Mayor Adams’ budget would force NYC libraries to fully close Sundays despite reversal of some cuts
New York City’s three public library systems would have to close Sundays and cut some branches’ opening hours to five days a week if Mayor Adams’ latest budget proposal is adopted, library leaders said Thursday.
The cutbacks come in spite of the fact that Adams rolled out an executive budget plan last month that affirmed he would no longer seek to subject the New York, Brooklyn and Queens public library systems to a 4% budget reduction he had initially ordered.
In testimony before the City Council, the honchos of the three library systems said that, while they appreciate the reversal of the 4% shave, previous budget trims demanded by the mayor still amount to a combined $36.2 million funding slash for them.
If implemented, the cuts “will cause harm,” said Brooklyn Public Library President Linda Johnson.
“It threatens to turn back the clock on a decade of diligent progress,” she testified.
Off the bat, Johnson, New York Public Library President Anthony Marx and Queens Public Library President Dennis Walcott told Council members that Adams’ belt-tightening proposal would end the limited Sunday service at their branches.
Currently, 21 branches in the city are open on Sundays — 10 in Brooklyn, three in Queens and eight across the New York Public Library system, which covers Manhattan, Staten Island and the Bronx. All those branches would no longer be able to provide Sunday service if Adams’ proposed cuts are realized, according to the library heads.
In addition, Marx said about half of his system’s 92 locations would only be able to stay open five days a week. Currently, all locations stay open at least six days a week.
The Brooklyn and Queens systems would be forced to resort to similar five-day schedules at many branches should Adams get his way on the budget cuts, Walcott and Johnson said.
Marx said service would have to be reduced so drastically at his system because the proposed funding drop would result in the scrapping of roughly 100 full-time staff positions.
Adams has previously said he must pursue austerity at municipal agencies to hedge against ballooning city budget deficits fueled by costs incurred from the migrant crisis. However, he has also said he does not want cuts to be based on service reductions.
Asked for comment on the library heads’ testimony, Adams spokeswoman Amaris Cockfield said municipal agencies must become “more efficient“ as the city projects spending more than $4 billion on the migrant crisis by July 2024.
”It’s easy to pretend the city has unlimited resources, but irresponsible spending puts New Yorkers at even greater risk,” Cockfield said. “This administration has made critical investments in the city’s three library systems and recognizes the vital role they play in our communities. We will continue to work with our libraries throughout the budget process to evaluate their needs.”
Adams’ push to slash library funding has emerged as one of the most hotly-contested issues in this year’s budget negotiations.
Council members have vehemently opposed the cuts, arguing they’d devastate libraries, which serve communities in a variety of ways, including by providing free homework help, afterschool initiatives and other social programming.
Brooklyn Councilman Charles Barron, a socialist who frequently criticizes Adams, called the $36.2 million the mayor wants to strip from libraries “peanuts” in the larger context of the annual budget, which is expected to far exceed $100 billion.
Marx agreed with Barron.
“For less than half of 1% of the total budget, the library has proved itself unmatched in its ability to reach our communities with free offerings in education, outreach, collections, and city partnership,” he said.
The mayor and the City Council have to come to an agreement on a final budget plan for next fiscal year by July 1.