Tag Archives: Queens Library

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.

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City budget agreement brings more cops, six-day library service


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

Photo via Twitter/@JimmyVanBramer

More than a thousand new police officers will be hired and six-day library service will be restored in Queens and elsewhere under a $78.5 billion budget agreement that Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito announced late Monday night.

“This budget is a reflection of the responsible, progressive and honest process we’ve built over the last year and a half,” de Blasio said. “We’re strengthening the NYPD’s ranks, devoting new officers to counter-terror work and neighborhood policing, while securing vital fiscal reforms in overtime and civilianization.”

“This early, fiscally responsible budget will uplift New Yorkers in every neighborhood across the five boroughs,” Mark-Viverito added. “From establishing a citywide bail fund, to creating new jobs for young adults, to strengthening the city’s commitment to veterans and hiring 1,297 more NYPD officers to keep us safe, our budget makes New York City a better place to call home.”

The spending plan allocates $170 million toward the NYPD to bolster its roster by 1,300 officers. In the weeks leading up to the agreement, the mayor and speaker differed on how many new officers to hire (de Blasio initially sought 500; Mark-Viverito wanted 1,000).

According to the mayor’s office, the city stands to save $70 million by reforming NYPD overtime and increasing the number of civilian employees within the department.

The city will also allocate an additional $36 million to the Queens, Brooklyn and New York public library systems, enabling them to offer six-day library service at all branches. The Queens Library last had six-day service in 2008; the policy was eliminated as a result of budget cutbacks in subsequent years.

Other components in the budget agreement include the following:

  • $17.9 million toward implementing a breakfast in the classroom program at 530 schools, serving over 339,000 children;
  • a $1.8 million expansion of the city’s Emergency Food Assistance Program;
  • $1.5 million to expand the Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs efforts to eliminate veteran homelessness;
  • $5 million to expand inspections of and make improvements to dilapidated conditions at boarding homes across the city; and
  • $1.3 million to the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor for efforts to stop drug-related violence.

The budget covers the city’s 2016 fiscal year, which begins on July 1 of this year; city lawmakers had until June 30 to reach a budget agreement.

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Astoria woman selected as sixth Queens poet laureate


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

Borough President Melinda Katz installed Astoria resident Maria Lisella as the borough’s sixth poet laureate in a ceremony on Tuesday after a three-month search, including the vetting of more than 30 candidates.

Lisella, an author and journalist, will use the unpaid position to promote a love of poetry and literature throughout the “World’s Borough.” An author of three books of poetry, Lisella said she hopes to use the position not to market herself, but rather to connect and foster the literature community in Queens.

“It’s a privilege and it’s an opportunity, but I don’t see it as a way to promote moi,” Lisella said. “I think it’s about marketing the borough and the community.”

A south Jamaica native, Lisella’s family moved to Bellerose when she was young and she lived in Flushing as well before settling down in Astoria for the last 40 years. She is an alum of Queenborough Community College and Queens College, and she received a master’s degree from NYU-Polytechnic Institute. Lisella has been a travel writer for three decades, and her work has appeared in The Dallas Morning News and Foxnews.com, among other news outlets.

Like Queens, Lisella has been influenced by a range of cultures. Her family has roots in Italy and she speaks English, Italian and Spanish. Lisella has also visited about 60 countries.

“Ms. Lisella is an amazing writer who is capable of synthesizing the borough’s many cultures and languages into incredible poetry,” Katz said. “She also has a deep love and appreciation of Queens that comes from being a lifelong resident.”


The Queens Poet Laureate position was initially established in 1996 by Claire Shulman’s administration in partnership with Queens College.

Lisella was one of five finalists selected by a panel of judges. The judges were appointed by the Queens Poet Laureate Administrative Committee. Out of the top candidates, Katz ultimately selected Lisella, who has connections with past Queens Poet Laureates.

The first Queens Poet Laureate, Stephen Stepanchev, was a professor to Lisella in Queens College. Lisella and the second laureate, Hal Sirowitz, are both members of Brevitas, an online poetry circle.

As the new Queens Poet Laureate, Lisella will give readings of poetry around the borough in Queens Library branches and conduct outreach programs. Lisella held her first official reading  in the position at the end of her induction ceremony. She read two pieces from her most recent poetry book, “Thieves in the Family.”

To connect the Queens literature community, Lisella has thought of some initiatives including having a book fair, starting a website dedicated to Queens poetry and holding readings in cultural institutions, such as the Louis Armstrong House Museum and the Museum of the Moving Image.

She also wants to use social media to reach the Queens poetry community.

“There are a lot of pockets of activity going on [in Queens],” Lisella said, “so I have to plug into that.”

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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.

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LIC community celebrates groundbreaking of Hunters Point library


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

After 15 years, the wait is finally over for the Long Island City community, which worked hard to bring a new waterfront library to the neighborhood.

On Saturday, local elected officials, community leaders and residents gathered to celebrate the groundbreaking of the Queens Library at Hunters Point, which will be located at Center Boulevard and 48th Avenue, right next to Gantry Plaza State Park.

“Hunters Point is a rapidly growing community of young families and has a demonstrated need for a library community hub,” Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said. “The Hunters Point Library will be a modern and green facility that will serve as a center of learning, literacy and culture for residents of all ages.”

The state-of-the-art library, expected to be completed by the fall of 2017, 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.

The 22,000-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.

Rendering courtesy of Queens Library

Rendering courtesy of Queens Library

“There’s a famous saying that it takes a village to raise a child. In this case, it took a village to raise a library,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who has been working on the project since 1999 and allocated $4 million for the library. “We are here because no one gave up on the project. I was never ever going to let this fail. It was too important. This community deserves a state-of-the-art community library that will be the envy of the entire city and now you have it, you’re going to get it.”

Mark Christie, president of the group Friends of the Hunters Point Library, has been working on the idea of the library since 1998 and during the groundbreaking quoted former President John F. Kennedy.

“This will be a building that brings our community together,” Christie said. “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country — and you will see what a big difference just coming together will make in each and every one of our lives.”

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.

Saturday’s groundbreaking celebration also featured a street fair where members of the community enjoyed carnival games, entertainment, family-friendly activities and food.

Until the Hunters Point library is constructed, a mobile library will be parked each Saturday at Gantry State Park from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. to offer books and other material for all ages. The Friends of Hunters Point Library are also supporting a “pop-up” library on Saturdays offering reading and activities starting at 11 a.m.

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Whitestone library garden gets $25K from Malba women


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Dominick Totino Photography

From cash to container plants, the Women’s Club of Malba is spending some green to keep the Whitestone library green for a very long time.

In their latest charity effort, the club gave the Queens Library Foundation $25,000 to maintain the outdoor garden outside the Whitestone branch at 151-10 14th Rd.

“We are delighted that the Women’s Club of Malba is supporting the reading garden at the Whitestone Library,” said Vincent Arcuri Jr., president of the Queens Library Foundation board of directors. “Through its endowment, the club will ensure that the garden will provide hours of relaxation, literacy, and environmental learning and outdoor enjoyment for generations to come.”

The women’s club is able to give to the community more than ever since the sale of the its clubhouse in the fall of 2012, according to Rosemarie Scarola, who is currently serving as first vice president. The Center Drive clubhouse had been used by the club since its start in 1933, but financial difficulty from rising taxes and other expenses led to the sale, and the women do not plan to buy another headquarters.

Instead, funds from the sale are being given to nonprofit foundations, with the library garden grant following a $100,000 endowment in 2013 to buy a new, state-of-the-art ambulance for the Whitestone Volunteer Ambulance Service.

Scarola said that the organization always chooses local charities for their donations because they want to be sure that the funds will directly impact the community in a meaningful way.

“You give to a big organization, the organization gets like 3 dollars, and you’re paying for the CEOs,” said Scarola, who served as president of the club from 1988 to 1990, “so we try to be a little more careful with that.”

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More Queens Library locations loaning mobile hot spots, tablets


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Queens Library

Having fun isn’t hard when you’ve got a library card, and now more cardholders will be able to stay connected while on the go.

The Queens Library announced Tuesday that it will be expanding its mobile technology lending program in the upcoming weeks to more libraries throughout the borough.

While using their Queens Library cards, customers will be able to borrow free mobile hot spots, providing Internet access anywhere to any Wi-Fi-enabled devices with cellphone reception. Customers will also have the chance to borrow free Google Nexus tablets.

The hot spots are available for one month, and there are three renewals available afterwards. First-time hot spot borrowers will have to sign an agreement and bring a photo ID.

Locations that have been offering the free mobile hot spots and tablets since last year include branches at 89-11 Merrick Blvd., Jamaica; 1637 Central Ave., Far Rockaway; 108-19 71st Ave., Forest Hills; 41-17 Main St., Flushing; and 35-51 81st St., Jackson Heights.

The new locations offering the hot spots include 214-20 Northern Blvd. in Bayside and 37-44 21st St. in Long Island City. They will also be available at the branch at 218-13 Linden Blvd. in Cambria Heights starting April 8; 193-20 Horace Harding Expressway in Fresh Meadows on April 15; and 169-09 137th Ave. in Rochdale Village on April 22.

The Google Nexus tablets are now available at Queens Library branches at 2012 Madison St. in Ridgewood; 128-16 Rockaway Blvd. in South Ozone Park; and 169-09 137th Ave. in Rochdale Village. Starting later this month, the tablets will be available at the following locations: 187-05 Union Turnpike in Hillcrest; 103-34 Lefferts Blvd. in Richmond Hill; and the Langston Hughes Community Library at 100-01 Northern Blvd.

A full list of borrowing sites is available at www.queenslibrary.org.

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Astoria library to temporarily close for self-service book return installment


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Queens Library

The Queens Library at Steinway will temporarily close starting Thursday to install a new service that will make returning books easier.

From April 2 through April 7, the library located at 21-45 31st St. in Astoria will be closed temporarily as self-service book returns are installed inside the library.

Already located in most Queens libraries, this self-service option allows book returns to be processed even when the library is closed. Once a book is slipped through the slot, the same technology used for E-ZPass scans the chips located inside the library materials and automatically returns the book, printing a receipt of return for the customer.

This service is important to the customers because it allows the returned books to appear automatically on the customer’s account and also gets materials back on the shelves more quickly.

While the Queens Library at Steinway is closed for the six days, customers can visit nearby libraries at 14-01 Astoria Blvd. or 40-20 Broadway. They can also renew material on the library’s website, www.queenslibrary.org/myaccount or by phone at 718-990-8508.

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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.”

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Open call for new Queens poet laureate


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

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BY LLEWYN SHIN

Borough President Melinda Katz has launched an open call for applications for the next Queens poet laureate, a prestigious three-year position charged with promoting a love of poetry and literacy throughout the borough.

“Because Queens is such a diverse borough, the Queens poet laureate must be a compelling wordsmith who is capable of synthesizing the borough’s many cultures and languages into poetry,” Katz said.

The Queens Borough President’s office and Queens College have been partners in the Queens poet laureate project since the search for the first Queens poet laureate began in 1996. This year, the Queens Borough Public Library joined the partnership for the first time and will provide meeting space for the next Queens poet laureate to present poetry and conduct outreach to the Queens community.

“As a primary source for culture and literature in our borough, Queens Library is delighted to partner with Borough President Melinda Katz’s office to find the next poet laureate. We look forward to hosting the new poet laureate at the library,” Queens Library Interim President/CEO Bridget Quinn-Carey said.

Queens College President Felix V. Matos Rodriguez added, “We are delighted that Borough President Katz is continuing this position and committed to promoting poetry – literature that can touch people of all backgrounds in a profound and universal way.”

The process of selecting the Queens poet laureate is overseen by the Queens Poet Laureate Administrative Committee.

Applications are available at www.queensbp.org/poet and must be submitted by April 24. Applicants must have a published portfolio and are expected to submit representative samples of their poetry, including poems related to Queens. This writing sample should not exceed 10 pages per applicant.

A panel of expert judges will review the applications and recommend three finalists to the borough president, who will make the final decision on who will be appointed.

The past Queens poet laureates are as follows: Stephen Stepanchev (who served from 1997 – 2001), Hal Sirowitz (2001 – 2004), Ishle Yi Park (2004 – 2007), Julio Marzan (2007 – 2010) and Paolo Javier (2010 – 2014).

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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.”

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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.

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Renovated library opens in Rosedale


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Councilman Donovan Richards

BY ROSS BELSKY

After an eight-month renovation, the Rosedale branch of the Queens Library has reopened on schedule and under budget.

The renovation project’s highlights include modern rooftop heating, ventilated and air-conditioned temperature control, and energy-efficient lighting. The new comfort is accentuated by general interior improvements and spring cleaning.

Initially, Councilman Donovan Richards allocated $1 million for the project, but only $575,000 was used. Queens Library Interim President and CEO Bridget Quinn-Carey said of Richards, “He has made a great investment in the community.” Richards thanked the Department of Design and Construction for working in such a timely manner.

“Public libraries are a vital part of the cultural fabric of our city,” Richards said. “The recent renovation of Rosedale Library gave me an opportunity to fulfill a promise to expand the capacity of our libraries so that they can serve an even wider portion of the public. I would like to thank Queens Library and DDC for working to bring these upgrades to the library patrons in such a timely and professional manner.”

Since April 30, a mobile library bus provided service in Rosendale every Wednesday. Finally, on Dec. 22, a ribbon cutting marked the official re-opening of the building.

“Adding a new HVAC system, brand-new acoustic ceiling panels and lighting fixtures will ensure a building that is more than 50 years old can operate more efficiently and continue to be a valuable resource for the Rosedale community for decades to come,” Department of Design and Construction Commissioner Dr. Feniosky Pena-Mora said.

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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.”

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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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