Streams

New York Public Library President on the Library's Controversial Renovation Plans

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Last week we looked at the criticism of the New York Public Library's renovation plans for its Fifth Avenue building, and today, New York Public Library President Anthony Marx discusses the renovation project and the opposition to it.

Guests:

Anthony Marx

Comments [40]

Mark Alan Hewitt FAIA from Bernardsville, New Jersey

Tony Marx is prevaricating or dodging questions. The stacks were to be demolished under several building permits that were taken out in June. Our lawsuits stopped this. The stacks were renovated in 1992 with "state of the art" climate control and fire protection systems. These systems were either turned off or not maintained. The "public space" argument is specious and disingenuous in the extreme. Mid-Manhattan and SIBL will be drastically reduced if moved to 42nd Street, which cannot accommodate the two no matter how many existing spaces are renovated. His comments about our lawsuits were insulting and completely false. A scandalous performance.

Jul. 27 2013 08:06 PM
Carolyn McIntyre from Brooklyn Heights

Bravo Leonard Lopate, an excellent interview and you hit so many of the important points in a relatively short period of time.  It is a bit like reading The Emporers New Clothes in which the naked emporer is parading in public and doesn't realize that everyone is pretending he has clothes on but he doesn't.  Marx is a very friendly and likeable guy.  I feel sorry for the position he is in of providing cover for real estate shell games.  He is doing quite a dance in not honestly answering the questions about shrinking space and selling libraries at below market value.  I am sure the followup questions you could have asked him, given a longer segment, would have been devasting.  I might feel more sorry for Marx, but for the fact he is making a seven figure salary while librarians are making five figure salaries.   
Carolyn McIntyre
Citizens Defending Libraries

Jul. 26 2013 10:33 PM
Retired NYPL librarian

Thank you for your caring and informative programs.

Some years ago, after hiring the consulting firm, Booz Allen (known principally for its work with the Defense Dept.) NYPL started quietly, without informing staff or public, to change its modus operandi from being one of the world’s great research libraries , open to the general public, to being mainly a center for New York City community activities. The funny thing is that it always provided great community services through its 86 branch libraries located in many different city neighborhoods.

Working with Booz Allen, NYPL started little by little to close some of its research divisions at the 42nd building, such as the Slavic and Asian Divisions, dispersing their staffs and collections. Then, it proceeded to cut severely the staff and acquisitions budgets of other research divisions such as SIBL, the Library for the Performing Arts and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. There was talk of eventually even closing down these research divisions and buildings, and merging small parts of them into the 42nd St. building.

When NYPL stresses that their proposed reconfiguration of the 42nd St. building will usher in an era of improved democratic access to the public, that is a blatantly misleading statement. Throughout its past, NYPL has always been one of the most democratic of great public institutions, offering educational lifelines to vast amounts of the public, both local, national and international,through its many neighborhood branch libraries, as well as its four major research libraries. Many past and present members of the public, some of whom later became well-known scholars, writers, artists, critics etc, have attested to the fact that because of their free, unfettered access to NYPL’s great research collections, they were able to self educate themselves, when some of them were not able to afford attendance at universities etc.

It appears that NYPL, as they cut back on their acquisition of research materials, and specialized staff, would prefer that people needing to do research in various specialties, use nearby universities that may have collections in these areas. It remains to be seen if such universities would agree to allow these non-university members to have access to their materials. Some people may even have to travel to Washington, DC to do their research at the Library of Congress, which is open to the public, but has its own schedule and access restrictions. By the way, Library of Congress once consulted with Booz Allen, who also tried to advise them to disperse their research collections to various other institutions. The Librarian of Congress turned them down cold on this suggestion. But it would appear that NYPL heeded their advice in this area.

So much for the improved democratic access to NYPL’s increasingly diminished collections!

Jul. 25 2013 11:21 AM
Marilyn Berkon from Brooklyn, NY

I must add to what I said in my other comment on today's show. Marx says he is funding our branch libraries in the city with 250 million dollars. Then why do we now have all these library closings? It seems that air conditioning has been the excuse to close down, sell off our libraries. An air-conditioning problem was the excuse for selling off the Donnell. The absurdity for that must be clear to everyone. We all know that that the need for repair is the excuse given to sell city property to private real-estate developers for their high-rise luxury buildings. What is really behind this destructive, dangerous plan at our cherished 42nd Street Library is the interest of those developers. We must consider the true needs of the people in this city and of the multitudes visiting from elsewhere. We cannot bend to the arrogant greed of those who, for their own private gain, only pretend to know what we need. I wish Anthony Marx had been altogether open with us during his interview with Leonard Lopate.

Jul. 24 2013 05:00 PM
Mark Hurwitt from Brooklyn Heights

Thank you for doing a show on this important issue and thank you for speaking to some of the public's concerns. Marx is a slick spokesman but he lost his cool when you pressed him on Donnell and said obvious lies like the collections were taken to other "better located" libraries where they get triple the usage. How can you be better located than on the same block as MoMA? Marx clearly didn't have the courage to face his critics on last week's show.
Again, thank you. Please do a future show on the threatened demolition of Brooklyn's Cadman Plaza branch which also houses Brooklyn's business library.

Jul. 24 2013 04:44 PM
Marilyn Berkon from Brooklyn, NY

Answers from Anthony Marx were shrouded in deceit. We did not learn, for example, why the existing stacks could not be upgraded for temperature, humidity controls and fireproofing. The stacks are now empty, an especially good time to complete that job. This was accomplished recently with great success at the historic Bibliotheque nationale de France.

Nor can we be certain how many books are presently beneath Bryant Park, how many books it will be able to accommodate for the future, how safe and modern its system for storage. Nor do we know exactly how many books have been shipped to New Jersey for storage. Vague numbers like 85% of the books most used by researchers are beneath Bryant Park cannot give us real information. The books from New Jersay will take several days to ship back for researchers. Consider the expense of that, too, and the pollution from its trucks. And, of course, the library is effectively destroyed as a research institution, if researchers must wait for days.

Marx tells us that some stacks would remain standing to be used in the new circulating library. How are those stacks suddenly safe for the books without the proper temperature, humidity controls and fireproofing? And how would visitors there browse in stacks that are seven stories high? Those books would be inaccessible to them! Then he says that the existing stacks would not be removed at all until the new structural system is tested. How can the new system be tested while the stacks are still there supporting the building? We know that these stacks are the architectural heart of the building intricately connected to the magnificent two-block long Rose Reading Room. We have no certainty from these plans that the building would remain standing. And what do we get for all this expense and danger--an inadequate circulating library!

Marx claims that he is opening up 70% more space to the public. He is not referring to the small area for the circulating library, but to rooms elsewhere in the library that could be opened anyway without destroying the stacks. And researchers do not need special rooms reserved for their use. They need speedy access to books, which they could read happily in the Rose Reading Room, open to everybody, designed in all its gracious beauty for just that purpose.

Marx tells us that he could not close the Mid-Manhattan branch across the street for repairs because it would strand a million and a half visitors. Where would people using the Central Library go during demolition of the stacks and the construction that follows? The noise and toxic air could not be tolerated. That library would be closed, stranding far more visitors. Moreover, minor repairs at the Mid-Manhattan across the street would allow that branch to remain open more easily during upgrading. If he wants a great circulating library, he already has one there. Just fix what is needed in that branch at far less expense.

Jul. 24 2013 04:39 PM
Rose

i'm very unhappy to see the great library turning into an architectural mausoleum. bring back the books!

Jul. 24 2013 02:46 PM
A. S. Evans from Manhattan

Thanks for focusing attention on our NY public libraries.

In 20 years in using the NY libraries I have seen a dramatic increase of library patrons. Even to the point of having a hard time finding a place to sit.

I'm opposed to locating library books and materials to off-site storage. I've tried to access off-site stored books. It's not convenient and not easily retrieved.

NY public libraries, along with the many books, media and information that it houses, are our greatest treasures.

Jul. 24 2013 02:33 PM

I agree with Martha. There was no feedback on Marx's comments. His spin was all smoke and mirrors. Another point, if this architect who is planning the renovation of the central library renovated and built a new concert space at Carnegie without closing the concert hall, why can't he renovate the Mid Manhattan branch while it is still in use???

Jul. 24 2013 02:12 PM
Carol Krinsky from New York City

Dr. Marx spoke of having to close Mid-Manhattan in order to renovate it. Other buildings have been renovated floor by floor or system by system without shutting them down. I hope he will investigate an incremental process and not think only of having to shut the building.
Dr. Marx did not directly answer the question about culling books. He spoke only of moving books from one branch to another to meet requests from users, as has long been done. Have books been culled, as some people report?
Dr. Marx mentioned an article published last year that apparently denigrated some public users of the Central Research Library. The writer's feelings are not those of most users of the research library; we welcome new researchers no matter what they're wearing. That article should not be used to establish library policy or to suggest that researchers are all snobs. Researchers are working people who need books delivered efficiently; that's all. And so far, many books have not been delivered in 24 hours.
On space for books: Spaces now not used to store books in the Central Research Library can be used for that purpose, not for carrels for a few scholars. Space now used for a charming children's room in what's not a residential neighborhood can be given back to book storage. The stacks are not useless and no one wants them preserved just empty, as Dr. Marx implied. Readers want the stacks to have improved climate control and then be re-filled with the books that have now been taken somewhere for storage.

Jul. 24 2013 01:19 PM

"lucy from Brooklyn" wrote (12:00 noon):

"I would like to hear more about the library strategy group, whose members are paid six and seven figure salaries at a time when the library staff is being decimated and they can't fix air conditioners and are closing libraries and shortening hours."[...]

What about Dr. Marx's salary?

Does anyone recall when, during the 2010 gubernatorial candidate debate, the Libertarian candidate pointed-out the $600,000 salary that the head of the New York Public Library receives?

A quick search just now suggests that Marx's base salary in 2010 was $684,550. ( Available to subscribers-only :
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204358004577032612957813508.html )

(That's more than New York Public Radio President & CEO Laura R. Walker's roughly $500,000 salary and almost /double/ the MTA chairman's $350,000. But at least with WNYC and the MTA, one can easily find such info. Good luck trying to find-out what Amy Goodman's salary is. "Hypocrisy Now!" indeed...)

Jul. 24 2013 01:14 PM
Martha from Brooklyn

While I was pleased to see that Leonard Lopate posed questions suggested in public comments, he seemed to conduct this interview in a way designed to give Marx a platform to give disingenuous, misleading answers. I understand that it is difficult to get up to speed on a complex affair that has been developed in secrecy. However, the show could have had a knowledgeable representative of the thoughtful people and groups that oppose this plan—either in person or by telephone—to ask follow-up questions. Simply asking questions without any follow up to pierce the fog of Marx's spin is inadequate journalism and does not serve the public's need for real information on a plan that will have serious consequences for the cultural and economic future of our great city far into the future.

Jul. 24 2013 01:12 PM

Marx just said the books from the research collection will go under Bryant Park. Those shelves down there were built in 1989 (http://blog.bryantpark.org/2010/08/from-archive-library-under-lawn.html) - now he wants us to believe they've been empty all this time? I don't think so.

The new Donnell Library he calls "spectacular" is located in TWO BASEMENT FLOORS of the building replacing the one NYPL sold at a loss in what seems to have been a sweetheart real estate deal. Marx must like basements.

If Mid-Manhattan is to be a "crown jewel" in the system, why not renovate it in its own nice sunny site? Or is it to be sold in another sweetheart deal? Seems so fishy. And it's not as run-down as all that - he's exaggerating to make it seem like a doomed space, but it's not. It's sure getting short on books though - clearly they're being moved out - to make the library seem less functional?

Marx told LL one minute that he's working on a plan to keep the stacks; then two minutes later he said that the stacks won't be removed until after the Rose Reading Room is shored up. He's not planning to keep them. And no, they won't work as stacks for a lending library, since the "floors" of the stacks are only 7' high and there are only tiny skinny windows, designed to protect the books from damaging light. Changing the windows would violate the exterior of the building, which has been designated a historical landmark and thus is protected from architectural changes like this.

I wish LL had asked Marx who would be doing the "independent" assessment of the plan. Will it just be a consulting firm hired by the NYPL?

Jul. 24 2013 01:11 PM
Tom from Brooklyn

It is important that you had Marx on the show. Leonard Lopate asked the right questions, but there was no follow. Marx spoke in a combination of generalities and distortions. I hope there will be others invited on the show who are associated with the law suits and the architectural journalists who have been critical and have more facts than Marx was willing to put on the table.

Jul. 24 2013 01:03 PM

Wait, no call-in while Marx was on the show?? He said so many misleading things that needed rebuttal. Did he make you refuse to take calls as a condition of his appearing on the show???

Jul. 24 2013 01:01 PM
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn Heights

The new Donnell "spectacular"? It will be spectacularly reduced in size, spectacularly underground, spectacularly bookless and spectacularly unlibrarylike.

Jul. 24 2013 12:59 PM
Jason Kucsma from Manhattan

NYPL's CLP mirrors what libraries are doing nationwide, mainly thinking strategically and creatively about how we can continue providing services to our communities in the face of decreased public funding. Detractors from this plan (and Brooklyn Public Library's plan) are essentially asking for the preservation of the status quo, ensuring the obsolescence of the library and doing a great disservice to the general public.

Jul. 24 2013 12:56 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

Charlatan is the word that comes to mind when I listen to Dr. Marx--but it would seem he's determined to keep people from accessing the resources necessary and provided by the NYPL to learn exactly what that means.

Stop with the celebrity-kissing, flashy private events, and real estate whoring. Unfettered access for the taxpayers and library patrons (with a small P) is the only thing you need improve.

This is tantamount to the privatisation of our beloved parks. Don't let it happen!

Jul. 24 2013 12:56 PM
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn Heights

The five-story, 97,000 square feet Donnell across from MOMA was sold to net the NYPL only %39 million? The penthouse apartment (about 7,500 sq ft)in the fifty-story building going up there now is on the market for $60 million.

We paid $100 million to build SIBL in 1996. . . and just sold almost 90% of it for just $60.8 million?

Jul. 24 2013 12:54 PM
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn Heights

The permits that have been filed are essentially demolition permits even though they were carefully written to technically not be "demolition" permits, there are.

Jul. 24 2013 12:47 PM
Nick from UWS

Do not do ANYTHING to destroy that beautiful building both inside and out. We don't need ANYTHING even remotely resembling what happened to Penn Station, the shame of this city, to happen to that library.

Jul. 24 2013 12:46 PM

Has anyone ever examined the inventory of the NY Public Libraries for evidence of bias? (In the form of disproportionate numbers of titles that favor particular points-of-view and ideologies.)

That would make for a most worthy topic to cover on this show.

Jul. 24 2013 12:42 PM
Susan Smith-Peter from New Jersey

As a longtime user of the research collections at the library, I would like to ask Tony Marx about how the CLP will affect the research collections. Will some of the proposed savings be used toward increased access to some of the great holdings of the library, such as the world-class holdings in Russian and other Slavic materials? Since NYC is a global capital, it only makes sense to have these and other world languages materials available to researchers with someone who can assist them in finding materials. Many books are still uncatalogued, so people have to be reminded to look at the printed catalogs as well as the online catalog.

Jul. 24 2013 12:29 PM
lucy from Brooklyn

I would like to hear more about the library strategy group, whose members are paid six and seven figure salaries at a time when the library staff is being decimated and they can't fix air conditioners and are closing libraries and shortening hours. Their stated goals are to "leverage real estate". Who are these people and do they have any other function than to sell library real estate.

Jul. 24 2013 12:00 PM
lucy from Brooklyn

Please ask Mr Marx about the nondisparagement agreements (gag orders)and don't let him deny they exist since 2009. There are many reports about them from librarians. Here is a small sample from letters written by librarians:

• In 2009 the NYPL started having departing librarians sign “nondisparagement agreements.” They were written about in the New York Times were one departing librarian refusing to take money to sign the agreement referred to it as “hush money.” (See: New York Times: Employees Feel Silenced on Library Project, by Robin Pogrebin, May 23, 2012.) Many librarians are being fired these days so that, with them is leaving the oral history of what we have historically intended our libraries to be.
• Library administration officials have pursued librarians still working at the libraries seeking to have them sign similar do0cuments (loyalty oaths).

And from another librarian we learn of firings and replacements by unqualified workers and "confidentiality agreements.":

Some of the older staff were offered and took buyouts. Some staff were coerced into leaving. The
staff taking buyouts had to sign confidentiality agreements. The latest twist to this is that now former
staff members cannot even return as volunteers. Institutional memory destroyed, and this at a
public library.

Around four or five years ago,it was decided that libraries did not really need librarians running them.
The new position was "site manager", and it was non union. Information Desks were removed from almost
every branch and merged with Circulation operations. Site managers could be dismissed at will, and many
lasted no longer than one year before being replaced by others.

Users of Midmanhattan will notice an alarming reduction of the book stock. Thousands of volumes thrown
away. Shrink to fit. Similar reduction in book stock in the branches, to what end no one seems to know.
• Librarians have ben told not to discuss or give out information about library “renovations.”
• Libraries now run by “site managers” (a real estate sounding description) rather than “head librarians.”

What is it that library administration officials are concerned librarians might be communicating about were they not thus silenced and intimidated?

Jul. 24 2013 11:51 AM
Christabel Gough

A question for Dr. Marx: as the new president of the NYPL, you have inherited some rather radical and controversial policy decisions. In the light of extensive protests in the media and elsewhere, and challenges in the courts, do you see a role for the library's new president in re-assessing earlier policy decisions that many New Yorkers believe are unacceptable--such as the sale of the Mid Manhattan branch library and the demolition of the book stacks in the Central Library at 42nd Street? Or do you feel that you are actually obligated to defend the Central Library Plan against all criticism, as you have been doing?

Jul. 24 2013 11:35 AM
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn Heights

Citizens Defending Libraries (which has a petition opposing the Central Library Plan and the city-wide sell-off and shrinkage of libraries and is a plaintiff in one of the two lawsuits opposing the Central Library Plan) is being supported by Comptroller John Liu and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio both of whom have joined in press conferences with CDL. They stand with many other elected opposing the sell-offs like Council Members Tish James, Steven Levin and Assemblyman Micah Kellner who has been having hearings shedding light on what is happening.

The legal papers and video and pictures and links to articles relating to all these early July events are at the following Citizens Defending Libraries web page: PHOTOS & VIDEO & MORE- First half of July 2013: Two lawsuits against the Central Library Plan, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio Comes Out Against CLP

http://citizensdefendinglibraries.blogspot.com/2013/06/photo-video-more-first-half-of-july.html

We invite all Leonard Lopate listeners to sign our petition, now with about 13,000 signature, most of them on line.

Michael D. D. White
Citizens Defending Libaries

Jul. 24 2013 11:26 AM
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn Heights

One way we could all know more about what we need to know concerning the weaknesses of the Central Library Plan (there are virtually no strengths) would be for librarians, former and current, to be able to tell us about NYPL affairs, including the disgrace of the Donnell debacle upon which future library shrinkage plans are being modeled. Unfortunately, since at least 2009, the NYPL has been shuffling librarians around, laying off and firing them, creating a generally hostile environment for librarians to express their opinions and when laying off librarians has been having them sign “non-disparagement agreements,” confidentiality agreements signed as a condition of severance, forbidding librarians from criticizing the NYPL. The NYPL has even pursued librarians who are not exiting the system to sign loyalty agreements limiting their free speech rights.

Would Mr. Marx, if asked on this show, agree to release all the librarians from these agreements so that they can express themselves freely and honestly to give the public a better perspective of the goings on at the NYPL?

Libraries have always been associated with free speech and freedom of thought. Wouldn’t it be appropriate to stop subjecting librarians from such corporatistically controlling conventions?

Michael D. D. White
Citizens Defending Libraries
Sign our online petition opposing sale, shrinkage and underfunding of NYC libraries.

http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/save-new-york-city-libraries?source=c.em.mt&r_by=6817161

Jul. 24 2013 11:17 AM
Librarianbiker from Jersey

Does President Marx have a Master's in Library Science? Do any of his advisers??? This is what keeps librarians from twisting in the wind every time there's a new technology. We librarians LOVE technology, but as Graceanne Andreassi Decandido says, "Just because I embrace technology, that's no reason to give up my book lover's card."

Jul. 24 2013 11:03 AM
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn Heights

The NYPL is calculatingly deceptive about the extreme shrinkage of library space under the Central Library Plan. Go to the 42nd Street Central Reference Library now and inside you will see public relations banners about how the plan will be `increasing’ rather than shrinking library space, and, for instance, you can find references to the existing research stacks as containing "seven football fields" of space that will converted to public use, which is simply utter balderdash.

The reference to “seven” football fields of space is a reference to the fact there the are SEVEN floors of research stacks books. Because those stacks are so cleverly and specifically designed to hold millions of books, with lower than normal ceilings it is possible to conceive that the seven floors constitute 162,000 square feet of space (far less than “seven football fields”), but the NYPL plan is to reduce that very efficiently used space to only 80,000 square feet of relatively bookless space after ripping out the research stacks. That is way under “seven football fields” no matter what size football field you reference, even the very smallest possible.

For more on these NYPL deceptions see: Saturday, July 13, 2013, Deceptive Representations By New York Public Library On Its Central Library Plan: We’re NOT Shrinking Library Space, We Are Making MORE Library Space!

http://noticingnewyork.blogspot.com/2013/07/deceptive-representations-by-new-york.html

Michael D. D. White
Citizens Defending Libraries
Sign our online petition opposing sale, shrinkage and underfunding of NYC libraries.

http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/save-new-york-city-libraries?source=c.em.mt&r_by=6817161

Jul. 24 2013 10:59 AM
MJS from Manhattan

Why does the brilliant efficiency of one of the world's great research libraries have to be sacrificed in order to makes space for the Mid-Manhattan library? That circulating library, used more than any other in the city, begs to be developed for its own sake. A great architect could make a showpiece of the building on 40th Street and Fifth Avenue at far less cost and controversy and as much, if not more, prestige.

Jul. 24 2013 10:45 AM
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn Heights

Maybe Mr. Marx can be asked who came up with the notion of promoting the Central Library Plan as a “democratizing” effort: Did Mr. Marx personally come up with this description or was it prefabricated by brazen PR types before he came on board at the NYPL?

It’s extremely odd to promote the CLP as “democratizing” when it involves getting rid of two heavily used and depended upon libraries, Mid-Manhattan and SIBL libraries and virtually all of the huge amount (300,000 square feet) of space of library space they represent. . . . The CLP downsizes MORE THAN 380,000 square feet of space down to a non-expandable 80,000 square feet of space. Does the NYPL think far fewer people will be using that severely contracted space? One hint is that the plans call for the remnants of what once was the Mid-Manhattan and SIBL housed in that 80,000 square feet to be accessed by just one small door hidden deep in the rear quarters of the 42nd Street building.

This is “democratization”? The only way all that space can be eliminated is by banishing vast quantities of books from the libraries, something the NYPL is already undertaking. It is not just a question of rendering our world-class Central Reference Library inoperable by sending its books to Princeton, New Jersey: The books of Mid-Manhattan and SIBL won’t fit in the non-expandable 80,000 square feet of space so they too will disappear.

Remember that as recently as 2003 the NYPL had plans to accommodate growth by expanding Mid-Manhattan (not shrinking it) to almost double its current size.

Meeting with David Offensend, the NYPL’s Chief Operating Officer, Citizens Defending Libraries found out that the NYPL doesn’t even know how many books it is going to try to keep now, or in the future, in this non-expandable space; they are just working backwards from the yet-to-be-worked-out real estate-driven designs.

Why is the CLP space non-expandable to accommodate future growth? Because you can’t expand a historic, landmarked building or expand into Bryant Park.

Michael D. D. White
Citizens Defending Libraries
Sign our online petition opposing sale, shrinkage and underfunding of NYC libraries.

http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/save-new-york-city-libraries?source=c.em.mt&r_by=6817161

Jul. 24 2013 10:37 AM
SSong from Queens

Libraries are so important as places where kids can see adults modeling great skills and behaviors -- from how to be together in stillness reading with others, to consideration of golden silence as respect -- even as tribute to those readers around them in the room. When these special, rare public spaces of stillness and study disappear due to hours being cut, or more tragically, complete closures New Yorkers become losers in so many ways! The thin edge of the wedge is just that of research resources being taken away. The severing end of the wedge is that New Yorkers loose probably the only public space/place to be neighbors and citizens in stillness together rather than competitors in a Darwinian economy.

Jul. 24 2013 10:21 AM
JimmyG from NYC

The new plan reeks of all-too-typical New York City insider dealing. It fits the pattern of selling off public goods to benefit private interest while promoting the plans with the vague and promising language characteristic of salesmanship. The experience of Donnell should be an object lesson, as it seems about to be repeated on a much larger and more destructive scale. I wonder whether any of the people involved in formulating the plan ever studied the way that the new University of Chicago library has allowed them to maintain their entire research collection on-site in a state-of-the-art facility with space for 3.5. million volumes and an instant retrieval system?

Jul. 24 2013 08:43 AM
Ruth Eiss from Brooklyn Heights

Why are politicians hedging their endorsements of the Brooklyn Heights library by saying WHEN the library is sold, the public should get a good price for it? Its not a done deal. What and who are they answering to that is higher than the public good? Has our state attorney general looked into issues of graft and payback? Who stands with the people?

As for the main library, who will be hanging around in some public storage unit in New Jersey to put books on a van? Who are the drivers? librarians? Teamsters? 'at what cost?

Ruth Eiss, LCSW-R

Jul. 24 2013 08:41 AM
LGNY from Brooklyn NY

Wow. The NYC library system is getting sold out from under us to real estate interests after all these decades? The specialty and research libraries really need protection -- what happened at the Donnell was awful. A world-class city needs a world-class free open public library -- we have that, but we're about to lose it.

Is this something Bloomberg is putting in place before he's out of office?

Jul. 24 2013 08:10 AM
JazzAge from New York City

Following the New York State Assembly’s Committee on Libraries and Education Technology hearing on June 27, at which over 150 people attended and over 50 citizens testified in opposition to the CLP, NYPL president Anthony Marx promised to commission an independent review of the cost of the CLP and to release an analysis of the costs of rehabilitating the Mid-Manhattan, and branch libraries across the city.

http://nystateassembly.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=68

What guarantee is Mr. Marx offering the citizens of the City of New York that an NYPL-commissioned review of the cost of the CLP and analysis of the costs of rehabilitating the Mid-Manhattan and branch libraries across the city will be truly independent, and not simply slanted to the NYPL’s desired outcomes?

Jul. 24 2013 07:47 AM

By the way the new plans just made public here show that the books from the stacks will be moved to beneath Bryant Park. Only a fraction of them will be. There are ALREADY books stored beneath Bryant Park and have been since 1991 or so; it's just a question of whether there's space to build additional stacks down there. Most of the displaced books will go to NYPL's warehouse in central New Jersey. Marx keeps saying that books will be brought to the library 24 hours after a patron requests them, but in my experience using the library it takes 2-3 days for books to arrive. And keep in mind that 1 million new books will be brought into the building from MML and SIBL; these will displace even more books from the research collection.

Jul. 23 2013 11:27 PM

Thanks so much for covering the Central Library Plan and the fight to stop it, Mr. Lopate! I, too, am very skeptical about claims that this plan is in the public's/library patrons' interest. Marx keeps talking about the need to update the Mid-Manhattan Library as a reason to gut the 42nd St. stacks, but isn't that more a reason to renovate the Mid-Manhattan library, which would then be even better able to provide all the services Mr. Marx describes (being larger than its proposed replacement) at a fraction of the price. He keeps talking about what bad shape MML is in, but to me (a long-time patron of that library as well as the Research Library at 42nd St.) it appears that MML has been intentionally allowed to deteriorate, possibly so as to be able to justify its being sold. But sold to benefit whom? That block is zoned for lower buildings only, so the building probably won't fetch the library such a good price; but then a developer can petition the Buildings Commission for a zoning exception (since it's across the street from a block zoned for high-rises) and then build the crap out of the site for huge profit. So why not just sell the air rights over the existing library and reap that profit for the benefit of the library and the public?? Donnell Library was sold off for a song (after being allowed to deteriorate, just like MML), and now the penthouse apartment in the new building that replaces it is worth more than NYPL got for the entire building - so that sale was definitely not in the public's interest. The CPL seems similarly fishy. It in no way helps the lending library to be in the same building as the research library, and it in no way helps the research library to have the lending library inside it as opposed to one block away. So why not leave the grand historical stacks and reading room alone? What if stack demolition DID damage the reading room? Talk about an expensive surprise for taxpayers. Speaking of which, why is there still no official plan and budget for the renovation, while permits for the demolition of the stacks have already been acquired and all the books already removed from the stacks in preparation for tearing them down? I look forward to a very frank interview, Mr. Lopate; I hope you'll get us some real answers and not just the grand generalizations Mr. Marx has been giving us thus far. Does he really even believe in this plan himself?

Jul. 23 2013 11:09 PM
Annice Alt from Washington Heights

A price tag of $350 million has been estimated for the proposed Central Library Plan. You admit there could be cost overruns. Has there been an estimate of what it would cost to renovate and enlarge or even replace the Mid Manhattan Library to achieve the services you want to include in the 42nd Street library?

The stacks are now empty. It would seem a good time to look at the air conditioning and fire suppression system installed by your predecessor Vartan Gregorian and see how it could be updated to protect the books. What would be the cost of this renovation?

Jul. 23 2013 05:57 PM

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