Monday, December 15, 2014

Case Study No. 1738: Rita E. Bott

Rita Bott Unmasks Skulduggery at Donnell & Central Libraries
Testimony of retired librarian and independent scholar Rita E. Bott who worked at both the Donnell and Mid-Manhattan branches of the New York Public Library.

"Beginning in 2007... a corporate-oriented administration started to implement plans to offer a lot less to the public via eliminating many jobs by experienced expert public librarians ... building sell-offs, public space square-foot shrinkage, and collections severely reduced in depth, scope and size."

"... what we began to see was a transformation of the 'People's Palace' into the 'People's Pittance'."

New York State Assembly
Standing Committee on Libraries and Education Technology
The Sale of Public Libraries in New York City

Assemblymember Micah Kellner, Chair
Assemblywoman Joan Millman
Assemblymember Walter Mosley
Assemblymember Sam Roberts

June 27, 2013, 10:30 A.M.
Assembly Hearing Room 1923, 19th Floor
250 Broadway New York, New York

Full video, audio and transcript available at: http://assembly.sta
Tags: Kellner Millman Anthony Marx Linda Johnson Offensend Nachowitz Velmanette Montgomery Letitia James Central Library Plan Donnell SIBL Mid-Manhattan New York Public Library Schwarzman Bloomberg Citizens Defending Libraries savenypl real estate developers Rita Bott Donald Christensen Bill Perkins
Added: 1 year ago
From: CitizensDefendLibes
Views: 55


Saving the New York Public Library
Posted: 07/02/2013 6:00 pm EDT Updated: 09/01/2013 5:12 am EDT

A few days ago, I wrote about why I thought it was so important to attend yesterday's hearing "The Sale of Public Libraries in New York City" convened by the NY State Assembly's Committee on Libraries and Education Technology, chaired by Assemblyman Micah Kellner. For those of you who missed the hearing and want to see and hear for yourself what happened, keep an eye on the website of the NY State Assembly, where video of the entire session will be posted in a few days. But be prepared with several buckets of popcorn before you sit down to watch: The session started at 10:30 a.m. and went on until something like 6:30 p.m. - that's my best estimate, anyhow; I had to duck out at 5:45 at make it to Sunset Park in time to help my friend Chris Russell celebrate the official opening of his bee gates there. But the 7+ hours of testimony I heard were truly eye-opening. Four members of the State Assembly attended the hearing: Kellner, Joan Millman and Walter Mosley (representing districts in NYC) and Samuel Roberts, who traveled in from Syracuse for the day. At the opening of the hearing, there were at least 125 people packed into the Assembly Hearing Room on the 19th floor of the mixed-purpose government building at 250 Broadway. Around 50 of those present had signed up to testify, which involved registering two days beforehand and submitting twenty copies of a written statement. So it's clear why the hearing lasted so long. And while the crowd thinned out in the course of the day, quite a few attendees stayed on to the end, because the testimony being presented was pretty fascinating.

The day began with opening statements from each of the Assembly members on the Committee (all spoke strongly in support of saving our public libraries from being sold off), followed by presentations by the presidents/CEOs of the New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Libraries, Anthony Marx and Linda Johnson. As a Manhattan resident, I hadn't been aware that the Brooklyn libraries are in just as much danger as their Manhattan counterparts, so I was surprised to hear Johnson arguing in support of closing and selling off two branches: the Brooklyn Heights and Pacific branches. On the other hand, I had already heard plenty about the controversial Central Library Plan (CLP) being championed by Marx, so his corporatese testimony defending his plans to sell off the popular and heavily used Mid-Manhattan Library as well as SIBL (The Science, Industry and Business Library) came as less of a shock. He emphasized the importance of minimizing all the "non-public spaces" in our libraries (i.e. all the spaces in which books are cared for and stored) and touted his successes in getting library patrons access to digital versions of "the entire corpus of commercial books." I was very pleased to see the Assemblymembers present take both CEOs quite aggressively to task. Assemblyman Kellner remarked at the end of Marx's testimony that it had left him "with more questions than answers," and Assemblywoman Millman (who holds a degree in library science) pointed out that the selling off of public buildings is at best "a one-time fix for a recurring capital need"; a library that has been closed and sold off is gone forever, while the moneys from its sale may soon be exhausted.

The ghost of the Donnell Library hung over the day's proceedings, a grim specter. This popular five-story library at 20 West 53rd Street - just north of Rockefeller Center, whose architecture it was designed to compliment - was closed in 2008 and sold to a real estate developer that at first planned to put in a hotel but instead, after the financial crisis struck, sold it to a second developer that is in the process of constructing a high-rise condo tower on the property. Part of the deal was that any new development would incorporate a new library into its design. Indeed, a new Donnell library is scheduled to reopen in summer 2014, and it's going to be located - wait for it - in the basement. The new developers have allocated 28,000 square feet for the library (less than a third the size of the old library - 97,000 sq. ft.) and almost all of this will be distributed among the two basement floors of the building, with only an entryway on ground level So, you're thinking, clearly this enormous sacrifice of a beloved neighborhood library building must have netted the library system some big bucks, right? Guess again. As came out in yesterday's hearing, the sale of Donnell netted a paltry (in real estate terms) $39 million. The penthouse apartment in the new building just sold for more than that.

The Assemblymembers referred repeatedly to the fact that the Bloomberg administration, which is on its way out, has been aggressively handing out construction contracts. They encouraged both CEOs to hold off on the further sale of library buildings until a new administration is in place; and both CEOs explained that the current climate of permissiveness suited their needs, which was why they were both hurrying to move their plans forward. In fact, the sell-off has already begun: Marx confirmed yesterday that five floors of SIBL had already been sold for $60.8 million, quite a bit less than the $100 million the NYPL spent acquiring and renovating the building in 1996. (For background on the construction and sale of that library, see the Noticing New York website.) The ghost of Donnell still walks among us.

Oh, and let me throw in some book math. Yesterday Marx estimated the collection of the Research Library as containing 8.2 million volumes (half of which are currently housed in off-site storage in Princeton, New Jersey). The Mid-Manhattan Library and SIBL together have another million, Marx said, and the new stacks that are tentatively planned to be built under Bryant Park (possibly pending a structural review?) will hold 3.2 million. This means that the number of books on site at the research library will drop by roughly half under the CLP, assuming it really is possible to house that many books in the new under-the-park stacks. So if you're doing research at the Research Divison of the library, many of the books you request will involve a waiting period of probably three days (since that's the length of time I've generally had to wait to receive books from the library's off-site storage). Marx keeps saying off-site books will arrive in 24 hours, but given past performance, I wouldn't be so quick to believe that claim.

As the hearing progressed, it soon became clear that our libraries have strong advocates both in the State Senate and on the City Council. Senator Velmanette Montgomery has been an outspoken supporter of beleaguered Brooklyn libraries ("The sell to save mentality is something we should get away from"), as are Councilmembers Letitia James ("Selling off libraries diminishes democracy") and Stephen Levin ("Public land is not there to be sold off for profit - that is not its purpose.") I hope their advocacy will be successful.

Meanwhile the rest of the hearing demonstrated that the elected officials who are fighting to save our libraries have a lot of citizen backup. The two groups Citizens Defending Libraries and Committee to Save the New York Public Library each sent a number of speakers to testify, as did the Historic Districts Council, Society for the Architecture of the City, Harlem Historical Society, Defenders of the Historic Upper East Side, the New York Landmarks Conservancy, the Park Slope Civic Council, Carnegie Hill Neighbors and Save the Pacific Street Library. There were also a number of scholars and authors (many of them with prizes like the Pulitzer and National Book Award under their belts), several retired librarians (those currently employed are apparently afraid to speak out) and a land use attorney. If I understand correctly, the written testimony submitted by each speaker will be made available on the Assembly website. I'll add a link at the bottom of this post as soon as the information is available. To start with, here's the list of speakers.

So much of what so many people said was worth repeating, but I'll be writing a book here if I try to record all of it. Author Edmund Morris described the CLP as "replacing the solidity of the stacks with the vacuousness of 'public space.'" Several scholars spoke about what it means to do research in a research collection. Pearl Hochstadt of Citizens Defending Libraries elucidated the expression "the lion's share" by reading lines from a LaFontaine fable she translated. Poet Justine Swartz rapped about our "library-slayer mayor," urging us: "renovate, don't terminate" since "It's not pretty New York City has no pity for the nitty-gritty." Followed by juggling, which she swears she "learned from a book." That was the aesthetic-pleasure part of the day. There were also lots and lots of hard facts slung around, certainly more than I am used to encountering in a seven hour period. Let me pass on a few of the things I learned during the hearing:

Christabel Gough, Secretary of the Society for the Architecture of the City, noted that the NYPL website prominently announces "Landmarks Preservation Commission Votes in Favor of Central Library Plan." The claim, Gough said, is misleading, since the Landmarks Commission rules only on the exteriors of buildings declared historic monuments and has nothing to say about interior renovations. Assemblyman Kellner noted that approving the interior renovation plans of historic buildings fell under the auspices of the New York State Historical Preservation Office (SHPO). Gough added that the Buildings Department has already issued seven permits for the construction work on the library. Architectural historians are particularly concerned, she said, about the plan to demolish the stacks - the books have already been removed from them in preparation - because in a stunning instance of form following function, the original library building was designed in such a way that the stacks physically support the Rose Reading Room. Isn't that amazing? I had no idea. Marx explained in his testimony that the engineering firm Sillman and Associates was going to take over the job of removing the structural support from beneath the Reading Room without any damage whatever to the room itself (which, unlike the stacks, has been declared a historical landmark). Does that sound to you like a good idea?

Meanwhile in Brooklyn the Pacific library is under fire, as Therese Urban (and others) testified. Built in 1903, this is one of the earliest historic Carnegie Libraries in New York City and was the only one of them to be designed specifically as a children's library with a unique configuration of stacks (the building is rectangular in front, semi-circular in back) arranged to allow a librarian to easily keep an eye of what all the kids in the back were up to. Brooklyn Public Library President Linda Johnson testified that closing this library would have little impact, as she is supporting the construction of a new library just south of BAM a few blocks away. But as a number of horrified Brooklynites pointed out, getting to this new location from the old one would force children to cross one of the most dangerous intersections in the entire state (Flatbush Ave where it crosses Atlantic), which has a shockingly high incidence of pedestrian accidents. Despite this danger, Urban said, there are strong indications that the Pacific Library will be going the way of Donnell: the building occupies 1/3 of a city block, and the other two-thirds have been leased by the city; these leases expire in two years, just when the BPL is hoping to close the Pacific Library for good. That means that this entire city block in the middle of downtown Brooklyn will be available for lucrative high-rise development at that time. This all makes perfect sense in terms of a real estate investment; the only question (given the NYPL's recent record) is who exactly will profit from such a deal if indeed it is forced on us. As Patti Hagan of Citizens Defending Libraries pointed out, the developer Bruce Ratner (who apparently already owns 22 acres of property in downtown Brooklyn) has expressed interest in acquiring this block as well.

Even more urgent is the plight of the Brooklyn Heights library. Carolyn McIntyre and Michael White, the co-founders of Citizens Defending Libraries, are particularly concerned about the fate of this one. The Brooklyn Heights Library is housed in an 1857 building that was heavily renovated in 1991. Just last week, the Brooklyn Eagle reports, "the Economic Development Corporation released a Request for Proposals (RFP) to find a developer for the roughly 26,600 square foot site at 280 Cadman Plaza West." So it's actively on the chopping block as we speak. The grounds for the sale? The air conditioning is broken, such that the library is forced to close on hot days. And the BPL claims that repairing or replacing the system would cost too much. As Rita Bott testified (she's a retired librarian who used to work on 53rd St.), this is exactly the same rationale that was used in 2008 to justify the closing and sale of the Donnell branch. Which pretty much everyone (even Anthony Marx) is now willing to admit was a complete boondoggle.

Some of the most alarming testimony came from land-use attorney Michael Hiller, who specializes in protecting public property from private developers. He said that a construction project like the CLP (a "Type 1 action") requires an environmental assessment and environmental impact statement to be made publicly available before any sort of work is allowed to begin, but when he asked to inspect the paperwork for the CLP at the Department of Buildings, he was told that the papers had been sealed with a waiting period of several weeks to several months because the library was a potential "terrorist target." Meanwhile the statute of limitations for registering objections to an action is 120 days. Which means that the CLP might be able to go ahead without appropriate review unless the paperwork is quickly made available. Assemblyman Kellner promised to look into this quickly.

Several times during the hearing, Assemblyman Kellner reiterated: "This is just the first hearing. There will be others." He also pledged to tour the Brooklyn libraries threatened with closing to draw his own conclusions as to their purportedly terminal obsolescence. I'm so grateful for his engagement with this issue. I think it may have something to do with the fact that when he was a kid (as he confessed at one point during the hearing), his neighborhood library was the Donnell branch.

Oh, and just for the record (and thanks to Therese Urban for pointing it out), kids don't like digital books. They want books printed on paper, with pictures. And as Paula Glatzer pleaded, remembering how Penn Station (the beautiful old one) fell victim to real estate developers and "progress": "Don't let our children ask: Where were you when we gutted the lion library?" How about we band together to save it instead?

Postscript: A reader just drew my attention to this New York Times article from 1987 announcing plans to build stacks beneath Bryant Park. Construction on these stacks was completed in 1989. This means that my "book math" is off - the CLP would mean moving even more books to New Jersey than I calculated above, since some of the research library's holdings are already stored under Bryant Park. In another correction: the Rose Main Reading Room isn't yet officially landmarked, though efforts are underway to secure landmark status for it.



6-27-13 Public Hearing on the Sale of Public Library Buildings in New York City

MR. CHRISTENSEN: We were meant to be a panel particular but I do know this lady as a Librarian who's helped me very much at Mid Manhattan Library.

ASSEMBLY MEMBER KELLNER: Ms. Bot if you'd like to begin.


ASSEMBLY MEMBER KELLNER: If you'd state your name for the record, you can begin.

MS. BOTT: Yes it's Rita E. Bot and I am a retired New York Public Library Librarian and I spent my whole career first at the Donnell Library Centre and then at the Mid Manhattan Library.

ASSEMBLY MEMBER KELLNER: Im sure you probably helped me then on occasion back when I was in college.

MS. BOTT: Could be. I'm speaking today for many others who cannot, including many retirees and a person who walked by during a demonstration on the Plaza in front of the Schwarzman Building and hurriedly told me of working there and being completely opposed to what is being done to it.

A retired NYPL librarian myself and an independent scholar I remember being startled and dismayed to read in the New York Times of November 7th 2007 that the Donnell Library Center's property and Building, where I had once worked for many years, one of the NYPL's Central Libraries was the subject of a signed agreement to sell it to a hotel chain.

Today I still can't believe that Donnell is now gone. 2007 seems to have marked a turning point for the Library. During the tenure of a former President, the late Timothy Healy, a colorful PR film had been produced about the NYPL and all it had to offer. Its title was "The People's Palace". Beginning in 2007, however, a corporate oriented administration started to implement plans to offer a lot less to the public via eliminating many jobs held by experienced expert Public Librarians. Changing the branch Librarian title to site or branch manager so you could no longer be assured your branch was being administered by a fully credentialed New York State Certified Public Librarian.

Building selloffs, public space square foot shrinkage and collections severely reduced in depth, scope and size. It's good to increase hours provided staff isn't abused in the process but the quality of what goes on at the Library and where it happens matters too. In that sense what we began to see was a transformation of the People's Palace into the People's Pittance.

Incredibly then President Paul LeClerc attributed the sale of Donnell a major 97 thousand square foot Mid Town Library Centre with fabulous collections to its quote "outdated air-conditioning, heating and electrical systems". The article later mentioned that "the library said it had little choice" unquote other than to sell. LeClerc said the air-conditioning was so old it required replacement parts to be specially made for it. He didn't even say whether or not the New York Public Library had filed to obtain capital budget funds to replace the unit, whether it had even tried.

In 2001 however the Library had followed that procedure and successfully obtained one million dollars to expand what had started out as the renowned Donnell Film Library into a State of the Art Media Centre within the very same building. A Donnell building falsely described a mere six years later as too decrepit even to survive. Mr. LeClerc simply pronounced that the branch's systems were too old. In this article though he didn't advertise it in the new space that that old existing Donnell's square footage would be greatly reduced. It's spacious, centrally located auditorium renovated by Neighbor on the Blocks CBS, would be lost and it's wonderful collections would be permanently cut back and or relocated as a result of the corporations inspired new plan. I knew that none of this made any sense for the public good but it was my own experiences at the NYPL that made my blood boil over the President's professed rationale for the sale.

President LeClerc and his predecessors to my knowledge had never shown any concern before about whether staff and patrons had satisfactory ventilation and air-conditioning. When we moved into the completed Mid Manhattan Library in the winter of 80-81 after years long conversion from a department store that was overseen and accepted by the NYPL and the New York State dormitory authority on day one the Library HVAC mechanical ventilation system failed to adequately exchange and propel air sufficiently, resulting in excessive heat buildup and stuffiness year round including winter. In addition it did not provide acceptable air-conditioning. In other words this is nothing new, this is from day one there was really serious problems and we were expected to live with them.

As time went on and assorted excuses wore thin the deficiencies continued and were documented years later in a report by a library hired Engineering Firm, a summary of which I obtained only through our union. For years management mostly stalled and fought the staff every step of the way, when they saw the remedy for these disgraceful conditions. If any work was grudgingly undertaking it might help one or two areas like the main office but left the worst problems untouched. Now all of a sudden we were supposed to believe that Donnell, a library where the air-conditioning had worked satisfactorily before, where it was always clean and well maintained and where the collections were heavily used each day was literally to be sold off because the air-conditioning has just broken down. After all we had been through with Mid-Manhattan for years which could and should have been remedied such an absurd notion was too outrageous for words.

Unbelievably however the story worked because Donnell is gone and the tactics employed there are serving as the prototype for more such sales. For example the Brooklyn Public Library is imitating this strategy and has just placed its impressive designed as a Library, spacious 63 thousand square foot Brooklyn Heights branch up for bid, according to a BPL Vice President who's last job just happens to have been at the New York City Economic Development Corporation and what is the pretext BPL is using? You guessed it, the air-conditioning isn't working and needs to be replaced. The latest is by the way that the heating and lighting could stand an upgrade too.

Hold everything, did the BPL follow procedure and submit capital budget request to get any of these jobs done? If so, it hasn't been mentioned including at a meeting last Thursday at which an architect hired by BPL at an undisclosed fee after repeated citizen request for documentation presented his firms findings on needed work and its projected course. Unfortunately he left the room without taking any questions from the general public present regarding his assertions. So much for community involvement.

Just one month after the initial announcement of Donnell's coming destruction at a meeting for retirees, I had an opportunity to hear more about its sale. Plans to convert the tax payer funded branch Libraries and the privately funded research Libraries into all one Library. Reductions and acquisitions such as in Science, impacting SIBL and other controversial changes from management's two Davids who both arrived in 2004. Chief Operating Officer David Offensend and David Ferriero, a Librarian who was then occupying the new title of Mellon Director of the NYPL. I believe Mr. Offensend had already left the room when I asked Mr. Ferriero why, given that access to natural light and fresh air are very valuable commodities in real estate and for the benefit of staff and public the Library had not reserved more space above ground for the new Donnell Library. He indicated that we could have done that but if we did we would have gotten less money from the sale.

There you have it. NYPL could have chosen to specify more public library space for its patrons above ground rather than in the basement of the new Hotel but it did not do so simply in order to make more money. You can see that its priorities are all wrong right there. This is especially true given that the sale of Donnell after the Library will have to devote 20 million from its proceeds to create a shrunken basement replacement branch on site, only netted 39 million which was said to be destined for branch needs, well what has it been spent for? The Penthouse alone on top of the new Hotel as we've heard before is going for a whopping 60 million. Somebody made out on this deal but it sure wasn't the Public.

In that November 7th 2007 article Paul White then-CEO of original purchaser Orient Express hotels credited Marshall Rose, Real Estate Developer and Chair of the NYPL's building committee as being "instrumental in the deal". Of course the original deal for Orient Express Hotels to build an 11 story building with connections to its already owned 21 Club fell through and was later transferred to Starwood which was building a more lucrative 50 storey apartment hotel there. But it was the original deal which closed and doomed the beloved Donnell Library Center.

Here in which I say that it's my understanding that Marshall Rose who was a Real Estate Developer and was the former Chairman of the board and was at the time Chair of the Library's Building Committee was also serving on a board of a Real Estate Company called One Liberty Properties. On that same board serving along with him was a director of Orient Express Hotels Jay Robert Lovejoy. In June 2007 Marshall Rose resigned from One Liberty Properties and just six months later the deal for Donnell was announced. So obviously they, I don't know whether that played any role in that deal but it should be known that there was a board relationship there and so...

ASSEMBLY MEMBER KELLNER: I think what's clear is that the Public got a raw deal when it came to Donnell.

MS. BOTT: Yeah absolutely. Here we are six years later and there is no public Library of any size on the block. The one that's coming in a couple of years will be much smaller. It's mostly relegated to the basement and sketches of it there are no resemblance whatsoever to the treasure that was lost.

Subsequently there came the announcement of the Central Library plan to convey even more of the Public's Library space to private purchasers. First there was the Mid Manhattan Library just a few years after the NYPL spent a hefty sum, yeah we heard it was two million, I was involved as all of the supervisors and Department Heads were in working with the architect on developing those plans, measuring, giving our input and all of a sudden it was all out the window. Those plans like Roth my [phonetic] Segal were designed to renovate the building and greatly expand it. Also on the chopping block is Science Industry and Business Library, a Library opened as recently as 1996 at a cost of 100 million in tax payer and tax advantage donor funds. It's particular advantage was to bring together similar subject collections from the 42nd Street and Mid-Manhattan Libraries into one convenient location which it does for example it features the collections of the 42nd Street Libraries former economic and public affairs divisions which had previously occupied its own reading room on the second floor, room 228 and it's neighbor the Science and Technology Division from the same floor. These privately funded divisions could go to SIBL because there were storage space available for their close stack holdings at the former B. Altman Store.

However 87 percent of SIBL space was already sold off quietly last year at a substantial loss. It's close shelf materials are believed to be stored off site now. What is to become of the rich tax payer funded Science and Business collections that came to SIBL from Mid-Manhattan. Where will service be provided and what will happen to their circulating and reference materials? What's the plan? And by the way people are always referring to Mid-Manhattan as a circulating Library but the truth it was a both circulating and reference Library, all the collections except the one on the first floor, the popular Library which is strictly circulating, they had extensive reference components.

ASSEMBLY MEMBER KELLNER: I think what is so clear about the New York Public Library is it acts as you know reference library, circulating library and in a lot of ways a museum and it seems to me that a large portion of this plan is basically saying we're going to take one of those three missions the reference Library and we're going to make it secondary to you know one of the others and that's what scares me and you know the, I don't want to live in Milwaukee, I don't want to live in Pittsburgh, those are all probably very, very nice cities, I want to live in New York and I want to live in the uniqueness that is New York.

MS. BOTT: Right.

ASSEMBLY MEMBER KELLNER: And there's something very unique about the way the New York Public Library functions and I'm sure you know that better than I ever could.

MS. BOTT: Yes. The building, the 42nd Street building was designed as a reference Library and they had a small circulating component on the 42nd street side and when Mid-Manhattan was created they closed that up, that became the Celeste Bartos Forum and then they put it on the first floor of Mid Manhattan but the overwhelming majority of that building is designed to be for reference use and they're trying to alter that balance and which is very, very short sighted and they should not be doing it. We do know that when the World Languages Library where I use to work by the way was shoehorned into Mid-Manhattan from its occupancy of the entire third floor at the doomed Donnell.

A Librarian wrote anonymously to Library Journal on 4/1/2008 "Built up for decades by Librarians who cared about their work, the World Language collection represents many languages. This collection is currently being weeded to the bone. Many Languages have simply been eliminated".

In addition the other collections still at Mid-Manhattan have been decimated and the staff is pressured to discard even more books, no doubt so the remainder will fit into the severely shrunken space available in the Centre Library plan. When I consider all this, the words of a now retired colleague come to mind, his opinion was that essentially the Library decided that the Real Estate was too valuable to waste on checking out books. I would only add that in my view they feel that in this hot market it's also felt to be too valuable to waste Mid Town's 42nd Street Library space on storing books any longer when it could be used to help selloff Public Libraries to developers.

Contrary to what they think even with electronic resources book storage space is very valuable to a major reference Library like this one was designed to be and you don't give it up.

The space under Bryant Park and any offsite space was always only supposed to be supplementary to that which was built into the building itself as an integral part of it per the original approved plans. In conclusion I can only say that the boards of trustees of the New York Public Library and the Brooklyn public Library should not wheel and deal with their Real Estate. No the New Public Library should not have looked into "Capitalizing on the asset itself" when it considered the Public's Donnell on West 53rd Street just off 5th Avenue. That's not their job.

The NYPL should have kept the poplar Donnell Library up and running along with its conveniently situated 2001 opened Mid town Media Centre both for the benefit of its neighborhood and the people who came there to use it from near and far. They should be doing the same thing that Mid-Manhattan and SIBL and should not permit the historic stacks at the City owned 42nd Street Library building to be destroyed. Similarly the BPL should not be selling off and shrinking its Brooklyn Heights branch and have plans to do the same at other library buildings currently at risk in trendy areas.

No one could ever have believed that our precious public Libraries would be permitted to be sacrificed to benefit developers, that they would not be kept safe by the trustees or be inadequately funded and maintained by the City of New York to help justify their being sold off. It's too late for Donnell but if Mayor Bloomberg somehow has over $100 million taxpayer to spend at his discretion and without discussion for gutting our City owned stacks for the Central Library plan and another nine million dollars to spend secretly without even the knowledge of the City Council on fostering private development at Hudson Yards as was exposed in the Daily News this March. Perhaps the City of New York actually can afford to fulfill its responsibility to adequately fund the public libraries we already have and to keep them in much better shape too.

Thank you.

ASSEMBLY MEMBER KELLNER: Thank you Rita. I really appreciate the time.

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