A giant rally was held near the steps of City Hall on May 23 in support of the city’s libraries, which face the prospect of undergoing severe funding cuts if next year’s Executive Budget plan is approved. Nearly 200 individuals, including various elected officials, union members, library heads, staff, local residents, and children attended the rally to protest Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed cuts.
Council Members Jimmy Van Bramer (Chair, Cultural Affairs, Libraries & International Intergroup Relations) and Vincent J. Gentile (Chair, Select Committee on Libraries) led the rally, along with their City Council colleagues. Brooklyn Public Library President & CEO Library Linda Johnson, Queens Library CEO Thomas Galante, New York Public Library President and CEO Anthony Marx, DC37 Executive Director Lillian Roberts, Urban Librarians Unite, New York Public Library’s lion mascot, and children from nearby schools also attended the event.
For the next fiscal year libraries throughout the city are facing more than $106 million in proposed cuts, a 35% decrease in funding from last year. Of that amount Queens Library will lose up to $29.6 million in funding if the cuts go through, according to Queens Library CEO and President Thomas Galante. This loss in funding would result in the forced closure of dozens of libraries, extremely reduced service hours for the ones remaining open, and in over a thousand library employees losing their jobs.
“New York City’s three renowned library systems have faced a consistent barrage of budget cuts from this Administration for far too long,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer. “Today, we stand together to say, “Enough is enough!” A $106 million cut would not only eradicate thousands of jobs for hardworking New Yorkers but also decimate library service hours which millions have taken advantage of to learn English, acquire job skills and gain educational opportunities in an effort to make them even more productive citizens of our great City. With the help of my colleagues in the New York City Council I will continue to fight and help restore these cuts. Our libraries deserve a better budget. A budget which helps these three institutions build upon the stellar services and resources that have helped countless minds grow.”
“Every year it seems we continue to fight to restore the library systems to sustainable levels, and yet every year we are left holding the empty bag. This reduction comes at a time when library program attendance is increasing and the demand for more service hours at branches are on the rise. We know libraries are no longer used to just borrow books for recreational or research purposes. Libraries bring hope, opportunity and equality to everybody in the five boroughs,” said Councilman Vincent J. Gentile. “While children have perhaps the most to lose from library closures, they are too young to vote and rarely have the opportunity to flex their political muscle,” he told the crowd yesterday. “But today that will change. Today, these children will be heard. Mr. Mayor, are you listening? Can you hear us now?!”
To show your support for Queens Library, please visit the Save Queens Library website.
In other news, on May 18 Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer organized the Dutch Kills Community Clean-up effort alongside the Dutch Kills Civic Association, the 114th Civ-Op, and the Central Astoria Local Development Coalition. Over 40 local community leaders and residents helped pick up trash along 36th Avenue, clean up Dutch Kills Playground, and provide trees in the area with fresh mulch and soil
On May 17 Council Member Van Bramer and his staff took their bikes to work in an effort to promote National Bike to Work Month. At one point the council member biked from his home in Sunnyside to two Career Day events at local schools, where he spoke to students from I.S. 10 in Astoria and P.S. 111 in Long Island City respectively.
And finally on May 16 Council Member Van Bramer toured the new layout of Sunnysides’ Torsney Playground with the NYC Parks Department. The council member, along with Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, provided $1.4 million in funding toward the redesigned park so that it could now have a specialized canine run for both large and small dogs, with dog drinking fountains situated throughout. It also now possesses new park benches and planting beds, and underwent renovations at its softball/baseball fields and basketball/volleyball courts. The project is scheduled to finish soon, with the entire park expected to re-open in June.