The New York Public Library system intends to invest $300 million in renovations for its flagship 5th Avenue facility.
Meanwhile, Harlem’s Macomb’s Bridge library is housed in a converted studio apartment, and boasts 14 chairs, 10 laptops, and 61 shelves of books.
Only 25 people can occupy the space at one time.
The disparity is striking. Couldn’t some of that $300 million go to NYC’s underfunded libraries, like the one in Harlem?
“The amount of money they have is finite. If you take half a billion dollars and use if for one purpose, it is sucking money that could be used in other places of the system,” said Jacob Morris, an opponent of the expansion plan.
In response to detractors, the NYPL says Macomb’s is stuck in its current location because of the community’s inability to locate a suitable space.
A possible 2008 site was abandoned because the owners reportedly refused to allow the library to perform an environmental study, and some of the money for that project went to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture branch.
Another site — a former public school converted to condominiums — is close by, but it was also reportedly rejected because it lies outside Councilwoman Inez Dickens’ district (Dickens represents the district Macomb’s is located in, and council member support is imperative in helping library plans become successful).
Still, NYPL CEO David Offensend argued that the expansion plan was worth its price tag because it would fix up the aging mid-Manhattan branch. He also denied any bias in funding.
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