Critical Updates.

They said no to Coventry PEACE.

The Library Board voted on May 16, 2022 to approve an expensive contract with Cresco to become the facility manager of the Coventry PEACE Building. While we are dissapointed, and deeply concerned about this decision, we were incredibly touched and moved by all the people that showed up in support of a different resolution, and spoke so meaningfully in support of our organizations. We have taken the day to rest up from our efforts and to meet with the Coventry PEACE Campus tenants regarding next steps. We will have more information soon, but in the meantime we encourage you to keep sharing your concerns and hold the board members accountable to the statements they made stating that they support our organizations and want to see them thrive. Click on the buttons above to see how you can help, or keep scrolling to see our most critical updates.

After months of asking the Library leadership to meet with us following their December vote denying our conversion to our long-term lease, we made the decision to issue a request for Public Records. On March 24, 2022 we sent our request to the Library asking for meeting notes & agendas, internal & external email communications, documents & contracts, etc. To see a list of what we requested, and what we have received, please see our Public Record Request page. As of May 11, 2022 we are awaiting a majority of the items we requested, but have now received meeting notes & agendas, and emails for Nancy Levin and Deborah Herrmann. We have reviewed well over 2,400 pages and will post some of the key items we discovered to this page. We will be updating this page on an on-going basis, so please check back for updates.

12/6, 12/7 & 12/20/21 Emails/Memos from Nancy Levin and Deborah Herrmann

“Then we close up the building and demo.”

That’s Deborah Herrman, Heights Library fiscal officer, in a December 7, 2021 internal email obtained through a public records request. It’s not the only reference we’ve found to emptying and demolishing the Coventry building, suggesting that library leadership has been planning (and perhaps hoping) for the tenants to fail, despite all evidence of the success of the CPC project.

Here’s the full paragraph:
“I think the property management RFP should have a paragraph that states if tenants fall below a number that will not allow for the rent to cover the utilities and fees than we have the right to cancel the property manager contract with 30 days after it fall below that threshold . Then we close up the building and demo.”

If this were a real concern, you’d think they would address it with us, that they would work in partnership with us to develop a plan that ensures the tenants can stay while also meeting the costs of the building. But they won’t. After providing far more documentation than was called for in the previous lease agreement in order to convert to a long-term lease, library leaders have never explained in any detail why they believe CPC is not capable of continuing to manage the building and grow the project. But it’s clear they want us out.

In a joint memo to the trustees from Nancy Levin and Deborah Herrmann they state: “We feel it would be prudent to reset the situation with the building and seek a public open process for hiring a property manager and attracting new tenants that are more fiscally sound.”

What new tenants? Excellent question, considering how many times the library leadership has claimed to support the current tenants — who are not only sound but thriving. More important, however: “fiscally sound”? This is the game Herrmann and executive director Nancy Levin have been playing for years, making vague statements about CPC’s stability, then refusing to answer direct questions. How much is “enough”? They won’t tell us. When we asked this question of them directly in a meeting on Dec. 10, 2021, their attorney said there is “no clear answer” to that question. Through our review of the documents, we have learned they actually did have a range they were looking for — a range we had actually reached.

CPC is NOT subsidized! CPC covers ALL building expenses, IN ADDITION TO making improvements, paying rent and building a reserve. But the Heights Library’s leaders seem intent on forcing the tenants out with unnecessary and dramatic rent increases and possibly tearing down the building.

Why do we believe this? The library leadership went on to choose the highest-bidding private management provider. If the library board approves the contract, which they are poised to do on 5/16, the library will pay nearly $3,000 per month in base fees — much of the work performed will be billed over and above that. The library leadership also commissioned a completely unnecessary “feasibility study” (almost $15,000), but didn’t even wait for that report before plowing ahead with private management. All of these costs will be pushed onto the tenants, who have been managing the building at no cost to the library for four years.

If all the tenants are forced out by jacked-up rents, then what? Internal emails reveal a hodge-podge of comments, but nothing close to a plan.

Here’s Levin:
“What if we demolished the building? 2. Demolish the building at a cost of approximately $400k and enlarge the park area. This will unburden the cost of all future maintenance of the building and enlarge the green space for the use of the public. We could build a restroom and classroom at a later date.”

The library has not sought any expert input on the cost of demolishing the Coventry building, which is built into a hillside over a buried creek. The “$400k” Levin cites is probably a reference to a comment made over 5 years ago  at a meeting of the CH-UH Board of Education, which owned the property at the time. And it was a guess by a school district official, not a meaningful estimate. This is how carefully the library leadership is planning for the future of this beloved community site.

Also, where is the money for a “restroom and classroom” coming from? Levin wants everyone to believe that on the one hand, the library can’t afford to let the CPC nonprofit businesses stay in the building, who are paying all the bills plus rent, but it can easily find millions to tear down the building, create park space and build new facilities on it.

In the same email, Levin muses: “What if we sold the building? Split the lot once again and sell the property on the east side for housing.” (This is not the only mention of redevelopment of the site, which the community strongly opposed in 2017, when it came to light that the Board of Education was planning to turn it over to the city for unspecified development.)

Nowhere in the emails we’ve seen do Levin or Herrman show the slightest interest in what the community wants. It never seems to cross their minds. They have no plan beyond forcing the tenants out of the building. They practically admit as much in this line: “With all of the talented and creative minds in the picture, if the Building is no longer contemplated, I’m sure there will be lots of ideas to fill a bigger blank canvas.”

“I’m sure there will be lots of ideas.” Here’s an idea — a hub for arts organizations and other non-profits, like residents said they wanted when the school district commissioned a committee to gather input after closing the Coventry School. That led to what is now the Coventry PEACE Campus, an arts incubator and community services hub employing hundreds and serving thousands, with long-term plans for growth. And the library leadership wants to throw it all away, for reasons it refuses to explain.

You can help us prevent this disaster:

For more detailed notes, assessments and documents, and for ways you can help right now, go to coventrypeacecampus.org/critical-updates.

12/21/21 Email from Nancy Levin to Library Board

The Heights Library leadership is misleading everyone about Coventry PEACE Campus. CPC is NOT subsidized! CPC covers ALL building expenses, IN ADDITION TO making improvements, paying rent and building a reserve. But the Heights Library’s leaders seem intent on forcing the tenants out with unnecessary and dramatic rent increases and possibly tearing down the building.

In our review of the documents we received, we found a memo sent by Heights Library Executive Director Nancy Levin to the library’s board of trustees on Dec. 21, 2021, the day before the board voted against granting the long-term lease that had been negotiated for more than a year. Virtually every line of this memo is misleading. We don’t have time to correct all of the disinformation, but it’s important to understand her narrative rests on one deliberate deception: Levin never once acknowledges that CPC covers all building expenses — totaling more than $450,000 in the last four years. The rents that she claims are too low are over and above those expenses, and would have risen steadily under the long-term lease that the library board abruptly rejected, at her urging, in December.

Ironically, Levin’s narrative, if it were accurate, is actually one of mismanagement on the part of the Library, and her “solution” is to waste money on an unnecessary “feasibility” study (almost $15,000), then not even wait for that report before rushing ahead to hire a private management firm (at a base rate of nearly $3,000 per month), all to take over work that CPC has performed for free for years. 

After reviewing over 1,000 pages of emails obtained through a public records request, we have concerns that this is part of a ruse to cover up the real agenda: force the tenants out with rent increases and tear down the building. We’ll have more on that soon.

Meanwhile, the library board refuses to communicate with us except through attorneys. What possible reason could they have to not meet with us? Whose interests do they represent, Levin’s or the community’s? If they are so concerned about their levy in a couple years, like they have stated, how does increasing the cost of operating the building and driving out well-respected, long term, dedicated nonprofits help them?

This is what we’re up against — bad faith “negotiations” (which they admit by the fact they applied the 25% rent increase in January), relentless disinformation, incoherent narratives, constantly shifting demands, and silence from the board. But we will continue to reveal the truth, because regardless of where anyone stands on the future of CPC, every taxpayer and voter deserves to know how the library’s leadership operates.

05/14/22 Letter from Ray Gonzalez to Heights Library Board of Trustees

Ray Gonzalez, a board member of the Fund for the Future of Heights Libraries, just sent us a copy of an email he sent to the Library Board of Trustees and we are sharing it with his permission. Ray is one of the founding members, and served as both President and Vice President of the original Coventry PEACE organization. The organization that helped get the Coventry PEACE playground built, and was the caretaker of the playground until the Library took ownership. Mr. Gonzalez has also volunteered on various committees for the new Coventry PEACE organization and has a unique connection to both CPC and Heights Library.

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What is Coventry PEACE Campus?

When the school district sought to divest itself from the former Coventry Elementary School building in 2017, leaving its future uncertain, the leaders of all the tenant organizations and a broad base of community supporters came together in a grassroots movement to propose ways to preserve and grow the thriving culture and service ecosystem that had organically taken root there. From this effort, the Coventry PEACE Campus came into being. Coventry P.E.A.C.E., Inc. is the non-profit overseeing the maintenance, sustainability, renovation and development of the Coventry PEACE Building, which houses several local nonprofits. It is our goal to provide an accessible, sustainable, more efficient, and affordable home for these nonprofits, and to attract new organizations to the building.