Tag Archives: Joseph Ficalora

Former Queens Library trustee defends Tom Galante’s reported expenses


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

One of the six Queens Library trustees dismissed by the borough president has stepped out to defend the expenses by suspended library chief Tom Galante, who could potentially face being fired at a board meeting scheduled for Wednesday night.

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

According to the NY Daily News, Galante had been using funds “like a personal piggy bank” before being suspended in September, based on a preliminary review of library finances by city Comptroller Scott Stringer.

Some of the credit card charges that Galante rang up included dinners with groups of library trustees, concert tickets and various hotel charges while the library chief was on out-of-town library business.

However, according to Ficalora, the expenses that are being reported had all been approved by the board and were consistent to those of others who held Galante’s position. He also added that six of the board members who had approved the expenses are still on the board.

“This was nothing that they didn’t know and the board members that are still sitting knew this and there was nothing about the expenses that were inappropriate,” Ficalora said.

He also said that other reports that brought up international trips Galante took were a “miscarriage of justice” because he had been traveling around the world as the ambassador of the library and also to accept awards on the library’s behalf.

“These activities were board-approved and consistent with the library having earned awards,” Ficalora said. “Tom was invited to speak at world-class events because of the world recognition and awards the Queens Library was receiving. None of those expenses were inappropriate and they were all approved by the board.”

In regards to the “fine dining,” Ficalora added that these meals have been typical for library directors for decades and they took place to discuss library business such as new programs or any problems.

Galante was suspended in September and his duties have since been carried out by Bridget Quinn-Carey, the library’s executive vice president and chief operating officer.

In July, Borough President Melinda Katz fired six trustees and Mayor Bill de Blasio fired 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. However, two weeks ago 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.

According to one of the lawyers representing the former trustees, the lawsuit was dismissed because the former trustees did not have the financial ability and emotional willpower to pursue the lawsuit.

A special meeting of the board of trustees will take place at 7 p.m. on Wednesday in the Robert T. Groh Board Room at the Central Library, located at 89-11 Merrick Blvd. According to sources, the election of officers might be taking place during the meeting.

In addition, the Audit Committee will meet at 5:30 p.m. and the Finance & Investments Committee will meet at 6:30 p.m.

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Ousted Queens Library board members sue Katz; demand reinstatement, money


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

File photo

Calling their ouster a “brazen and unconstitutional power grab,” six former trustees of the Queens Library filed a federal lawsuit to be restored to the board.

The suit, filed on Friday by Jacqueline Arrington, Joseph Ficalora, William Jefferson, Grace Lawrence, Terri Mangino and George Stamatiades, also demands that the 2014 law that gave Borough President Melinda Katz the power to bounce them, be invalidated.

The six plaintiffs also demand unspecified monetary damages against Katz—including punitive damages—“on account of the egregious nature of the unconstitutional violations and Katz’s malicious and punitive conduct in publicly smearing plaintiffs in order to aggrandize herself,” according to court papers filed in Brooklyn federal court.

After a protracted battle focusing on the stewardship of Tom Galante, the library’s director, the state legislature gave Katz the power to remove trustees of the library before their terms expired.

Katz bounced the six plaintiffs on July 23 because they reportedly attempted to renegotiate Galante’s contract and award him an $800,000 consultancy.  He was already under fire for his near-$400,000 salary—coupled with a high-paying side gig at the Elmont School District—and a controversial renovation of his office that included a $27,000 outdoor deck.

The library receives more than 80 percent of its funding from the public coffers.

Katz did not immediately respond to a call for comment.

 

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Op-ed: Don’t miss an opportunity to invest in Queens


| oped@queenscourier.com

JOSEPH FICALORA

Here is a good investment: a service that is proven to change lives. A service that is free for all, withheld from none, and guaranteed to positively impact the future of all your neighbors. This investment returns an average of $6 on every $1.

This is the opportunity that the Queens Library, one of the borough’s greatest institutions, has to offer. Investing in the library is investing in the people of Queens.

Thanks to an improved fiscal outlook, the City is well-positioned to begin to expand library service and hours in every library, which is something our patrons want and need. This means increased access to programs: adult education, job preparedness, school work assistance, computer use, consumer health information and more.

As a city, we must continue investing in the physical infrastructure that protects the assets of each of our 62 community libraries and the knowledge and educational dividend they return. To miss this opportunity based on sensational headlines and unproven innuendo would truly be a disservice to the people who rely on the Library.

I have been a volunteer on the Board of Trustees of Queens Library since 2000. I volunteer my time and expertise because I know first-hand about the enormous, positive impact the Queens Library makes on the community. The Queens Library is one of the most innovative and forward-thinking public resources we have. It is consistently a national award winner.

Queens Library’s outstanding performance and invaluable contributions to the quality of life cannot be divorced from its management and governance. If the Board or the senior management were lacking, surely the library could not achieve the high level of excellence that it does.

The Library has an outstanding track record regarding capital improvements to its community library branches. It works with the NYC Department of Design and Construction (DDC) to consistently build and upgrade libraries across the borough.

When it can achieve building projects more rapidly and at lower cost by self-managing the construction process, it has done so. All expenditures of City funds are then under the oversight of DDC, the Office of Management & Budget and the Comptroller’s office. While an onerous review process, it is a customary and necessary part of the public review which enables this highly efficient, both in time and money, renovation of library space. It makes good business sense and is prudent public policy. In addition, the Queens Library recently requested that the Independent Budget Office review and analyze this process.

The Queens Library Board of Trustees has regularly taken aggressive action to enhance our governance practices. We are not above criticism and not averse to making changes.

The Library’s Board of Trustees has been ahead of the curve in implementing the mandates of the New York State Non-Profit Revitalization Act. This action, ahead of the law’s implementation in July, has established a new library board Audit Committee; and requires trustees and key employees to provide financial disclosures, as well as meet required independence mandates. All of these actions are geared toward enhancing oversight and transparency.

As taxpayers, we all have the right to know that funds are being spent prudently. The Queens Library is providing records of all City funds to the City Comptroller’s office, and as of this writing, the City Comptroller’s office has already reviewed thousands and thousands of financial records.

I am confident that when the cloud clears, when the inquiries and audits are completed, that the integrity of the library and its leadership will be confirmed.
In the end it is critical to stay focused on the mission of the institution and our role, as trustees, in its future: to reinvest and serve as caretakers for one of the nation’s great library systems and the more than 12 million constituents it serves each and every year.

Joseph Ficalora is President of the Foundation Board and has served on the Queens Library Board over the past 15 years, and in that time, has been Chairman of the Administrative Committee and Chairman of the Board.

 

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Op-ed: Cataloging Queens Library’s accomplishments


| oped@queenscourier.com

JOSEPH FICALORA

When I agreed to join the Board of Trustees of Queens Library, I did so out of a sincere desire to serve the community. Trustees are volunteers. Trustees spend many hours of our own time attending meetings, doing research, and helping to steer the library for future generations. I wanted to maximize my volunteer hours by doing the most good for the most people in my community, and I cannot think of an organization that makes a bigger impact than Queens Library.

During the past 10 years, Queens Library has been a force for immeasurable good. More than 128 million people have visited their community libraries during that time. They have borrowed well over 200 million books and videos. Every library building in every community has been upgraded or is in the pipeline to be upgraded. Millions and millions have used the library’s customer-use computers. Throughout an unrelenting series of budget cuts, the hard-working staff stretched their resources and every library stayed open at least five days a week, including during the critical after school hours every Monday to Friday. Based on accepted national estimates, this means that Queens Library delivered $6 billion worth of goods and services. That’s “billion” with a “b.” Queens Library has won every major industry award for achievement and innovation, from the National Award for Library Service to Library of the Year.

Queens Library is not about statistics. It is about people. In Long Island City, toddlers gather for story time, while their parents chat. In Corona, every seat is filled every day; adults read newspapers in English and Spanish and talk with their neighbors and parents accompany children for homework help. In Far Rockaway, library users take advantage of job search assistance and computer training. In Jamaica, new Bengali immigrants attend workshops in their own language to teach them how to sew, so they can start small home businesses. In Elmhurst, a nursing student is looking for material to help pass the licensing exams. Queens Library supports the community with a broad range of programs and services.

Doing it all, every day, takes astute management. Queens Library is a very large, complex organization. I am proud to be a member of the library board, but the real credit goes to the 1,700 hard-working library staff who serve the public every day. A huge “thank you” to the President and CEO Tom Galante, who has devoted his career to enriching lives. Every not-for-profit would do well to take a page from his book.

Joseph R. Ficalora is President and Chief Executive Officer, New York Community Bancorp and a member of the Board of Trustees of Queens Library.

 

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