mr. de Blasio on the other hand has come out against the sell-off of public assets, libraries and other properties like hospitals and NYCHA public housing.  For more on Mr. de Blasio’s position calling for a halt to the selling off of public libraries see the following from Citizens Defending Libraries (two other candidates still on the ballot for Mayor, Randy Credico of the Tax Wall Street Party and Green Party candidate Anthony Gronowicz, heartily oppose the library sell-offs and shrinkages): Mayoral Forum on Libraries Held August 30, 2013 and PHOTOS & VIDEO & MORE- First half of July 2013: Two lawsuits against the Central Library Plan, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio Comes Out Against CLP.

Chiara de Blasio, candidate de Blasio's daughter vouching for her father about the the sell-offs of public assets we won't see if her father is elected.
The fact that Mr. de Blasio is prominently opposing the sale of public property across the spectrum provides important reassurance, as does the fact that he is likely to be kept in check by the new Public Advocate, Tish James, a fellow Democrat who comes into office after a crushing 60-40 defeat of her opponent during the primary run-off likely due in part to the fact that Ms. James opposed the selling off of libraries early and steadfastly.  (See: Monday, September 23, 2013, Sell-Offs Of New York City Libraries Gets Focus In Public Advocate Runoff Race Between James and Squadron.)

In one of Mr. de Blasio’s most frequently run campaign ads he features his daughter and his son with his daughter assuring the voters that her father would not sell off hospitals for “luxury condos.”  That’s basically the same as the library issue.  And his kids vouch for him on this!
In campaign ad candidate de Blasio's daughter vouches her father won't sell off public assets like hospitals
By the way, while we must thank the Wall Street Journal for covering the candidate split on this library issue, one of our readers commented about the Wall Street Journal that it seems to represent Mr. Bloomberg to be an important “philanthropist” (“As a philanthropist, he is believed to have given more than $200 million to arts and social-service organizations since 2002”) that isn’t really the case.  More on what’s really the case here:  Wednesday, March 6, 2013, Bloomberg’s Increasing Annual Wealth: 1996 to 2013, Plus Updates On His Annual “Charitable” Giving.

The reader is correct.  Credit is often given where it isn’t due.  This Monday night, on the eve of the election for the new Mayor, the NYPL will anomalously give its headline award at its annual fund raiser to Mr. Bloomberg, who as mayor is responsible for an unprecedented defunding of the city’s libraries (see below) while presiding over plans to sell them.  (See: Wednesday, October 30, 2013, Conundrum For Those Wanting To Donate To Libraries: People Who Would Use Our Donations To Shrink and Sell Off Libraries.)

That downward blue line on funding while use (upward lines) ascended is what Bloomberg did to the libraries just after his third term was won and just as he was blessing the sell-off of NYC libraries

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