By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The children who gathered on the steps of City Hall had a simple message for Mayor Michael Bloomberg: leave our libraries alone! The children took part in a rally organized by Council members Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst) and Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) on May 22 to protest library funding cuts proposed in the mayor’s executive budget.
Van Bramer, chairman of the Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations Committee, and Gentile, chairman of the Select Committee on Libraries, led the rally that drew the participation of their council colleagues, Brooklyn Public Library President Linda Johnson, Queens Library CEO Thomas Galante, New York Public Library President Anthony Marx, DC37 Executive Director Lillian Roberts, the organization Urban Librarians Unite and dozens of children.
The city’s three public library systems – New York, Brooklyn, and Queens – are facing more than $106 million in proposed cuts. The cuts would force the closure of dozens of libraries and lay off over 1,000 library employees, Van Bramer said.
“New York City’s three renowned library systems have faced a consistent barrage of budget cuts from this Administration for far too long,” Van Braymer said. “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,” he said.
Gentile said the council has had to fight budget battles with the mayor before. “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,” he said.
Libraries have evolved over the years into mini-schools and job research centers, according to Gentile. “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,” he said.
Councilwoman Sara Gonzalez (D-Sunset Park-Red Hook), who serves as the chief budget negotiator for the Brooklyn delegation, vowed to fight to restore funding for libraries at the negotiating table.”I will continue to work with council members Gentile and Van Bramer on this important issue and I thank them for their dedication and leadership,” she said.
“Libraries are more than just a place to read books. They are vital community resources that offer free courses in technology, literacy, adult education and much more. They serve as safe havens for children and seniors. We should be fortifying our libraries instead of diminishing their vital role in our society,” Gonzalez said.
In the last year’s budget, the Bloomberg Administration and the council made libraries a priority by making a joint effort to restore funding, according to Gentile. While the Administration restored $67.5 million, baseline funding was not made a priority this time around, he said. This year’s preliminary budget for the three library systems is devastating, Van Bramer said. The administration is proposing a 35 percent decrease in funding, a $106 million reduction, for the three systems.
There will also be rallies in Brooklyn this coming Tuesday, May 28:
Bushwick Branch, 340 Bushwick Ave. at Seigel St, Brooklyn, NY
Council Member Diana Reyna will attend
Park Slope Branch, 431 Sixth Ave. at Ninth St., Brooklyn
Council Member Brad Lander will attend