Not too long ago a there was a show on NPR about technology. I don't listen to NPR so much but it is sometimes on at work and I do pay attention then. This particular show was discussing how the elderly have trouble learning computers, often resisting help from family members because of a sense of losing independence. One person asked the show hosts the best resources for senior citizens to learn how to use technology.
The immediate and emphatic answer was: "Go to your local library."
Here in NYC that option is being taken away by Bloomberg and his followers whose efforts to privatize our lives involves selling off our libraries. Now I LIKE Bloomberg's 311 system, his pro-bike stands, and his anti-smoking stands (apologies to my smoking friends, but I LIKE having less cigarette smoke around me and my kids). There isn't that much else he has done I like and when it comes to some foundations of our civilization, I think he is doing horribly.
To me the sell off of our libraries represents just one more insane move in the loss of our most cherished and valuable elements of our very civilization. They are selling off firehouses, increasing response time to fires and endangering, possibly killing, New Yorkers. When ancient Rome first established an official fire brigade (the Vigiles, from whom we appropriately get "vigilant" and, perhaps more tangentially, "vigilante") it was considered a breakthrough for civilization. Before every neighborhood was on its own to put out a fire or not.
They are selling off our hospitals, reducing hospital coverage and further overburdening the emergency rooms of remaining hospitals, driving our remaining hospitals towards financial ruin. Hospitals lose money primarily through their ERs and ICUs, the rest of their departments often making money. When a hospital closes (like St. Vincent's in NYC), the resulting added burden to nearby hospitals' ERs and ICUs drives their financial stability further down. Of course universal healthcare would help that, but we don't have that yet, so closing hospitals will almost invariably lead to having to close MORE hospitals.
They are selling off the libraries underprivileged kids need for studying, parents rely on to introduce their children to the world of reading, classes are offered on a wide range of topics, passport photos can be taken, tax forms found, etc. etc. etc.
Parks are being sold off, taking away kids' chances to go out and safely play rather than sit in front of the television. In an age when we are supposed to be encouraging kids to get outside, where the HELL will they be going here in NYC if we close more parks?
Underfunding of schools, libraries, parks, firehouses and hospitals are KILLING our city.
And it is all being done to benefit wealthy developers who want to build high rise office buildings and luxury housing.
Regarding libraries, more below the fold including videos of politicians who are standing up against Bloomberg's selling off of this valuable resource to developers...
From the Citizens Defending Libraries website:
Mayor Bloomberg is 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 wealthy real estate developers at a time of cutbacks in education and escalating disparities in opportunity. It’s an unjust and shortsighted plan that will ultimately hurt New York City’s economy and competitiveness.Click here to find out which libraries are affected.
While Bloomberg and politicians who favor his "privatize it all, let God sort it out" mentality are selling off our civilization to the highest bidder and reducing the resources available for poor and middle class New Yorkers, some politicians are standing up for our libraries. Here is a sampling:
Brooklyn Councilwoman (and current NYC Public Advocate candidate) Tish James (an amazing woman I am proud to know) speaking for our libraries:
Former Brooklyn City Council member and current mayoral candidate Sal Albanese speaking out for our libraries:
NYC Comptroller and current mayoral candidate John Liu (a friend of my family's) speaking for our libraries:
State Senator Velmanette Montgomery (another amazing woman I am proud to know) speaking out for our libraries:
City Council Candidate Yetta Kurland speaking for our libraries:
Former NYC Comptroller and mayoral candidate Bill Thompson speaking for our libraries:
One of my local District Leaders (usually best known as a semi-famous advocate for the disabled and another friend of my family's) Jo Anne Simon speaks to a more specific point where the creation of a new library was coupled with destruction of a former library:
I am hoping MANY more politicians climb on board. I personally heard mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio tell a representative of Citizens Defending Libraries that he didn't care about the issue. He flat out didn't care. I think he said he agreed with preserving ONE of the libraries, but had no interest in the issue overall. This was at a Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats meeting last month. So Bill de Blasio seems to favor, or at least accept, the selling off of libraries based on his words at that event. I do not have solid details about Anthony Weiner or Christine Quinn on the issue, though Quinn certainly has supported Bloomberg on this so far.
I think unless citizens stand behind their firehouses (my Assemblywoman and former State Senator both got arrested standing up for our local firehouse), their schools, their libraries, their parks and their hospitals, we will find ourselves in a city where the poor and middle class have little access to these basic hallmarks of civilization because they will all be sold away to developers. We also need to pressure our politicians to support our public institutions and actively support those who do...and shame those who don't.