May 5, 2014

Lawsuit compares Bloomberg administration’s decision on NYPL Central Library Plan to a “fourth grade book report”


Protesters in front of the 42nd Street New York Public Library.

Protesters in front of the 42nd Street New York Public Library.

A lawsuit filed in the New York State Supreme Court by Citizens Defending Libraries is charging that Mayor Bloomberg’s administration merely “rubber-stamped” the New York Public Library‘s application for the Central Library Plan, without fully analyzing its environmental repercussions.

The library and its board of trustees submitted an application to the city on December 17th to create a circulating library inside the main library, sell two other buildings, and demolish the historic book stacks under the Rose Main Reading Room. The lawsuit takes issue with the fact that the Bloomberg administration decided to approve the application on the same day, allowing no time for a through environmental review which is required under state and city law. A Wall Street Journal article explains:

In that decision, the city determined that the renovation of the library’s landmark Fifth Avenue building wouldn’t have adverse environmental impacts in areas such as noise, traffic, air quality or historic and cultural resources. The document cleared the library to proceed on the condition that the library develop an engineering plan to protect its famous reading room and create a historical record of the century-old book stacks that are to be demolished in the renovation.

To those who filed the lawsuit, this lack of analysis on the part of the city to evaluate a plan that many feel would decimate the city’s civic and cultural assets, is akin to the careless behavior of grade-school kids. According to the lawsuit, the mayor’s office “copied several paragraphs word-for-word from the library’s environmental assessment statement, and paraphrased others.” A New York Times report quoted the part of the petition that characterized the city’s report:

Rather than a “hard look” analysis at the potential environmental impact of the library’s plans, the petition said, the administration’s determination on the plan “is no better than a hastily prepared book report that a group of fourth-grade boys might have rushed to complete after an extended game of kickball during recess.”

Current Mayor Bill DiBlasio has supported the concerns of those who have rallied against the Central Library Plan in the past, and his decisions in office as well as the effect of the pending lawsuits may determine the future of the New York Public Library buildings and stacks.


Claire Kelley is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House.