December 18, 2013

In blow to the Central Library Plan, The NYPL agrees to halt the planned destruction of the 42nd Street Library research stacks


Courtroom Scene

Susan Bernofsky (@uebersetzbar) tweeted this photo of the courtroom during the Central Library Plan hearing on Tuesday morning.

Members of library advocacy groups Save the 42nd Street Library, Citizens Defending Libraries, and the Library Lovers League packed a court hearing in Manhattan on Tuesday morning in an attempt to stop the Central Library Plan and prevent the demolition of the 42nd Street research stacks.

On Monday, they dressed as their favorite books in front of the steps of the New York Public Library to raise awareness of the upcoming hearing. “We were trying, in a playful, theatrical way, to draw attention to a very real danger,” Library Lovers League member Leslie Kauffman told Metro New York.

By the late afternoon yesterday, they were declaring victory. The Daily News reported that Richard Leland, the New York Public Library’s lawyer, had told Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Paul Wooton that the plans to destroy the historic steel stacks would be halted. The judge issued a temporary restraining order against the NYPL from going forward with demolition. The ruling lasts until at least January 28th, but also included one caveat:

Leland said the library would seek permission to move ahead with the demolition if the state Parks Department’s Office of Historic Preservation rules in its favor on the plan, which will cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

According a lawsuit brought by Citizens Defending Libraries in July, the plans to demolish the stacks violates an agreement dating back to 1978 that the Office of Historic Preservation must “approve all changes to the Stephen A. Schwarzman building.”

Susan Bernofsky, a member of the Committee to Save the NYPL was present in the courtroom said she was pleased with the outcome:

We were all thrilled that the judge understood the importance of making sure no irreversible actions (demolition of stacks, selling-off of buildings) be undertaken before the pending suits have been resolved.

Opponents of the Central Library Plan also raised concerns about the secrecy of the decision to move the books and documents from the stacks in March to storage facilities in Princeton, New Jersey and Pawling New York.



Claire Kelley is a the former Director of Library and Academic Marketing.