Please join the Committee to Save the New York Public Library, Citizens Defending Libraries, Comptroller John Liu, and other elected officials for a rally on the steps of New York’s City Hall to protest policies of New York City’s public library systems that place the interests of real estate developers above the interests of library users. Entrance to the steps is on the east side of Broadway, near Murray Street.
UPDATE: Here’s a photo from City Hall!
The Committee is calling for a halt to the Central Library Plan (CLP), which would cost $350 million ($150 million of which would come from New York City taxpayers) and irreparably damage the 42nd Street Research Library – one of the world’s great reference libraries and a city, state, and national historic landmark. The CLP would demolish the 42nd Street Library’s historic book stacks, install a circulating library in their stead, and displace 1.5 million books to central New Jersey. The new circulating library would replace the Mid-Manhattan Library and the Science, Industry, and Business Library, which would both be sold off. Last spring, the Committee circulated a letter opposing the CLP that drew nearly 2,000 signatures, among them those of Mario Vargas Llosa, Salman Rushdie, Tom Stoppard, Lorin Stein, Jonathan Galassi, Jonathan Lethem, Art Spiegelman and Francine Prose.
There has been widespread skepticism among library patrons, preservationists and architecture critics about the wisdom, financial feasibility, and aesthetic quality of the plan. Underlying these concerns is the extraordinarily closed process through which the Library administration has made its decisions. Despite the fact that the 42nd Street building is owned by the City and is one of our most iconic structures, the plan was formulated with minimal public notification and no public input. The $150 million which the City has earmarked towards the project was awarded without any oversight by the City Council and with no public hearings. If alternatives have been seriously considered they have never been disclosed, and no cost-benefit analysis or detailed budget has ever been presented to the public.
The Committee to Save the NYPL asks that the CLP be halted until:
1. An independent agency makes public a detailed cost analysis of the CLP, including potential cost overruns—which have been a regular feature of projects of this kind at other cultural institutions. Even as the library insists it will stay within budget, the chairman of its board admits that “Our own budget estimates are reasonable, but even they cannot be refined with any precision at this stage.”
2. The NYPL seriously considers the suggestions of critics Ada Louise Huxtable and Michael Kimmelman that the 42nd Street building be left intact and attention directed instead to a renovation and expansion of the Mid-Manhattan building. Kimmelman states in a scathing NY Times review that “the Mid-Manhattan site…has the potential to be redeveloped as a 20-story building. The library could also sell some 100,000 square feet of unused space…. A new Mid-Manhattan branch should cost a fraction of gutting the stacks and could produce much better architecture.”
3. The NYPL administration provides more than improvised figures about the impact of spending $150 million of city money on the 42nd Street building, money that could otherwise be used for the many branch libraries in desperate need of support and for replenishing Research Library staff positions (1/3 of the staff has been laid off since 2008).
4. The New York State Historic Preservation Office conducts a full assessment of the plan’s impact on the iconic 42nd Street building.
For more information, see “The Truth About the Central Library Plan”