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Monday, February 18, 2013

Save New York City Libraries From Bloomberg Developer Destruction

Save New York City Libraries From Bloomberg Developer Destruction

By Carolyn McIntyre (Contact)

To be delivered to: Stephen Levin, City Council Member, Mayor Michael R Bloomberg, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, NYC Comptroller John C. Liu, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Trustees of New York Public Library, Trustees of Brooklyn Public Library, and Trustees of Queens Public Library
Petition Statement
We demand that Mayor Bloomberg stop defunding New York libraries at a time of increasing public use, population growth and increased city wealth. Shrinking our library system to create real estate deals for the wealthy at a time of cutbacks in education and escalating disparities in opportunity is not only unjust, it is a shortsighted plan that will ultimately hurt New York City’s economy and competitiveness.
Petition Background

Mayor Bloomberg refuses to adequately fund our public libraries unless they sell off assets including crown jewels of the system, a plan that is wrong-headed and counterproductive.

We are in a period of steadily increasing use of libraries by all sectors of New York’s population, attendance is up 40% and circulations are up 59%, while the amount required to properly fund libraries is a pittance compared to other city expenditures.

Public libraries enrich their communities and are an important part of the tax base and a stable economy, providing jobs, community space and serving as a buffer against economic downturn. They provide a safe haven for seniors during the day, teens after school, for parents with young children, for job seekers needing computers, for the growing number of freelance professionals, and for those needing literacy and technical skills.

Bloomberg’s plan would eliminate irreplaceable and historic crown jewels, such as the research stacks underneath the main 42nd Street library, and demolish Brooklyn Heights Art Deco style building, housing 62,000 square feet of library space replacing it with only 15,000 square feet of space in a developer’s high rise. The removal of the Brooklyn Business Library from Brooklyn’s central business district in downtown Brooklyn, the hub of commerce, transportation, and next to universities is a travesty. These are just two examples of a scheme to shrink New York’s public library system, eliminating resources that communities depend on.

We need to immediately halt real estate deals that involve selling any more branches to private developers until the libraries have been properly funded and until the needs of the public’s library system are the first priority.

Libraries should not be hostages for development. The city should cease the practices of bribing the public into approving bigger and denser development and pressuring communities into accepting libraries housed in smaller spaces with fewer services.

Developer-driven partnerships that put developers in the driver’s seat and render competitive bids meaningless are bad public policy that must be avoided. The practice of using developers who specialize in insider deals, who treat the communities poorly and have a record of failing to deliver promised benefit violates the public trust.

There should be no elimination or sale of irreplaceable assets such as the crown jewel research stacks under the 42nd Street main library or elimination of the Business and Career Center Library on the border of Brooklyn Heights and downtown Brooklyn.

There should be no premature library closings such as Donnell library, closed in 2008 and still awaiting a replacement. Any library closing should have a binding contract for its prompt replacement with solid assurances, including full up-front payments and financing in place.

There should be no mass sell-offs of libraries. Sales of library properties, if any, should be sequenced so that multiple libraries are not closed at the same time and only when it is in the best interest of the public's library system.

“The knowledge of different literature frees one from the tyranny of a few”
-Jose Marti Plaque on 41St Library Walk

New York’s libraries, the lifeblood of a democracy, have contributed to making our city economically vital and a cultural powerhouse. We must not sacrifice it to shortsighted planning and the interests of powerful developers. We demand protection for public libraries, the city’s trusted place to learn, grow, be inspired, and connect with great minds.

Relevant articles:
• New York Times: Critic’s Notebook- In Renderings for a Library Landmark, Stacks of Questions, by Michael Kimmelman, January 29, 2013.
• Wall Street Journal: Undertaking Its Destruction, by Ada Louise Huxtable, December 3, 2012.
• Noticing New York: New City-Wide Policy Makes Generation Of Real Estate Deals The Library System’s Primary Purpose, by Michael D. D. White, January 31, 2013.
• Center For An Urban Future: Report - Branches of Opportunity, by David Giles, January 2013

Monday, February 4, 2013

NLRB: School Bus Strike Legal; Drivers Fight NYC Disinformation


Press reports reported in recent days that the National Labor Relations Board ruled that the school bus drivers' strike is indeed legal.

Here are key excerpts from the New York Times' story, February 1, "Labor Board Refuses to Halt Strike by School Bus Drivers:"
The workers were angered when the city announced that it could no longer require private companies bidding for transportation contracts to hire drivers on the basis of seniority and maintain previous pay rates. That, and the expiration of the union’s contract with a coalition of bus companies in December, prompted the walkout.

The private bus companies argued in their complaint to the labor board that they were essentially caught in a dispute between the union and the city.

Federal law generally prohibits workers from striking against a secondary employer to punish a primary employer, but the board said that the rule did not apply in this case because both the city and the bus companies were primary employers.

The chief lawyer for the New York City School Bus Contractors Coalition, Jeffrey D. Pollack, said he intended to appeal the decision.

The ruling mirrored past ones by the board and was widely expected, but will still disappoint some parents who were hoping for an end to the strike, which has been particularly difficult for students with disabilities.
Corinne Lestch, in the Daily News, authored the January 31 story, "Striking school bus union: Blame city, not drivers for high cost of busing: Union says higher numbers of special needs kids, traveling farther from home is why costs have increased, not driver salaries."
The transit workers' union presented its side of the story on busing and costs in New York City:
Specifically, the union pins rising prices on a rapidly growing special education population and an increasing need to transport city kids to special schools outside the city. "Mayor Bloomberg continues to mislead the public on the real costs of student busing, blaming it on the backs of hard-working, meagerly paid workers of Local 1181," said international union president Larry Hanley. "Again, we urge Mayor Bloomberg to come to the table and talk about the real costs of the school busing industry." In a report released Thursday, the union said there are: — 52,000 special education children to transport - up 20,000 students from 1979, the last time bus drivers went on strike. It costs $12,000 to transport each of these students per year. — More than 7,000 bus routes, up from 2,000 bus routes about 30 years ago. The union also points out that more than half of 100,000 general education students who qualify for yellow bus service attend private, parochial and charter schools. About 20% of charter school students ride the buses, compared with 9% of regular public school kids.
Meanwhile, one bus company said that it would remove workers' health benefits, starting Friday, February 1. "Neil Strahl, the president of the Staten Island-based school bus company Pioneer Transportation Corp" said that it will remove striking workers' health benefits beginning Friday.