Tag Archives: Bridget Quinn-Carey

$3M more invested into Hunters Point Community Library


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

Long Island City community has fought for over a decade to get a library, and now its dream has started to become a reality — all with a little help from its friends.

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer joined Queens Library Interim President and CEO Bridget Quinn-Carey, other library representatives and local leaders on the LIC waterfront Tuesday afternoon to announce he had secured an additional $3 million toward the construction of the Hunters Point Community Library.

From the additional $3 million, $1 million comes from Van Bramer’s discretionary funds in this year’s budget and the other $2 million came over from City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

“No one ever gave up on this project because we knew how important it was,” said Van Bramer, who has been working on getting the library built for the past 15 years and whose office has allocated a total of $6 million in funds. “This was my number one priority when I ran for office. It was my number one priority in my first year as a City Council member when we allocated those previous $3 million with the help of our previous speaker, and once again we come back to this project which I have never given up on and it’s one of my most proud moments.”

The state-of-the-art library, expected to be completed by the fall of 2017, will be the first neighborhood branch built in Queens in more than 20 years and was designed by architect Steven Holl. Its main interior circulation route will be cut into the west façade, opening up views to the East River and Manhattan skyline.

During Tuesday’s announcement, the Queens Library also presented a model of the new $33 million branch, which broke ground in May and will be located at Center Boulevard and 48th Avenue.

“It is an exciting day to see this rising and to know that this community will have a library. A public library is the heart of a community, heart of a neighborhood and this is such a thriving, robust, wonderful community that has wanted a library for so long,” Quinn-Carey said.

The 21,500-square-foot facility will feature a reading garden, a rooftop terrace, reading rooms for all ages, a gallery, a performance space and a children’s area. Van Bramer also said inside the library there will be a tribute to LIC resident Fausta Ippolito, who passed away four years ago, but for years actively fought for the library to be brought to the community.

Along with the construction of the library, the project will also include the construction of the permanent 1,260-square-foot ranger station at Gantry Plaza State Park. The building will include a reception area, a park manager’s office and bathrooms for the public.

“This building, this library, which some folks thought it would never happen, is rising. It is actually happening and I’m so enormously happy,” Van Bramer said. “This library is going to be one of the most beautiful, one of the most architecturally significant libraries not only in Queens but in the city, if not the nation, and we’re going to be so proud to call that library the Hunters Point Community Library.”

Construction is underway at the future site of the Hunters Point Community Library.

Construction is underway at the future site of the Hunters Point Community Library.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

After Queens Library audit findings, Crowley wants new legislation passed


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

RIDGEWOOD TIMES/Photo by Anthony Giudice

On the heels of the first audit of Queens Library executives in almost 20 years by City Comptroller Scott Stringer, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley introduced legislation that would require officers of city-funded, nonprofit organizations to disclose any conflicts of interest regarding their income.

After the audit revealed that former Queens Library CEO and President Thomas Galante and current interim CEO Bridget Quinn-Carey had amassed over $310,000 in personal expenses over a three-year period, including $115,000 in taxable, undeclared income, Crowley said it was “vital” to get this piece of legislation heard and ultimately passed.

The bill would mandate all individuals in leadership positions at charitable, city-funded, nonprofit organizations report sources of outside income to the city annually.

“Now that we know more of the discrepancies committed by library executives, it’s important that going forward, we ensure this corruption is stopped before it can begin,” Crowley said. “We the public should be aware of all sources of income and benefits of each executive and close family member. No executive receiving city monies should be immune to these disclosures. In their positions, they should voluntarily assure the city they are acting in accordance with the law.”

This legislation is currently in the City Council Contracts Committee awaiting a hearing in the fall.

“Last year the City Council learned that Tom Galante, president of the Queens Public Library system, spent public dollars for personal use. He continues to be under investigation for that and other irregularities,” said Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal, chair of the Contracts Committee. “I applaud Council member Elizabeth Crowley for her leadership to shine light on conflicts of interest involving these executive positions. I am eager to hear her legislation in the Contracts Committee later this year.”

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Costly corruption at Queens Library ran deep: comptroller’s audit


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

QUEENS COURIER/Photo by Anthony Giudice

Executives at the Queens Borough Public Library (QBPL) spent millions of dollars on themselves while claiming the library was in debt and reducing both staff and services, according to an audit that City Comptroller Scott Stringer revealed during a press conference Wednesday morning outside the Astoria public library.

The investigation revealed that Thomas Galante, former QBPL CEO and president as well as other library executives — including current interim CEO Bridget Quinn-Carey — spent over $300,000 on prohibited, extravagant items such as meals, alcohol, concert tickets and airline upgrades. The spending occurred all while library officials claimed the system was running a deficit, according to the audit.

“For years … Galante and his executive team used the library as their personal piggy banks,” Stringer said. “Today, that era is coming to a definitive close.”

Prior to this investigation, a stipulation put in place by a previous administration blocked the comptroller’s office from looking at any QBPL financial records, except for two funds that the library claimed had city money. This roadblock allowed library staff to spend money with impunity. In December 2014, a newly formed QBPL board of trustees fired Galante and voted to give Stringer’s office full access to library financial records.

Carl S. Koerner, chair of the Queens Library board of trustees, said in a statement Wednesday that Queens Library was working to reform the system from top to bottom.

“Like other investigations into the library’s finances over the past year, today’s audit confirms many disturbing practices of the library’s prior director and its complacent former trustees —which is why the current board reversed an earlier decision and unanimously voted to give the comptroller’s office full access to all of the library’s bank accounts,” Koerner said.

But Stringer pointed out that Galante’s interim replacement, Quinn-Carey, was also involved in unscrupulous spending of city funds, as noted in the audit.

“Former COO and interim CEO Bridget Quinn-Carey also made a number of prohibited purchases totaling more than $48,000, including $11,500 for food and booze, 70 gift cards and 22 charges worth $4,000 with no explanation at all,” Stringer said.

In addition to inappropriately spending, the comptroller noted, the library’s senior staff increased their salaries by seven percent and cut library operating hours during Galante’s tenure.

“As they were scaling back access to books, Internet and vital programs and services, they were lining their own pockets,” Stringer charged.

The audit found that during fiscal years 2008 to 2013, the library staff charged all of its operating expenses to the library’s “city fund” account, which is subject to review by the comptroller’s office. This led to the library to appear to be running a deficit that ranged from $5.7 to $6.9 million, which enabled Galante to ask the City Council for more funds, all while the library had between $17 to $27 million in unrestricted funds.

Library executives may also owe personal income tax on purchases made, and they may have made fraudulent purchases. Galante failed to disclose the three businesses that he owns on city integrity forms, only divulging the information when he learned of the audit.

The audit has been submitted to law enforcement agencies for further investigation and action, Stringer said.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Op-ed: Find the best teacher — look in the mirror


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

BY BRIDGET QUINN-CAREY

Helping children become good readers is a gift that lasts a lifetime. It gives them the tools to do well in school and will remain a critical skill throughout their personal and working lives. Experts agree: parents are their children’s first and best teachers. Children who are read to at the earliest age are the most likely to become good readers themselves.

Read to your children. It does not make a difference what you read. Read the newspaper, read a magazine, read a picture book. It does not matter what language you read in, or if you think the child is too young to understand. Simply read to them, regularly.

Queens Library is your partner in developing good readers. We have many, many fun, high-quality books to lend in English and in many other languages. Children love them. Through picture books, children learn letters, numbers, colors and a lot of information about how the world works. Don’t be shy — borrow as many as you like!

Play time offers more opportunities for learning. Rhymes and finger games help little ones learn basic reading and math concepts. Queens Library has a variety of programs, parenting tools and materials that will help make reading and play even more fun, as well as educational.

Queens Library is NYC’s first library to introduce a Family Place. We are currently offering this program in five libraries and will be expanding the program in the autumn. Through this interactive program, parents and caregivers experience the learning opportunities of the library together with their children. Family Place provides a wide array of developmentally appropriate children’s books, parenting books and hands-on toys in a welcoming area designed exclusively for them. It has been so popular, we can’t wait to bring it to more Queens neighborhoods.
Kickoff-to-Kindergarten is a structured eight-week school-readiness program for children ages 3 and 4, currently offered at eight Queens Library locations. The goal is to encourage parents and caregivers to be the “first teachers” of our youngest patrons and help ensure that children are ready to learn at school.

You are never too young — or too old — to enjoy a great library story time. Many of us have wonderful memories of listening to stories, whether it was on a grandparent’s lap or in the library. Every culture, the world over, tells stories, and for good reason — stories teach while they entertain. Queens Library’s early childhood programs are for children as young as 12 months and up to pre-kindergarten. The little ones have a great time, learning and developing a love of reading and books.

Registration for summer reading is going on in every Queens Library location right now. Even children who do not read by themselves yet are welcome to sign up. School-aged children and teens keep their reading skills sharp and retain what they learned in school. Plus, it’s fun, it’s free and it’s right in the neighborhood. It’s an all-around win.

Queens Library invites you to partner with us to make great readers of every child in Queens.

Bridget Quinn-Carey is the interim president and CEO of the Queens Borough Public Library.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Queens Library CEO appeals for more city funding


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Queens Borough Public Library

With a little more than a month until the city’s budget deadline, the Queens Borough Public Library is urging elected officials to make a much-needed investment in its system.

The Queens Library, along with the Brooklyn and New York public libraries, recently launched the “Invest in Libraries” campaign, which aims to engage New Yorkers in the debate and convince city lawmakers to provide an additional $65 million in combined funding in the 2016 fiscal year budget, which takes effect in July.

Queens Library’s Interim President and CEO Bridget Quinn-Carey outlined the campaign in an exclusive interview with The Courier Thursday. The Queens Library seeks an $18.2 million funding boost from the city, a drop in the bucket in a budget projected to meet or exceed $70 billion.

Should Queens Library receive the extra funding, Quinn-Carey claimed, it would restore the library’s funding level to that of 2008 and open the door toward adding more than 200 new jobs, expanding existing educational programs and restoring six-day service throughout the system. Since 2008, the library lost 20 percent of its funds, pared jobs and eliminated six-day service at two-thirds of its 62 branches.

Quinn-Carey charged that increasing library funds is a concept that aligns with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s efforts to increase economic opportunity for all New Yorkers.  For instance, the extra funds would enable Queens Library to expand its English as a second language program, which was held at 40 branches and proved so popular that some potential students were turned away due to a lack of available seats.

“This is really an investment not only in the traditional library system but also community engagement,” she said. “This is giving communities a greater chance of success.”

Additionally, the Queens Library is also seeking capital funds to renovate many aging, yet heavily used branches such as the Corona, Rego Park and Far Rockaway locations. De Blasio set aside $300 million in the city’s 10-year capital plan to renovate libraries, but Quinn-Carey noted the actual projected costs exceed $1.4 billion.

Quinn-Carey and the Queens Library have spent the better part of a year working to repair its image following a scandal centered around its former president and CEO, Thomas W. Galante. He came under fire early in 2014 after it was revealed that he collected a nearly $400,000 annual salary, ordered a six-figure renovation of his office and made other lavish expenses at a time when the library cut jobs and services due to funding cutbacks.

The library lost political and financial support, and local elected officials such as Queens Borough President Melinda Katz sought to change the library’s board of trustees after it resisted calls to force Galante out of office and fully open its financial books. Legislation enacted by the state in June empowered Katz and de Blasio to remove eight library trustees who supported Galante and resisted calls for full financial disclosure.

The board of trustees was stocked with new members by September, when it forced Galante into a leave of absence. Quinn-Carey was named as his interim replacement, and Galante was subsequently fired in December.

Quinn-Carey said she and the reconstituted board are working closely with the government to reform the library system. It engaged audit firms to assess the library’s risks and expenses. Steps were also taken to make the library more transparent; the library is now in compliance with the Freedom of Information Law and posts expense records on its website.

“These efforts and a reform of policies and procedures should reassure the public that the library is a great institution and still able to deliver these great services,” Quinn-Carey said.

Click here for more information about the Invest in Libraries campaign.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

New citywide campaign calls for over $1B investment in libraries


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer's Office

A citywide campaign is looking to reach city leaders and call on them to invest in and fund public libraries.

The campaign “Invest in Libraries,” which was launched on Friday, is a partnership among library supporters, the Brooklyn Public Library, New York Public Library and Queens Library.

“Invest in Libraries” calls for a $65 million increase in operating expenses in this year’s budget in order to provide to the programs and services offered at the three library systems. It also calls for $1.1 billion in capital funding for critical renovations and maintenance.

Along with launching the campaign, a new report called “Long Overdue: NYC’s $1.1 Billion Library Fine,” was also released, sharing examples of branches that are in need of capital funding.

“Our city’s library branches are literally crumbling,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer. “This report highlights the tremendous need and maintenance crisis that is plaguing our city’s neighborhood library branches. Without increasing the operating and capital budgets for the city’s three library institutions, millions of New Yorkers will continue to lose access to the very resources and programs that are pulling them into the middle class. Now is the time to act.”

In the report it says the city’s libraries are facing a “maintenance crisis” with problems such as overcrowding, chronic water damage, broken elevators, heating and cooling problems, and other issues. In some cases, because of inadequate funding, some libraries have been forced to make temporary fixes such as painting over leaks instead of replacing declining roofs, the report said.

The campaign also launched the website investinlibraries.org where people can “take action” and stay updated.

“In the first half of Fiscal Year ’15, visitorship at Queens Library is up. Attendance at free library programs is up 6.7 percent over the past 6 months, and up 43 percent over the past five years. We now have the opportunity and ability to do better for the people of this city — as the economy grows, so should the investment in libraries,” said Bridget Quinn-Carey, interim president and CEO of the Queens Library. “Together we can ensure all of our residents and communities grow and thrive.”

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Construction set to start on Hunters Point Community Library


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Renderings courtesy of the Queens Library

The Long Island City community celebrated Thursday morning the beginning of construction of a new waterfront library set to have the best view in Queens.

Local elected officials, community leaders, students from P.S./I.S. 78 and residents of the western Queens neighborhood came together for the start of the construction phase for the Hunters Point Community Library, which will be located at Center Boulevard and 48th Avenue, right next to Gantry Plaza State Park.

“This is an amazing historic day for Hunters Point, Long Island City,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who helped secure $30 million to begin construction of the new branch. “For so many folks here who may have thought, ‘Is it really ever going to happen?’ today we are here to say it is, it’s happening, it’s real, this is a huge victory.”

The state-of-the-art library, set to break ground in the spring and be completed in 2017, was designed by architect Steven Holl.

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

“The great struggle of a neighborhood like this which has buildings going up by the day and thousands of people moving in, is making sure the infrastructure keeps up,” said state Senator Michael Gianaris, who provided $500,000 in state funding for the library. “To be able to say…we are going to have this landmark that people will look at from Manhattan and be jealous of is a testament to all the hard work that everyone has been doing.”

The 21,500-square-foot facility will feature a reading garden, rooftop terrace, reading rooms for all ages, a gallery, a performance space and a children’s area. It will overlook the Manhattan skyline across the East River.

“It will absolutely be the best view of any library in Queens. We are excited to see that start to rise and to know that we are providing a new library for this community that so desperately wants and needs it,” said Bridget Quinn-Carey, interim president and CEO of the Queens Library. “The library is in a great place for 2015 and beyond and projects like this really show how we can come together with our communities to provide what you need in a library.”

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Four top Queens Library execs out in the wake of director’s firing


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Queens Library

Just a month after the former director of the Queens Library was fired from his post, four of his top deputies have now followed him out the door amid a reshuffling of the library’s executive staff.

Tom Galante was bumped from his $392,000-a-year post last month by the library’s board. Galante, through his lawyer, has said he will file a lawsuit charging that the board did not have cause to dismiss him.

Turnover of the top staff continued this week with the resignations of Vice President and General Counsel Darlene Askew-Robinson, Vice President for Information Technology Lisa Epps, Vice President for Human Resources Angelica Huynh-Rivera and Vice President for Capital Projects Frank Geneese.

Library spokeswoman Joanne King declined to identify the departing staffers or any other details of the changes at the top that were reported by the Daily News. But King did release prepared comments about staffing changes from the library’s interim president, Bridget Quinn-Carey.

“Queens Library has entered into a new era. We are creating a new culture of openness and transparency, while continuing the library’s legacy of customer service. A change in direction often requires a change in administration; this was necessary in order for the library to move forward.”

She went on to say, “2015 will be a year of rebuilding and team building. Along with the board, elected officials and other stakeholders, the people of Queens can look forward to the best Queens Library ever,” Quinn-Carey said.

The library was the subject of scathing press reports last year over Galante’s salary, benefits, outside employment and renovation of the executive staff offices, including construction of a smoking deck.

The reports led to Mayor de Blasio and Borough President Melinda Katz dismissing six members of the library board last year. Former board members have criticized the moves and defended Galante for his record of operating a library that has received numerous awards, nationally and internationally.

City Comptroller Scott Stringer last year joined the battle over the library’s management. He went to court to force the library — technically not a city agency even though 85 percent of its funding comes from City Hall — to open its books so he could conduct an audit.

“I applaud Bridget Quinn-Carey for taking a big broom and doing a clean sweep at the Queens Library,” Stringer said in a statement. “Taxpayers deserve a management team who puts the public’s interest first. I look forward to working with my fellow board trustees and the library’s new leadership as we restore the Queens Library to its rightful place as one of the nation’s premier public library systems.”

Backers of Galante, including several former board members who were booted from their posts by Katz, had defended the former director and said the controversy was sparked by union reaction to his attempts to rein in spending and privatize a small number of janitorial jobs.

They had insisted that Galante’s spending, including credit cards used for travel and other expenses, were all authorized by the board.

If Galante can prove in court that he was fired without cause, he could be owed as much as five years’ salary under the terms of his contract.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Axed Queens Library director will sue for wrongful termination


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

Update 4:30 p.m.

It’s the end of Tom Galante‘s chapter as director of the Queens Library.

The institution’s board of trustees fired Galante during a meeting Wednesday night—prompting his lawyer to say Thursday that he will be suing for breach of contract.

“This evening, the board of trustees heard a report by counsel. Based on that and a prior report by counsel, a decision was made to terminate immediately Mr. Galante’s employment,” a statement from the library said. “As the library moves forward, the board of trustees will continue working to ensure greater transparency and the proper administration of the library and its funds in furtherance of its mission. Queens Library will continue to provide outstanding value to the people of Queens.”

In September the board voted to suspend Galante, appointing Bridget Quinn-Carey, the library’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, to carry out his duties. He continued to collect his $392,000 annual salary while on administrative leave.

According to the resolution voted on by the board, Galante was fired with cause. Library officials would not specify what constituted cause in his case.

Galante is looking to sue for breach of contract, although nothing has been filed yet, according to Hillary Zilz Prudlo, whose firm Sclam Stone & Dolan is representing Galante.

If Galante can prove in court that the board did not have cause to fire him, he could be due five years’ salary under the terms of his contract—nearly $2 million.

In September, the board voted  to open its books for the city comptroller, Scott Stringer, to perform an audit on all financial data from the library, which receives 85 percent of its funding from taxpayer money but is not officially a city agency or department.

In a statement released on Wednesday Stringer said Galante’s termination was “long overdue.”

“Transparency and proper controls are the cornerstones of good nonprofit governance. My office is currently conducting comprehensive audits of all three New York City library systems. Separately, in my capacity as an ex-officio trustee at the Queens Library, we have already begun working with the board to strengthen internal controls to ensure greater transparency,” he said. 

Galante has been under fire since a series of media reports revealing the renovation of his office that included a $27,000 outdoor deck and expenses he rang up on a library credit card during his time as library director.

Earlier this week, Joseph Ficalora, CEO of NY Community Bank and past president of the Queens Library Foundation Board, told The Courier that the expenses Galante made during his time as library director were not “inappropriate” and had all been approved by the board.

Ficalora was one of the six Queens Library trustees dismissed by Borough President Melinda Katz in July. Mayor Bill de Blasio fired two, and two others resigned. Four new trustees have since been appointed.

Six of the ousted trustees filed a lawsuit in August demanding to be reinstated. Last month, a federal judge granted the request of the former trustees to dismiss their lawsuit that challenged Katz’s decision to remove them from the board.

“Tonight’s action further restores public faith and trust in the management of the Queens Library,” Katz said in a statement following Galante’s termination. “The reformed board of trustees continues to move the library in the right direction consistent with its educational purpose.”

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Board suspends Queens Library President Tom Galante


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

The Queens Library has shelved its president.

The library’s board of trustees voted Thursday night to suspend embattled library boss Tom Galante.

Galante will continue to collect his $392,000 annual salary while on administrative leave, library officials said.

His duties will be carried out by Bridget Quinn-Carey, the library’s executive vice president and chief operating officer.

“Queens Library has a critical mission to provide information and education. It has long been a model of excellence, “ Quinn-Carey said in a statement.  “I look forward to working with the board of trustees, our elected officials and colleagues at all levels of the organization, including our union, to build on the library’s outstanding work. There are 2.3 million people depending on it.”

Galante declined to comment on Friday.

The board also voted to open its books for the city comptroller, Scott Stringer, to perform an audit on all financial data from the library, which receives 85 percent of its funding from taxpayer money.

Galante and the board, which has seen 10 trustees removed or resigned, had refused to surrender the information relying on a decades-old agreement with the city that allowed the comptroller to audit only that portion of the budget that came from public funds.

That dispute, as well as a revelation in the Daily News that Galante was earning a hefty wage moonlighting for the Elmont school district, sent lawmakers into action, granting the borough president and mayor the power to remove board members for cause. Galante has also been under fire after the renovation of his office that included a $27,000 outdoor deck was revealed.

In July, Borough President Melinda Katz fired six trustees and Mayor Bill de Blasio canned two.  Two others resigned.  Four new trustees have since been appointed.

Six of the ousted trustees filed a lawsuit in August demanding to be reinstated.  They were unsuccessful in getting an injunction to prevent their permanent removal, which became official after Katz rejected their appeals.  The suit, which also demands monetary damages from Katz, is pending in Brooklyn Federal Court.

Katz lauded the board’s decision, saying that it would allow them to “take immediate steps to improve the Queens Library’s governance and increase the transparency of its operations.”

RECOMMENDED STORIES

 

Queens Library space to open in Queens Center


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File Photo

Shoppers will soon be able to take a break in between stores and visit the library.

Queens Center, located at 90-15 Queens Blvd. in Elmhurst, has invited the Queens Library to open up a library space within the mall. It will be located adjacent to the food court and is expected to open in late spring.

“We are excited about bringing Queens Library to the Queens Center mall. It is an opportunity to reach even more people and familiarize them with everything Queens Library can do to enrich their lives,” said Queens Library’s Chief Operating Officer Bridget Quinn-Carey. “The library space at Queens Center mall will have books and reading material to engage people at the mall, or they can borrow and take books home. We will be hosting special programs as well.”

The library space, which will be Wi-Fi enabled, will include comfortable seating and offer a collection of popular books which people can sit down and read or borrow with their library cards. Laptops will be available to rent for use within the space and tablets may also be offered.

Free library card sign-up will be available at the location and there will be a schedule of promotional events in collaboration with other mall tenants  and programs, such as speakers, arts and crafts, kids’ educational entertainment and more. 

The space will also feature computer terminals to look up and request materials, order books  and research things to do in their neighborhoods. Full reference and referral services will be available by phone. 

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES