Common Cause NY Deplores Deal to Sell BK Public Library

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  • Susan Lerner
City is placing short-term profits over continued public control of our valued public assets

Brooklyn, NY – Today’s City Council vote in favor of selling a Brooklyn public library to a private developer to build a luxury condominium tower shows how New York City relies on privatization rather than innovation and so fails in preserving and enhancing our public infrastructure. Common Cause NY recognizes that the square footage will be increased along with other community amenities such as a STEM lab and some profit-sharing if Hudson Companies’ rate of return exceeds 19%, but that is small consolation.

We must point out that these same Council members who on Monday crowed that the City is “flush” with cash as they agreed to spend $19 million a year on private, unarmed security guards in private schools, today could not afford a much smaller amount to maintain the heavily used public building. By claiming that there was no alternative to selling the public property for less than full value to a private developer the Council has ignored the will of the majority of the Brooklyn community – a will that was strongly and clearly expressed at each opportunity to do so.

During this afternoon’s New York City Council Subcommittee on Planning, Disposition & Concessions Hearing, CM Stephen Levin said in his opening remarks that “once you sell a piece of property, you can’t get it back.” Common Cause NY agrees with that assessment, and it is sad to see that we are squandering, rather than shepherding, an important public asset treasured by the community. We agree with CM Ritchie Torres and CM Mark Treyger when they pointed out how shameful it is that we had to get to the point of selling off our public institutions and that “the real story is the failure of our political leadership.”

The New York City Council and the Economic Development Corporation are placing short-term profits over continued public control of our valued public assets that are essential to preserving the quality of life in our neighborhoods. Though CM Levin did his best to negotiate the a better deal for the community, the entire process has shown up grave short-comings in our City’s land use processes, where the public is not given a voice until after City officials and wealthy, well-connected real estate developers have already decided to privatize precious public assets without considering creative alternatives.