A Reprieve for the Stacks

Photo @Eric Walton     

This was an eventful day in the struggle to preserve the Research Division of the New York Public Library at 42nd Street from demolition. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed on Wednesday against the leadership of the NYPL successfully petitioned the judge in the case for a restraining order that the library was compelled to sign, stipulating that the Central Library Plan be put on hold until October pending a thorough independent review. This is a significant triumph for supporters of the library. Both the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times reports suggest that the NYPL willingly agreed to the postponement of the CLP, though I have it from sources in the room that it was not so. In any case, development plans for the New York and Brooklyn Public Library systems are now in the public eye, a good place for them, and I am optimistic that public oversight will help ensure that plans made for the library’s future are actually in the best interests of the libraries’ patrons and owners: the citizens of New York City.

Today also saw a rally on the front steps of the Central Library culminating with a press conference by Public Advocate and mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio, who decried the selling off of public property for private profit in NYC. Among other things, de Blasio presented an open letter he had just sent to Mayor Bloomberg, which I excerpt here:

I am writing to express my deep concern over the proposed changes to the City’s library systems in Manhattan and Brooklyn. I am calling on the City to halt the New York Public Library’s plans at the Central Library, and for a thorough, independent cost audit and review of the proposed project. In addition, I am calling for a reconsideration of the Brooklyn Public Library’s plans for the Brooklyn Heights and Pacific branches until a similar review can be completed. […]

The NYPL claims this renovation would cost $300 million and save the system substantial funds in the long run. But recent testimony by Tony Marx, President of the New York Public Library, suggested this estimate has not been corroborated by independent sources, and that the figure is preliminary. Outside critics have identified the substantial engineering challenges associated with the proposed renovation and are skeptical that the plan’s $300 million price tag wouldn’t grow much larger, potentially catastrophically so. The City should immediately halt all plans to sell Mid-Manhattan Library and the Science, Industry, and Business Library to developers until a thorough, independent, and publicly disclosed assessment is completed.

The full text of his letter and footage of the press conference can be found on the Office of the New York City Public Advocate website.

Earlier this week I sent around a letter to all the major party and “major third party” mayoral candidates asking about their position on the Central Library Plan. Not all of them got back to me, but several did; I’ll post an overview of their responses soon.

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  1. Sad, sad, sad. The exchange of knowledge for money.

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