Thursday, May 12, 2016

Oddly Timed 2008 NY Observer Article Pumps Up “Ambition” For The Books- A Pitch To Those Who Would Like to Be Trustees of Brooklyn Public Library, If Not Actually Trustworthy

Found on the Massey Knakal a real estate firm website.  Text highlighted in yellow calls attention to the involvement of one of their brokers.   It is probably just a bizarre coincidence that there is a large ad for Baccarat given that when the Donnell Library was sold it was replaced, in part, by a luxury hotel using using the name.
I came up with a wonderful it-only-takes-a-little-reading-between-the-lines New York Observer article from 2008 about who should consider for themselves the prospect of becoming a trustee of the Brooklyn Public Library.

The article came out in February of that year, just a few months after Jared Kushner, the owner of the Observer (and Donald Trump’s son-in-law) had locked in a deal that benefitted from the sale of the Donnell Library that trustees of the New York Public Library tossed out munificently to the real estate industry.. . . The public, of course, losing out.

Interestingly, I didn’t come across the article on the Observer’s site; I came across it on the site of Massey Knakal, a real estate firm, where they had posted it, highlighting text in the article to show how one of their brokers, Landon McGaw, was participating.

The article starts out saying that maybe getting onto the exclusive NYPL board with Stephen Schwarzman of Blackstone (the world’s largest real estate investment firm plus much more) is out of reach when you are “jockeying for position” in New York,  but “what about Brooklyn” for opportunities?

Answer: “Cue J.P. Morgan, CitiGroup and Goldman, Sachs-and government employees (retired teachers and a Con Ed spokeswoman among them).”  Brooklyn is a borough of “Brooklyn's shiny new condos and brownstone conversions.”

Put into the words on one of the people reported on there is, “a eureka-moment story about . . . .  standing in Grand Army Plaza, the traffic circle outside of Prospect Park . . .  the imposing main branch of the BPL, and thinking, This place is changing. . . . `Why don't I engage the library?'"

Consider this startlingly frank assessment from the article (emphasis supplied):
Buried underneath the earnest and altruistic desire to help the library is, perhaps, a touch of social snobbery, a desire to use the opportunities afforded by the New Brooklyn to further one's station in life.

Then again, that's what nearly all New York-style charity has been about, and it's unrealistic to expect this new group to be any different. And it must be said that the barriers to entry are lower. .
The article spotlights BPL trustee Janet Offensend as being the BPL official leading the charge for the advertised transformation, bringing in a new set of individuals who “love a good party” (one must wonder about whether such phases are code words or dog whistles when buried in with the recitation of a lot of other altruistic claptrap.).  The article tells us about Ms. Offensend:
Janet Offensend, a fixture on the Brooklyn charitable scene for many years whose husband is the chief financial officer of the NYPL, is a library trustee who has helped marshal the Vanguard through its first few months.
What is not noted is that Ms. Offensend’s husband David Offensend, mentioned as the chief financial officer of the NYPL, is the one who arranged the sale of the Donnell Library in a deal benefitting the aforementioned Jared Kushner, owner of the Observer.  If you know that you don’t need dog whistles to figure out much more.

For further documentation about the recomposition of the Brooklyn Public Library Board of Trustees achieved in this era consider the following page of information from Citizens Defending Libraries:
Brooklyn Public Library Trustees- Identified + Biographical and Other Information Supplied
Point of disclosure: I am a co-founder of Citizens Defending Libraries, formed in 2013 in reaction to breaking headlines about library real estate deals benefitting developers, not the public.

The Observer article appears on the Observer’s website:
The Observer: Brooklyn's Bookish Ambition, By Doree Shafrir, February 22, 2008

And, as noted, on the site of real estate firm Massy Knackle.
One additional little secret to share: I also found the article because it mentioned Ethan Hawke.  Click for more information here: x

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