At a time when misinformation seems to be increasingly prevalent in our lives, libraries are our city’s most precious resource. The New York Public Library at 42nd Street is home to one of the world’s greatest research collections that is free to all. But in recent decades, poor planning decisions and chronic underfunding have significantly diminished its services. More than ever, we need a central research library equipped to meet the needs of its users; the NYPL Master Plan does not adequately address many of the problems that continue to undermine the library’s mission.
Our concerns include the following:
• Why was a $ 317 million project approved without any floor plans and before the public had seen it?
• Why has NYPL ignored the public’s priorities described in their own Request for Qualifications (RFQ) and Request for Proposals (RFP) documents?
• Is a project that excludes the book stacks (approximately 1/5 of the building’s cubic volume) a “master plan” at all?
• Why rip apart a building that is celebrated for its generous and elegant stairs to add another one? Why add a new entrance when two of the main doors remain closed?
• Why does this plan focus so much on shopping and dining, and why so little on access to NYPL’s collections of books and documents?
• How can the public respond constructively to such a vaguely described proposal?
We have studied the NYPL master plan documents and attended the public meetings, but still we do not have answers to these and other questions. Nevertheless our study tries to make sense of a “master plan” released without any floor plans. It is meant to open dialogue, to demand additional information from NYPL’s leadership, and alert the public to a flawed, private planning process for New York’s most celebrated publicly owned building.