Conservancy Testifies Against Plans to Sell Libraries to Private Developers
Pacific Street Branch Library, Brooklyn
June 28, 2013
The Conservancy testified against current plans to sell branch libraries yesterday at a New York State Assembly Hearing that also heard elected officials and residents denouncing the loss of the City’s cultural and architectural heritage.
More than 50 persons signed up to testify in the packed hearing room at 250 Broadway.
New York City’s historic library buildings are some of its most valuable assets. They represent fine civic architecture and are vital to long-time residents and new populations. The Conservancy has been dismayed to see both the New York Public Library and the Brooklyn Public Library unveil plans that would mean the loss of several significant structures.
The Conservancy also noted that the City long-supported branch libraries throughout the Boroughs and that the decline in adequate funding must be remedied.
Brooklyn Councilmembers Steve Levin and Letitia James also testified the before the New York State Assembly Standing Committee on Libraries and Education Technology. The hearing was specifically called to examine the impact of selling public library buildings to private developers.
The Councilmembers were very vocal in their opposition to the Brooklyn Public Library’s plans to sell the boroughs oldest Carnegie Library. They had a myriad of questions about the Library’s capital maintenance plans and concern that loss of the Pacific Street Branch would be a significant blow to the community.
State Senator Velmanette Montgomery of Brooklyn said she was “in a panic” over the potential loss of the Pacific Street Branch.
A Library spokesman said recently that the Pacific Street sale is off “for now” (see related story) while the sale of the Cadman Plaza branch will go ahead as planned. But that did not calm or satisfy opponents of a Pacific Street Branch sale.
The Assembly panel, chaired by Micah Kellner, also heard from numerous speakers representing the Park Slope Civic Council, Citizens Defending Libraries, Committee to Save the New York Public Library and representatives from civic groups and researchers who denounced the potential reduction in library functions.
Dr. Anthony Marx, President and CEO of the New York Public Library and Linda E. Johnson, President and CEO of the Brooklyn Public Library defended their institutions plans as necessary to save money in a difficult fiscal environment. Johnson also repeated that the Pacific Street Brand sale is off “for now.”
Assemblyman Kellner said the hearing was the first in a series of “conversations” he intended to hold on this contentious issue.