In Brief

NYC Public Libraries Get Largest Funding Increase Ever

The Brooklyn Public Library system's Central Library (photo by David Shankbone/Wikipedia)
The Brooklyn Public Library system’s Central Library (photo by David Shankbone/Wikipedia)

In a deal on the fiscal year 2016 budget struck late Monday night, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito announced an extra $39 million for the city’s libraries. The additional funding will allow for a restoration of six-day service at all branches across the city’s three library systems (Brooklyn, New York, and Queens) and create some 500 new jobs, Library Journal reported.

“This is a long time coming, and a very hard earned victory for libraries in New York City,” said City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer, whom the Journal describes as “one of City Hall’s most tireless advocates for libraries.”

Participants in a 24-hour “read-in” at City Hall, organized by Urban Librarians Unite on June 11 to rally support for NYC's libraries (photo by @madam_pince/Instagram) (click to enlarge)
Participants in a 24-hour “read-in” at City Hall, organized by Urban Librarians Unite on June 11 to rally support for NYC’s libraries (photo by @madam_pince/Instagram) (click to enlarge)

In his original FY2016 budget proposal, Mayor de Blasio allocated only $313 million to the city’s libraries — $10 million less than last year and a $65 million drop from 2008 funding levels. In response, Van Bramer and many other library advocates rallied public support behind a request for an additional $65 million. The newly announced compromise provides for just a little over half of that ($39 million) in operating funds, but de Blasio’s office has also agreed to a $300 million 10-year capital budget for the libraries — amounting to “the largest ever combined increase in operating and capital funding for public libraries,” according to NYPL President Anthony Marx. (Though advocates plan to continue campaigning for $1.4 billion in capital funding over 10 years.)

New York City’s libraries have struggled with funding cuts for nearly a decade. An April report by the Center for an Urban Future found that public libraries here were open on average 45 hours a week — “fewer hours per week than every large county in New York State except one” — and only 3% of them were open seven days a week. It also compared New York’s library hours to those of other urban centers across the country: out of the 10 largest cities, New York came in seventh. “Library service hours are an enormously important barometer of their effectiveness,” the report stated. “As Mayor de Blasio and the City Council negotiate a new budget, bringing the city’s library hours more in line with their peers across the state and country should be a high priority.”

In addition to reflecting that, the FY2016 budget introduces new funding for NYC parks, including money for gardeners and maintenance workers and an extension of beach season one week past Labor Day (to the tune of $687,000), the Gotham Gazette reported. It also, controversially, calls for the hiring of 1,297 new NYPD officers. The $78.5 billion budget isn’t completely final yet — the City Council will vote on it this week — but it’s “expected to pass without much fuss,” says Gothamist.

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