Tag Archives: Center for an Urban Future

Queens Library struggling from space constraints, report says


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the Queens Library

Increasing space for users at Queens Library branches could begin a new chapter in its history, after a new study found most locations are struggling from space constraints.

The news comes days after the library’s CEO Tom Galante was suspended by the board of trustees, following a series of published reports revealing his nearly $400,000 salary, benefits, and erection of a smoking deck outside his office in Central Library, while making employee cuts.

The Center for an Urban Future released Monday the Re-Envisioning New York’s Branch Libraries report, which said 41 of the library’s 62 branches are under 10,000 square feet and struggling to meet the demands of its increasing membership. Queens had the most branches under that size in the five boroughs. Brooklyn came in second with 26 branches.

About 11.2 million people visited Queens Library branches in fiscal year 2014, according to statistics on the library’s website, and there were 929,000 active borrowers. The problem isn’t a need to repair libraries but adjust the layout, according to the report.

“It’s not just that so many New York City libraries are old and in a state of disrepair, many are not configured to meet the needs of today’s users,” the study said. “Designed around their book collections, many devote a majority of their layouts to shelves and rooms for book processing.”

The report specifically identified the Fresh Meadows library branch as one of the more well-attended branches in the city, but only has 8,700 square feet of space. That branch and the Far Rockaway, Lefferts, Rego Park and Sunnyside locations are five of the 10 “highest performing branches citywide” that are in need of more space.

“These well-attended branches would undoubtedly attract significantly more patrons for programs if they had more space for them,” the report said.

But some libraries just don’t have enough seating, such as the Jackson Heights branch, which has more than 375,000 annual visitors, but can only seat 78 people.

In its defense, Interim Queens Library President and CEO Bridget Quinn-Carey said that the library is currently engaging in many projects to expand its branches and meet its vast membership.

“Over the past several years, elected officials in Queens have done a great job of allocating funds to help Queens Library upgrade and maintain its facilities,” Quinn-Carey said. “As the report suggests, there is still so much more that we could be doing for the community if we had the space in which to do it. We look forward to working with public funders to establish a rational, forward-looking capital funding plan that gives libraries the resources they need to plan important capital investments.”

On a positive note, Queens has the newest libraries, according to the report. The borough ranks youngest in age, with the average library at just 47 years old. Manhattan is first with an average age of 84 years old. Also, six of the 15 new libraries in the past 20 years were branches in Queens.

Click here to read the full report.

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Queens highways, other city infrastructure ‘badly’ in need of repair: report


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo via Wikimedia Commons / Jim.henderson

Queens is facing some serious infrastructure challenges, according to a new report.

The Center for an Urban Future found the borough has five of the nine worst maintained highways in the city.

Based on a 10-point scale, where 1 to 5 is considered “poor,” 6 is “fair,” 7 to 8 is “good,” and 9 to 10 is “excellent,” in 2012, the Jackie Robinson Parkway received a surface rating of 5.8, and the Shore Front Parkway, Cross Bay Parkway Route 25A and Route 24 earned a 6.0.

Overall, highway conditions in the borough have been deteriorating, the report said. In 2008, 38 percent of Queens highways were rated “fair” or “poor.” Four years later, 52 percent were in the same shape.

The report, released Tuesday, showed additional infrastructure issues in the borough.

About 30 percent of its streets were in “fair” or “poor” condition.

Other findings showed that Queens New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) developments have the most deteriorated building façades and roofs, according to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development inspections. Four of the NYCHA complexes in the borough need over $70 million in façade repairs through 2016.

Several of the city’s oldest wastewater treatment plants are in eastern Queens, including Jamaica (1943) and Bowery Bay near Flushing (1939), according to the report.

John F. Kennedy International Airport also needs upgrades due to age.

Its facilities are 40 years old on average, “with 63 percent of cargo space considered ‘non-viable,’ or unfit for modern screening, storage and distribution,” the report said.

Queens was not alone in its infrastructure problems.

The report calculated that New York City needs $47 billion over the next four to five years to bring its “aging infrastructure to a state of good repair.”

It found that a “significant portion” of the city’s bridges, water mains, sewer pipes, school buildings and other important infrastructure is more than 50 years old and “badly” in need of repair.

“New York won’t be able to address every one of the city’s infrastructure vulnerabilities at this time,” said Jonathan Bowles, executive director of the Center for an Urban Future and co-editor of the report. “But if a significant chunk of the city’s critical infrastructure is not brought to a state of good repair in the years ahead, it could seriously undermine the city’s economic competitiveness and quality of life—and lead to substantial long-term costs.”

The aging infrastructure includes 1,000 miles of water mains more than 100 years old; more than 160 bridges across the five boroughs that were built over a century ago; and 6,300 miles of gas mains that are on average, 56 years old.

The report suggests creating new dedicated revenue sources to pay for repairing and modernizing infrastructure.

 

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Queens has most immigrant seniors in city: report


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Queens has the largest number of immigrant seniors in the city, with Flushing leading the list of neighborhoods, according to a new report.

The borough is home to about 162,000 foreign-born people over the age of 65, says a study by the Center for an Urban Future. The report shows more than 25,000 live in Flushing.

“Immigrants are critical to Queens,” said Jonathan Bowles, executive director of the New York-based think tank.

“They’ve driven a lot of the economic growth in the borough,” he said. “They make up almost half of the population in Queens. It’s important that they can grow old in the city.”

Droves of immigrants, mostly from Asia, first made their way to Flushing in the 1970s, Bowles said.

Since then, many more have moved from Manhattan’s Chinatown to the northern Queens neighborhood for a more affordable way of life that is surrounded by immigrant services. In the last decade, more than 8,000 immigrant seniors have settled in Flushing, according to the report.

“They want to live in Flushing because it’s more convenient for them in terms of language barriers,” said Kathy Liu, program director for the Flushing YMCA’s New Americans Welcome Center. “It’s one of the neighborhoods which allow immigrants to go to different agencies to help them in their language.”

The center is a one-stop shop for non-English speakers and one of many locations where immigrants can receive for free literacy, citizen preparation, job readiness and computer classes year-round. The facility sees natives from China, Korea and even France, Liu said.

The Flushing branch of the Queens Library, which offers similar services, is the most heavily used branch in the state, said Queens Library spokesperson Joanne King.

Still, the report shows immigrant seniors face a number of challenges, including a higher poverty rate. They are also less likely to receive government benefits.

“Many don’t qualify for retirement or housing benefits,” Liu said. “With rent so high in this area, they find it very difficult to live with the savings they brought from their own country.”

According to the report, Flushing has the highest concentration of poor seniors. More than half of all Korean seniors in the city who are below the federal poverty line live in Flushing, the study found.

The Rockaways had the second largest group of poor immigrant seniors, 3,154 people.

“Immigrant adults have all of those traditional challenges, but then they have additional ones because of language barriers or a lack of familiarity with programs and services that are available,” Bowles said. “I don’t see this as a problem necessarily, but as a challenge that New York City policy makers have to plan for.”

Some other highlights:

  • Bellerose, Rosedale, Forest Hills and Rego Park, trailing slightly behind Flushing, also made the list.
  • Howard Beach and South Ozone Park had the largest change in their immigrant senior population. They saw a 112 percent jump, which amounts to nearly 5,000 seniors.
  •  Over the last decade, the number of immigrant seniors in Queens increased by 42,000, while the number of native-born seniors dropped by nearly 41,000.



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