Jan. 18, 2023 By Michael Dorgan
A city council candidate, library workers and students held a rally in Sunnyside Tuesday protesting the mayor’s proposal to cut millions of dollars from the city’s library system.
The rally was held in front of Sunnyside Library, located at 43-06 Greenpoint Ave., where demonstrators held signs reading “budget cuts hurt us,” “keep our future bright,” and “fund libraries.”
They also chanted slogans such as “we need libraries, we need books, we need the money that the city took!”
The protesters gathered to voice their concern about the mayor’s preliminary budget proposal – issued Thursday – that would see more than $13 million shaved off the New York Public Library system this year, with an additional $20.5 million slashed next year.
Hailie Kim, a city council candidate for the 26th District who helped organize the rally, denounced the proposed cuts and said that libraries play a crucial role in educating students.
“Libraries provide essential services that benefit all New Yorkers and are lifelines for the most vulnerable in our society, especially immigrant children,” said Kim, who immigrated from South Korea when she was a child.
“I grew up here as an immigrant child in Sunnyside, so this is deeply personal to me. It was at this very library that I learned to read.”
Adams has said the cuts are necessary, despite the city expected to generate an additional $1.7 billion in FY23 and $738 million in FY24. The extra bump in revenue is being driven, in part, by Wall Street, Adams said.
However, Adams said the cost of settling multiple expired labor contracts, accommodating approximately 40,000 asylum seekers and additional health care costs, will put a strain on the city’s finances which requires belt-tightening measures. He said that federal COVID-era stimulus funds will also run out by the fiscal year 2025.
It is unclear what impact the proposed cuts would have on the library system and the services it provides. Queens Public Library has nearly 1 million active cardholders and provides books and media in over 30 different languages.
Adams said that one way of creating savings across city agencies would be by letting job vacancies go unfilled. His proposals are by no means final since there will be hearings and negotiations with the city council before the final budget is agreed upon by July 1.
Damien Andrade, a student advocate who attended Tuesday’s rally, called on the city council to fight the mayor’s proposals, fearing that library services would be hit hard.
“Libraries provide a safe place for New Yorkers to do homework, read their favorite books, and access printers and WiFi,” Andrade said.
“If our city council members back this budget, our libraries will have to cut their hours, staff, and educational programs. We as New Yorkers depend on this safe place to help receive resources that we might not be able to access at home.”
Why do these stories never mention the actual budget? We hear about a $13 million cut, but not that the remaining library budget is $418M! This is only a 3% cut in funding. Surely a system as vast and full of bloat as the NYC libraries can absorb a 3% funding cut without anybody even noticing. And this budget does NOT include capital expenditures to refurbish libraries, which is a separate budget.