Funding Public Services Through Real Estate Development

Friday, March 29, 2013

Julia Vitullo-Martin, director of the Center for Urban Innovation at the Regional Plan Association and Tom Angotti, director of the Hunter College Center for Community Planning and development, discuss the tactic of funding public housing projects, libraries, schools and post offices through developing real estate.


Tom Angotti and Julia Vitullo-Martin

Comments [14]

Christabel Gough from Greenwich Village

The first sale of a library to raise funds from real estate was the Donnell: it turned out that there was no adequate commitment from the developer, the library has not been built, the site is under new ownership, and the new library (if it is ever built) is expected to be smaller than the old. Meanwhile years of library use are lost. Apparently the powers that be are not ashamed: now we have proposals to sell more branches, Brooklyn Heights, Pacific, Mid-Manhattan and SIBL. After Donnell, why should we imagine there will be adequate protection of the public interest? What is worse, NYPL plans to gut the stacks out of the beautiful Central Library at 42nd Street, and pack Mid-Manhattan and SIBL into the inadequate space that will create. Library lions should roar against such exploitation!

Mar. 29 2013 04:37 PM
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn Heights

If these plans were really about funding libraries (which they are not) then wouldn’t all the proposed redevelopment resulting in a bigger, denser city (a presumably wealthier one, if this is really a such a brilliant strategy) mean that we should then have bigger, better libraries rather than shrunken down libraries and a shrunken down underfunded library system?

Citizens Defending Libraries

Mar. 29 2013 12:18 PM
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn Heights

Unfortunately, at the very end of this segment the moderator puts out as a `correction’ some importantly inaccurate information saying that the sale of the libraries is not about shrinking the system because, she said (real estate industry narrative talking point) the `libraries are being put back.’ No they are not. The same libraries are not being put back. As with Donnell, Brooklyn Heights and the consolidating shrinkage of the Central Library Plan, smaller, shrunken down library facilities are replacing what is being torn down, sold off.

The real estate people now running the library systems say that when they do their measurements they aren’t shrinking down the libraries so much as people think because they are getting rid of the books. Then they try to say they aren’t getting rid of the books because they are just turning the books into a “back office” (off-site) operation, that somewhere there will be places where books will be sent to and come from if you bother to request them and are willing to wait a day to two, or three.

This is shrinkage and these plans for shrinkage are (like the secretive and suddenly announced Donnell deal) top-down designed plans intended to benefit real estate developers to whom deals with be handed out in suspect RFP processes substituting for competitive bid processes.

Once again: Citizens Defending Libraries is fighting these deals that they are trying to force through before the end of the Bloomberg administration. Citizens Defending Libraries has an easy-to-sign online petition and campaign. It is getting the attention of our elected representaives and those running for office. You can find out more about this and get to the petition on the web by Googling: “Citizens Defending Libraries.”

Mar. 29 2013 12:10 PM
Taher from Croton on Hudson

The reduction of public funding for libraries and other civic institutions will lead to more class divisions between those who have and those who have not.
In this case those who can will have access to information and those who can not will not.
To privatize then is for those who can afford to use a library since private liberties may ultimately charge fees.

Economic differences via privatization of public institutions that the right wing Manhattan Institute has been proposing for ever will have extreme consequence.
One of which is having huge numbers of Americans who can not be employed because they simply are not educated to compete in a global world.
Mass of people with nothing do and nothing to hope for can overwhelm a society to function.

Mar. 29 2013 12:03 PM
Joan from Brooklyn

Hey, what's the matter guys? Don't you want a city where those of us who work for a living can be bussed in to service the wealthy, the hip and the debt riven wannabes who are overrunning even working class neighborhoods like Bushwick?

Mar. 29 2013 12:02 PM
Alyson from Ditmas Park

When "mixed income" housing is discussed, its always NYCHA vs luxury development. Um, there is a middle between that. Why do they never factor in working people/ middle class who need affordable housing too. Think of those that are priced out of Park Slope, Williamsburg etc. The city can't be just extremely wealthy and extremely poor. That's why the schools are so bad. NYC needs to retain middle class people. Maybe make developments with the middle class in mind. The middle class uses the resources like libraries the most.

Mar. 29 2013 11:58 AM

No Ms. V-M, Parking lots are NOT "blight."

What happens if the RE market sinks just as the 80/20s are breaking ground??? Oops, no "private subsidy."

The answer is to put a fire under the WH, HUD, etc.

The development plans are available at the NYCHA webside showing all planned development.

Has anyone at WNYC checked them out?? You'll see proposed buildings going up next to public schools - which won't help student concentration during construction.

To lose more libraries.

Ms. V-M help us relieve that pressure by raising taxes on those that can afford it.

Mar. 29 2013 11:49 AM
Margaret Stix from Brooklyn

I understand that NYCHA pays the city for police protection and sanitation services and that this amount equals the amount of the shortfall in the budget. No other owner is individually responsible for these services and I think if the City shouldered these costs, this would not be necessary.

Mar. 29 2013 11:46 AM

Amen to that last caller on 11:40am.

Mar. 29 2013 11:42 AM

Selling off public assets is a one-off non-solution which strips more public assets from Government.

Ms. Vitullo-Martin seems unwilling to admit all the bad that has been done to public education, etc. with public support for private enterprises whether charter schools, public housing, etc.

This is more looting of Public Assets.

The biggest problem with these ideas is that there is no oversight to stop sweetheart deals that benefit developers . not NYCHA & not NYCHA's residents.

It's Bloomberg gypping NY on his way out & helping his Wall ST comrades.

Mar. 29 2013 11:42 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

It's a "win-win" for developers.

Mar. 29 2013 11:33 AM
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn Heights

As the Citizens Defending Libraries campaign and online petition (approaching 9,000 signatures) has been calling attention to, the sale of libraries is really about the stripping of real estate assets out of the system, not about properly funding the libraries.

That’s been true since the 2008 Donnell Library closing that involved shrinking the system. The Central Library Plan is a consolidating shrinkage, including effectively decommissioning 42nd Street's Central Reference Library. Brooklyn Heights' library sale closely clones Donnell's shrinkage.

The Brooklyn Public Library's CEO, Linda Johnson, admitted (to the Daily News Oct 2011) that money from the Brooklyn sales doesn't go to the libraries or that the BPL, not prioritizing public benefit, fixed upon selling properties without arranging for money to return.

Underfunding of libraries, the excuse to sell them, is Mayor Bloomberg's program. We fund our libraries less than Detroit when libraries are one of the highest priorities of community boards and usage is way up?

Citizens Defending Libraries has a new petition (8,500+ signatures) protesting this unjust, shortsighted policy that is going to hurt the city economically and will also cause enormous distrust of the leaders responsible for the plundering of these irreplaceable assets.

Find Citizens Defending Libraries on the web and sign our online petition, joining the campaign to fight back.

Mar. 29 2013 11:26 AM
Daniel Pecoraro from Manhattan

As an urbanist and former library intern, I am vehemently against selling off public buildings - especially to private developers. The Brooklyn Heights library is in a fantastic location - it's smack dab between DUMBO and the area surrounding Borough Hall - and between the regular circulating wing and the Business Library wing, it's an important resource for Brooklyn Heights residents, Brooklynites and all New Yorkers. The same goes for the Mid-Manhattan Library in the NYPL system (I think that SIBL could be sold back to CUNY with little shake-up) - it's in a fantastic location in Midtown and is used by a great many people who may not go into the imposing Schwarzman Building. And as Zadie Smith has said, the amount of buildings one does not have to pay to enter is an important resource - and libraries are one of those places.

Mar. 29 2013 11:07 AM
Susan from Morningside Hts.

Who will really "own" these schools, libraries and other public services once they are housed on private property? And who will have veto power over whether those entities will be allowed to stay there long-term? Once the presumed tax abatements run out, what if the buildings' private owners decide to replace schools and libraries with big box stores?

Mar. 29 2013 10:34 AM

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