Saturday, November 9, 2013

Oops! NYPL Documents The Blank Check Mentality of Certain Reliable Supporters of Library Sales and Shrinkage

NYPL's "Voices of Support" page for the nonexistent Central Library Plan starting off with praise from the Daily News editorial page
Gotcha!  Smile!  Say Cheese!  You’re on Candid Camera!   Caught in the act!

The NYPL (New York Public Library) has just documented the blank check mentality it expects from a cast of supporters it believes can be trotted out to reliably  . .  

. . . To reliably what? We’ll get to that in a moment.                   

The other day the New York Times ran a story letting us know that the NYPL is in bigger trouble than most probably suspected.  It won't be releasing the “new” version of the Central Library Plan (now AKAing as the “42nd Street Library Renovation Plan”) this fall as planned.  The plan’s obvious flaws are too difficult to paper over in the time frame they expected!  (See: New York Public Library Postpones Release of Revised Renovation Plan, by Robin Pogrebin, October 23, 2013.)

Just so everybody knows (pardon any repetition): The Central Library Plan (CLP) is the consolidating shrinkage of more than 380,000 square feet of library space down to just 80,000 square feet of space.  Two significant pieces of Manhattan library real estate would be sold, going the way of the 53rd Street five-story Donnell Library before them: the Mid-Manhattan and SIBL (Science, Industry and Business Library).  As part of the big squeeze, the research stacks of the 42nd Street Central Reference Library would be ripped out, the books banished.

Don’t expect the “new” version of the CLP to be anything more than the old version with a new veneer, its real estate sale and shrinkage goals still intact, still preeminent and still driving all the decisions being made.

What do you do in the interim if you are the NYPL and you are beset by such difficulties?  You dig your grave deeper by putting up a "Voices of Support" page for the nonexistent plan, thus having your “supporters” on record as supporting virtually anything and virtually nothing.

Here is my comment on the Times article:
Putting up a "Voices of Support" page for a nonexistent plan? All that exists of the plan that can be supported is a plan to sell off library real estate, shrink library space way down (from more than 380,000 squarer feet to 80,000) and exile books. Statements of support from a group like Urban Librarians Unite? Research the group and see what that means. A healthy antidote to these "Voices of Support" with lots of specifics can be found in the testimony that Citizens Defending Libraries delivered at the recent City Council hearings on the sell-off of public libraries around the city, available here:
Report on Monday, September 30th City Council Hearing On Sell-off of NYC Libraries Plus Testimony of Citizens Defending Libraries
    Michael D. D. White
    Citizens Defending Libraries
The Times article doesn’t mention that furtherance of the half-baked plan may have been impeded somewhat by the two lawsuits that have been brought against the plan, including the one in which Citizens Defending Libraries (I am a cofounder) is a plaintiff.  (The article doesn’t mention the lawsuits, but comments can.)  The timing of the article was somewhat luscious in that the NYPL’s announcement came just one day after Citizens Defending Libraries delivered its 16,000 plus signature petition (most of those signatures are online) to Mayor Bloomberg at City Hall.

Who are some of these supporters the NYPL feels can be depended upon to support, sight unseen, a plan for sale of library real estate, shrinkage of libraries and banishment of books?  Urban Librarians Unite, Kathy Wylde of the New York City Partnership and the Building and Constructions Trades Council of New York.
Kathy Wylde testifying for the Atlantic Yards megadevelopment at the MTA on Monday, June 22, 2009 after it had markedly degenerated
We’ve seen Ms. Kathy Wylde in this blank-check approval mode, before when she supported the Atlantic Yards mega-development.   At an MTA hearing Monday, June 22, 2009, after the proposal for the Atlantic Yards mega-development had been vastly changed to the detriment of the public Ms. Wylde testified to support the project, speaking in terms of the Partnership’s long-term support for it, virtually oblivious to the fact that the project was so much worse and less defensible than ever.  (See: Tuesday, June 30, 2009, The Partnership for New York City's evolving (and misleading) support for Atlantic Yards.)

In the case of the NYPL’s Central Library Plan, Ms. Wylde’s blank check support will be the inverse of Atlantic Yards: In the case of Atlantic Yards, supporting the megaproject from the beginning, Ms. Wylde continued her unswerving support as the megaproject degenerated profoundly; in the case of the CLP, she is now documented as supporting from day-one a plan so bad that its authors had to withdraw it out of embarrassment.  In either case, the minimum standard for her fixed support as things shift is a discernibly low bar.

Unfortunately, what we get from power-elite representatives like Ms. Wylde is the bottom line of wealth speaking to wealth, resulting in what many of us see as rigged deals, where the vagaries of any public benefit are relegated to afterthoughts to be primped up for public consumption afterwards. . 

Support from Urban Librarians Unite for a plan about which nothing is known except that libraries will be sold and shrunk and books banished may seem strange, until you closely consider that it is almost seems as if Urban Librarians Unite was created with such support being their primary purpose.  See: Saturday, June 8, 2013, Irony Of Ironies: Urban Librarians Unite, Holding A “We Will Not Be Shushed Read In June 8 & 9th! Sign Up Now!” Event, Wanted To “Shush” Citizens Defending Libraries About It.

Support by the Building and Constructions Trades Council of New York?  I have previously observed construction unions’ Pavlovian support for what creates construction jobs irrespective of public harm:
Construction unions are interested in the churn. They are not interested in what is in the public interest (hence their partnering with Ratner). Frank Lloyd Wright once facetiously proposed that all of Manhattan be leveled and replaced by just two phenomenally enormous tall towers. I often think that if such a plan were proposed today the construction unions would be out in droves to support it, not because it was in the public interest but because it would mean a huge amount of union jobs, both demolition and construction.
(See: Friday, March 18, 2011, The Real Question to Ask About the Ratner Bait-and-Switch Approach on Atlantic Yards.)

When it comes to libraries, this reflex on the part of construction unions hurts not only the public, but also other union workers as well.  As was mentioned at a forum at Barnard College this past week (For the Public Good: Public Accountability in NYC, A panel with Elizabeth Blackmar, Aaron Pallas, and J. Phillip Thompson, Thursday, November 7, 2013) the selling off and privatization of public assets like schools and parks is often intertwined with motivations of disenfranchising union workers.

The NYPL’s false step of bringing in the construction unions and creating this documenting gallery of automatic supporters, the likes of those above, arrayed together with others such as the soundly-defeated candidate for mayor City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is probably the first work of the Parkside Group, the NYPL’s expensive new lobbyist.  News of the hiring of the Parkside Group surfaced in the New York Times the day after it was announced that the NYPL wouldn’t be releasing its plans to the public this fall. (See: New York Public Library Hires Firm to Promote Renovation Plan, by Robin Pogrebin, October 24, 2013.) 

The hiring of the Parkside Group means that, in these maneuvers of arraying all these automatic supporters and others, library administration officials are prepared to divert huge amounts of public money and charitable donations into arguing for the sell-off of these public assets for the ultimate benefit of the real estate community.  (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.)

When will the NYPL be releasing the new edition of its plans?  According to the Times the NYPL said in a statement:
We now expect to unveil the new design sometime after the New Year.
Sometime after January 1st?  What’s important about that January 1st date?  That’s the date when Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio will take office at the city helm.  It would have been impossible for the NYPL to have released more bad plans during the mayoral race as de Blasio would have had to reject them, for the sake of his campaign’s consistency and to keep himself appropriately distinguished from his opposition.  (Candidate de Blasio had already stood on the steps of the 42nd Street Central Reference Library calling for a halt to the sale of New York City’s public libraries.)  (See: 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.)

In addition, any bedraggled release of plans at the tail end of the Bloomberg administration would just associate a design rehash more firmly with the increasingly unpopular departing Bloomberg administration.  No doubt, what the NYPL will want to do is seek a willing collaborator in the de Blasio administration to make it somehow seem that they have a plan that can be considered as “new” and different and probably that the plan is even, in part, a response to Mr. de Blasio’s own high standards and insistence on improvement.  At that point they will trot out again the supporters now on record as supporting the old, discredited plan and hope that nobody will be keeping track.
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.
Will de Blasio fall for it, or, acting in collaboration, expect that others will?  During the campaign his daughter, Chiara, gave us assurance about where her father stood respecting the sale of public assets.  In the end, the sale of NYC public libraries will remain at bottom what it is: real estate deals for the benefit of developers, not the public.  I don’t think de Blasio will fall for such an NYPL ruse and I certainly hope that when it comes to these matters he will steer his own unveering course.


Unknown said...

The legitimate amount of money can be taken out to get the best deal done.

Sanola Jerry

Plos Constructions

Anonymous said...

I honestly want to know what *your* agenda is. It seems totally real estate based and not actually LIBRARY based. Urban Librarians Unite is here to preserve library jobs and keep libraries open AND STAFFED. You have no care for librarians, library workers, or NYC jobs. Without librarians, it's not a library, it's a book depository. ULU has done nothing but support libraries, library workers, and communities who need their libraries. Not to mention their amazing work during Hurricane Sandy. What were you doing during Hurricane Sandy? What have you done to get libraries like Coney Island up and running again? You don't care about libraries, you care about buildings and real estate.
In another vein, you are the weirdest and strangest anti-library people I've ever had the displeasure of meeting.