New York Council pushes back against Mayor's proposal to slash millions of dollars from libraries
- New York 05/21/2019 by Rebecca Myles (WBAI)

"I am very glad to be here fighting for the most democratic of institutions, our public libraries," Queens Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, and chair of the Libraries Committee announced to loud cheers and applause from library workers of local DC37 and library users, on the steps of City Hall in New York City on Tuesday.

Van Bramer argued the funding for libraries should be baselined and be opened seven days a week. There are three separate independent public library systems in the city - Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, with a total of 143 branches.

"I say to the Mayor who is running for president, libraries, public libraries represent a progressive value, libraries are the most democratic of institutions, libraries and how we treat libraries is how we judge whether or not we are the fairest big city in America," said Van Bramer. So I am asking the Mayor and the presidential candidate to step up and make sure libraries get their $35 million they need this year."

Mayor Bill de Blasio has put forth an increased city budget of $92 billion but asked all city agencies to cut back their budgets, including a proposed cut of $8 million to libraries. The council is asking the de Blasio administration for an increase of $27 million, for a total of $35 million, in funding for fiscal year 2020, which starts in July. 

The three system leaders say the funding is barely meeting their needs.

Administration officials told NY1 the city's funding of libraries over the past years has helped ensure libraries can provide six-day service in every borough, plus an investment more than $1 billion over the next ten years for facility improvements. The libraries have served generations of New Yorkers like Jose Rasado, Jr.

"I was born in Manhattan...raised in the Bronx and used the public library system for 62 years and counting. When I first went to the public libraries I had to use the Dewey System to look up up for catalogs and book on index cards, nothing digital," commented Rosado, Jr, a senior who uses the Parkchester library. "I had two children I used to take to the library every day after school, now they have grown up and have successful careers. I attribute part of their success due their ability to access endless resources at the New York City public library."

Rosado has a three-year-old granddaughter, Bianca, who he takes to the library three or four times a week for storytelling, arts and crafts, foreign languages classes, and "many more things."

The Council and de Blasio will be doing the budget dance until an agreement is reached before the end of June.

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Queens Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer who heads the Council's committee on Libraries and Cultural Affairs, plus library workers with municipal union DC37