Redeveloping Public Facilities with Private Cash

The Brooklyn Public Library is selling the land it currently resides on to a private developer who will build a new residential apartment tower with a new library on the first floor. This is just one example of innovative mechanisms public entities are using to dodge strapped budgets when it comes to infrastructure

What Happened?
To fund New York City government services, various public agencies are selling off highly-sought after land and making other arrangements with the private sector to increase cash flow.

So What?
The Brooklyn Public Library system is one of many governmental bodies working with the private sector to fund a variety of projects such as necessary repairs to its 60 branches throughout New York City. The Brooklyn Heights library has been sold to a private company which will demolish the building, and in doing so provide the library system with $230 million to conduct much needed repairs.

Similarly, the New York City Educational Construction Fund is looking to sell three public schools on prime land to developers. The private companies would build high-rise apartment towers on the site, and make space on the first floor for the reconstruction of the schools. Through such partnerships, the real estate market can continue to rebound while public projects find alternative sources of funding, The New York Times explained.

Historic Tactic
The New York City Educational Construction Fund has been involved with public-private partnerships for decades. For example, in 1984, the Murray Bergtraum High School for Business Careers in Manhattan was sold to developers who replaced the institution with a new academic facility as well as a Verizon telephone equipment center as well as a recreational and athletic center.  The Dr. Marjorie H. Dunbar School in the Bronx was also redeveloped into a 400-unit apartment building in 1971.

Hawaii Partnerships
In Hawaii, the state Senate Education Committee approved a bill allowing state officials to establish public-private partnerships and develop the land public schools currently occupy. Just as New York City schools are becoming incorporated with private sector business, the state of Hawaii is also seeking private sector collaborations to raise money for maintenance and repair of aging schools. The state Senate agreed on a cautious bill that will experiment with the public school land develop strategy through two trial projects over the next three years.

Private Sector Influence On Public Systems
In an examination of privatization in the public school system, University of Miami’s Stacey Kerr discussed how academic institutions have played a role in the gentrification of many communities across the country. When allowing private entities to participate in American public education, underprivileged students have gained access to advanced academic resources via charter schools, which in turn have evolved into tools of gentrification in areas such as Washington, D.C., and New York City.

The study suggests as private charter schools continue to increase in popularity, a growing trend in school choice has arisen which only enhances social exclusion. As charter schools have incited heated debates on gentrification, many local residents in New York City and Hawaii have expressed concerns with the public-private partnerships and how it may take focus away from the quality of public education. Thus, the partnerships entail gaining community support to garner long-term success.

Other Privatization Efforts
EfficentGov is following measures taken to leverage private sector influence as well as increase education sustainability.
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Barry Greenfield

Barry Greenfield is the founder of EfficientGov.com.