The New York Public Library defended itself on Tuesday after a recent post on the popular street photography blog Humans of New York sparked a backlash against plans to renovate the 42nd Street branch.
The image, which showed a man eating chicken outside the library, was accompanied by a quote from the subject, who identified himself on Twitter as Matthew Zadrozny. In the caption, he called the branch his "favorite place in the world" and shared his disappointment about the toll he said upcoming renovations would take on the site's famed research collection.
"Recently, the library administration has decided to rip out this collection, send the books to New Jersey and use the space for a lending library. As part of the consolidation, they are going to close down the Mid-Manhattan Library Branch as well as the Science, Industry and Business Library," Zadrozny said. "When everything is finished, one of the greatest research libraries in the world will become a glorified Internet cafe."
The photo, which has been shared on Facebook more than 49,000 times, reinvigorated the Save the 42nd Street Library movement and touched off such a debate that the library felt compelled to respond.
An NYPL spokesperson sent Humans of New York photographer Brandon Stanton a statement, which he posted on his page in a rare rebuttal to a previous entry.
"The vast majority of research books will remain on the site (in far superior storage conditions)," the statement said. "This plan will be greatly expanding access to the library. The renovation will allow all New Yorkers – scholars, students, educators, immigrants, job-seekers – to take advantage of this beautiful building and its world-class collections."
Stanton encouraged his followers to read up on the debate.
"My captions are almost always stories, as opposed to opinions," Stanton told Metro on Wednesday. "In this case the caption contained a rather specific set of allegations. So when the library asked to respond, I felt it would only be fair to allow them to present their reply."