Monday, May 25, 2009

Boro Residents Protest Planned $17M Library Cuts by Anna Gustafson -

Read original...

More than 100 borough residents rally against proposed cuts to the Queens Library in Flushing Monday. Photo by Anna Gustafson

More than 100 Queens residents and legislators protested Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposal to cut $17 million in city funding for the Queens Library at a rally Monday afternoon, saying the move would force all borough library branches to shut their doors on weekends and cut back weekday hours.

“With these cuts, every community library would have to close Saturdays and Sundays,” Borough President Helen Marshall said at the rally outside Flushing Library Monday. “These are the days people can go to the library, when they’re not working. Sixteen libraries will go from being open five days to two days. There will be deep reductions in books purchased.”

Marshall was joined by City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D−Middle Village), Queens Civic Congress President Cory Bearak, Queens Library Director Tom Galante, library activist and Community Board 8 member Patricia Dolan and about 100 area residents for the rally that is one of several events the library is holding to launch criticism at the mayor’s proposal.

The elimination of $17 million in funding for Queens Library could force the country’s busiest library system to reduce its workforce by 31 percent and sustain major service cuts, according to James Van Bramer, Queens Library’s chief external affairs officer.

Thousands of borough residents have raised concerns about the cut, and Galante said 85,000 people have signed an online petition calling on the funding to be restored. Galante said library officials plan on delivering the petition to the City Council in a few weeks.

The Council would have to approve the mayor’s proposed budget cuts before they would be implemented.

“I’m here to say no more cuts,” Crowley said to a crowd that frequently broke into chants of “Save our library.”

“People are out of work, and the first place people turn to when they’re out of work is the library,” Crowley added.

Van Bramer said the library has seen about 50,000 people turn to it for rÉsumÉ and job help in the past year.

“We must have libraries open because more people use the libraries when the economy is not good,” said Ethel Chen, president of the Friends of the Flushing Library.

Chen has helped to collect 10,000 signatures in support of Queens Library in the past couple of months.

“We wouldn’t have anywhere to go after school,” said Flushing resident Madison Freeman, a 10−year−old student from PS 20. “If you don’t want to go to the park, you can come here and learn. It would be really sad if we didn’t have it.”

Marc LaVorgna, a Bloomberg spokesman, said in a previous interview with TimesLedger Newspapers that the city is “still maintaining strong support for the library system, but no entity is immune from having to find ways to be more efficient.”